5 years in the past, GPUs primarily based on Nvidia’s Pascal microarchitecture went on sale to prospects. The GTX 1080 and barely later GTX 1070 had been extremely attention-grabbing merchandise for lovers, because of a mix of wonderful efficiency enhancements, good energy consumption, and the addition of a lot stronger DirectX 12 help than we’d seen with Maxwell.
Sadly, Pascal’s launch additionally presaged the start of the tip of cheap GPU availability. As of this writing, we’re eight months right into a completely precedented GPU scarcity that started in September 2020. Whereas the pandemic will be pretty blamed for the silicon scarcity of 2020 – 2021, that is the third such scarcity since Pascal debuted in 2016.
The retail channel GPU market has been undersupplied and overpriced for 29 of the 60 months since Pascal launched. Over the identical time interval, Nvidia has gone from making $5 billion a yr (FY 2016 income: $5.zero10 billion) to creating $5.66 billion in its most up-to-date quarter. Out of that $5.66B, $2.06B of it got here solely from gaming. A part of the issue right here genuinely is the upper demand that the pandemic has placed on GPU availability and the related yield points. A part of the issue is the explosion of cryptocurrency mining — a scenario that could be partly ameliorated by the launch of latest playing cards which might be much less efficient for mining within the very close to future. A part of it’s that Nvidia has seemingly chosen to prioritize laptop computer shipments over desktop retail channel shipments primarily based on how the market has shifted. Each desktop GPU can go into an OEM system or a self-built rig. GPUs bought into the laptop computer market solely profit players who can afford to pay OEM costs.
Nvidia just isn’t the one firm answerable for this state of affairs; AMD GPUs have been even harder to search out at retail than Nvidia playing cards. Laptop computer gross sales exploded in the course of the pandemic, desktop gross sales dropped, cryptocurrency boomed, scalpers began utilizing bots, and because of this, there are not any GPUs to purchase in-channel to talk of from both firm.
Usually, I like writing these retrospectives. It was attention-grabbing to look again on the G80 in 2016 and see how a lot the introduction of programmable GPUs modified the way forward for gaming. I’d prefer to be writing a narrative about how Pascal represented the top of pure rasterization efficiency whereas the newer Ampere microarchitecture polished the ray tracing efficiency Turing launched again in 2018.
In 2021, Pascal largely seems notable for heralding the demise of dependable GPU pricing versus, say, its much-improved DirectX 12 help. Nvidia’s self-inflicted wounds on Turing pricing are partly answerable for this, and the corporate did course-correct in 2019 with the RTX “Tremendous” GPUs. However Turing GPUs had been by no means as fashionable (or nearly as good a price) as Pascal was, and its adoption numbers mirror that. Prospects had been wanting ahead to Ampere because the antidote to this downside. Nvidia supposed Ampere to be the antidote to this downside.
Ampere, for sure, has not been the antidote to this downside.
In a yr the place prospects can’t purchase the newest Ampere playing cards and Turing was overpriced and never terribly fashionable, lauding Pascal with out acknowledging these details feels a bit tone-deaf. In response to the Steam Hardware Survey, the 2 hottest GPUs in-market are the GTX 1060 and 1050 Ti. 4 of the highest 10 GPUs are Pascal-derived. RTX 3xxx sequence adoption continues to be horrible, measured by way of month-on-month positive aspects. The SHS is a problematic approach to observe GPU market share, however nothing it says about Ampere adoption is sweet.
There may be some hope that GPU availability will enhance as soon as playing cards that may’t hash cryptocurrency as successfully develop into obtainable. If this happens, Ampere availability would possibly enhance within the again half of the yr. If it doesn’t, and Nvidia doesn’t improve provide to the desktop market, players could also be pressured to decide on between paying top-dollar for a boutique OEM system or ready till at the least 2022 to improve.
It isn’t clear if these modifications will impression the long-term evolution of the PC market. On the very least, they’re elevating the value of being a PC gamer. As long as the Xbox Collection X and PS5 stay tough to search out at retail, the impression might be restricted. If the next-generation consoles develop into extra commonplace and GPUs don’t, it might not be.
On Pascal’s fifth birthday, I’d like to supply up congratulations for the wonderful microarchitecture it has been, whereas additionally providing a want for its upcoming 10th birthday, in 2026. Come Could 27, 2026, I’d very very like to write down one thing as near the next as doable:
“Within the 120 months since Pascal launched, the retail channel GPU market has been overpriced for simply 30 of them.”