In news that will probably shock exactly nobody with their finger on the pulse of the PC hardware industry, the average price of a new graphics card has effectively doubled since 2020.
Thanks to some analysis of sales figures from German retailer Mindfactory conducted by Digital Trends (opens in new tab), we’ve seen that prices for current-generation Nvidia and AMD GPUs have risen since launch and remained high, with frequent stock issues. Amusingly, the only exception is the sub-par RTX 4080 - which Nvidia is allegedly desperate to sell off.
While the stock situation for last-gen RTX 3000 and RX 6000 graphics cards is largely fine, prices aren’t dropping much - barring some reductions by AMD last year, most GPUs are holding steady when it comes to cost.
Taking a look at the pricing data, the average sale price across all AMD and Nvidia GPUs in February 2020 was €361 (around $385/£318/AU$562), while three years later in February 2023, the average has risen to a whopping €713 (around $760/£627/AU$1,111) - almost double the 2020 figures.
Who is to blame?
Of course, it’s worth noting that these sales stats are only from a single retailer in Germany and as such don’t necessarily paint the full picture of GPU sales, but any PC builder will happily (or unhappily) confirm that graphics card prices have just been going bonkers over the past few years.
There are naturally a ton of reasons behind this steep increase in GPU pricing, so I can’t really pin the blame on any one company or faction. The COVID-19 pandemic and global chip shortage led to a bevy of production and development issues for GPU manufacturers, while general inflation will have also seen companies raising prices in an effort to offset rising costs.
The cryptocurrency boom was also a huge contributor, with vast numbers of cards bought up for use in massive crypto mining rigs. This had a particularly significant impact on the previous generation of GPUs from AMD and Nvidia through to 2022 when the crypto market crash saw miners desperately selling off their used cards in an effort to recoup their losses - much to the amusement of our own John Loeffler.
If there is one single company that bears a significant chunk of responsibility here, I regretfully say that it has to be Nvidia. I mean, the RTX 4090 might be the best graphics card ever made, but it costs $1,499 / £1,679 / AU$2,959! You’ll be extremely lucky to find one for that price right now, too - a quick scan through Newegg.com (opens in new tab) showed that the cheapest one available is selling for a hefty $1,769.99.
Nvidia has been insistent that ‘Moore’s Law is dead’, a common claim among computing experts these days. Moore’s Law, for those not in the know, is the statement that the number of transistors that can be put into an integrated circuit doubles about every two years. Following the launch of RTX 4000 series, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang declared that falling generational GPU prices are ‘a thing of the past’, which prompted Intel and AMD to declare themselves the guardians of Moore’s Law in the GPU industry.
Things are going to get worse
Depressingly, this is probably a portent of doom for PC gaming. Nvidia seems determined to push its GPUs for enterprise purposes these days - anyone buying an RTX GPU for gaming won’t care about Team Green’s omniverse nonsense - and targeting professional industries rather than gaming consumers leads to inevitable price hikes, especially in a space where Nvidia has very little competition.
The thing is, it looks like gamers aren’t even really the ones buying these high-end new GPUs. A look at the Steam Hardware Survey (opens in new tab)’s data on GPU usage shows that the most-used graphics cards are the GTX 1650, GTX 1060, and the laptop variant of the RTX 3060 - all older budget offerings from Nvidia. RTX 4090s account for just 0.24% of gamers using Steam.
Does Nvidia learn from this? Leo DiCaprio said it best in Wolf of Wall Street: "Absolutely fucking not." Even the RTX 4070 Ti, currently the cheapest offering in the 4000-series lineup, costs $799 / £799 / AU$1,479 - that’s $200 more than the launch price of the previous-gen RTX 3070 Ti, which we actually criticized in our review at the time for being too expensive.
AMD has been following suit in worrying fashion, with its new flagship Radeon RX 7900 XTX costing $999 / £1049 / AU$1,499 - though that’s still a cool $500 less than Nvidia’s leading card. Price cuts on previous-gen cards are a good sign (though it’s not enough) and AMD likely has some solid budget offerings in store for the RX 7000 line, but gamers are still predominantly using Nvidia hardware - AMD doesn’t even make it into the top ten in the Steam Survey.
So we’re probably looking down the barrel of another generational price hike once RTX 5000 and RDNA 4 GPUs arrive, which will presumably be sometime in 2024 judging by Nvidia and AMD’s usual release cadence. That sucks - maybe not for creative professionals, but definitely for gamers.
Does it actually make me as miserable as the experience of playing Duke Nukem Forever? Perhaps not quite as much; at least Jensen Huang doesn’t feel the need to make dick jokes while telling me I’m going to pay more than a grand for a single PC component. But it’s a bad sign for what’s to come - I never thought I’d say this, but I’m actually pinning my hopes on Intel Arc to save me from GPU hell in 2024.