Will high prices for PC components put gamers off?

This site may earn affiliate commissions from the links on this page. Instructions for use.

On Friday, the computer industry took a quiet turn. Ampere – Launched Sep 17, 2020 – Not yet widely available in the market with an official MSRP. This, of course, hasn’t stopped Nvidia from outright killing GPU hardware over the past 12 months, but it has deprived the retail channel of more affordable hardware.

The biggest irony in all of this is that when Jen-Hsun announced consumer Ampere, he specifically promised that Nvidia had listened to complaints about Turing and was adjusting pricing to offer better value. A global pandemic is rarely Nvidia’s fault but the situation is ironic. Customers who reasonably stopped buying the expensive Turing in 2018 and decided to wait for the Ampere after the RTX 2000 “Super” family pushed prices to reasonable levels, are still priced out of the market more than two years later. There is talk again that Nvidia may be bringing the RTX 2060 back in an effort to relieve the pressure.

The prospects for near-term relief have faded as the semiconductor shortage continues. GPU prices may have declined initially after the crypto market pulled back somewhat, but it has continued to hold at 1.5x MSRP or higher. We are now being told not to expect normal volume or price before the end of 2022, which means that the current situation could continue for another 12-14 months.

This may affect the PC game market in several ways. PC games aren’t going anywhere, but the delivery system and the way you experience these games certainly can. There are several ways this could happen.

One option that companies like Nvidia and Microsoft are throwing a lot of weight behind is the idea of ​​on-demand PC cloud gaming. Latency issues and ping times are still an issue with some addresses and whether you can access these services depends on whether you live, but the overall quality has improved in the past few years.

Nvidia and MS both send a message that game libraries can be available across a range of devices.

One of the main problems with cloud services so far is that they seem like an objectively bad deal from a PC enthusiast’s perspective. Why pay to rent a mid-tier GPU from a remote server when you can pay to buy and own the card yourself? However, the idea that cloud gaming is a worse deal than hardware enthusiasts’ self-ownership is based on the assumption that you’re buying worse performance and lower-level visuals than can be achieved at home.

Imagine, for example, that you last bought a GTX 1060 6GB in 2016. You don’t want (or can’t afford) to spend more than $250 on a GPU. Neither AMD nor Nvidia has handled this market segment well in the past five years, and Nvidia doesn’t think GPUs will return to normal pricing before the end of 2022. We don’t know what Nvidia’s 2023 launch schedule will look like, but a player hoping to get a card An updated and affordable mid-range with ray tracing may need to wait until mid-2023, unless AMD and Nvidia start taking the mid-range market more seriously than they currently do.

Seven years is a long time to go without a GPU upgrade, not to mention what people are supposed to do now when existing hardware fails. The longer it takes for desktop GPU prices to fall, cloud gaming may represent an attractive alternative. Ray-tracing and advanced rendering features that you can’t buy for home use may be much cheaper than in the cloud, assuming your internet connection is good enough.

This is not the only potential direction the PC gaming market may develop. One possibility – remote, but not impossible – is that hardware like the Steam Deck could affect the future of PC gaming as well.

This isn’t a particularly likely scenario, but we wouldn’t rule it out completely. The enthusiastic response to Steam Deck has been overwhelming and there is a lot of interest in what the device can do. The PC market in which portable devices have become popular is the PC market that operates under very different performance constraints than it is today. The general shift towards handheld gaming may help legacy desktops stay relevant for longer, as we can expect graphics performance for embedded devices even for older GPUs to lag for some time.

While the differences between the Switch and Steam Deck are numerous, the form factor itself is still a turmoil in the PC space, which didn’t have this kind of mainstream hardware before. Nintendo has long demonstrated that subtle game design can make up for limited hardware specs, so it will be interesting to see how (or whether) Steam Deck affects the broader market. These trends could be mutually reinforcing, so have people tap a Steam Deck-like device in docked mode for AAA cloud games and use it in manual mode (via the cloud or local storage) to play on the go.

There are other options too. Some PC gamers may switch to consoles, especially given the small gap between consoles and PCs. Xbox Series X load times look like what you’d see on a high-end PC. Its frame rates are indistinguishable from high-end PC’s in every title it has played. That’s not to say that brand-new titles that use ray tracing might not work better on PC, but there weren’t any next-gen exclusives that could compare in the first place.

This risk becomes even greater if the consoles reach the MSRP while the computer’s GPUs are stuck in the stratosphere. It’s very hard to argue that a GPU is a better investment for gaming than a console when the same $650 to $800 buys you a complete gaming system or one component that you need to build one. Initially, consoles like the NES and Genesis offered experiences that the PC of their era literally couldn’t match, but that hasn’t been true much since the invention of 3D acceleration in the mid-90s. For years the PC has been known as the platform to buy if you want to watch games at their best, while consoles provide an attractive enough option for millions of people. The larger the price gap between the two systems, the more attractive “good enough” becomes.

It is often difficult to see the impact of such shifts at the moment because buying patterns do not change overnight. But if these high prices continue, we will see people change buying patterns in response. This isn’t necessarily something Nvidia or AMD is against. All else being equal, we think the two companies would prefer shipping huge numbers of enterprise GPUs, at enterprise rates, rather than catering to individual customers in the first place. Once again, the consumer GPU market will not literally fade away, but whether we see the relatively friendly prices of the pre-Turing, pre-crypto, and largely pre-pandemic comebacks will be. If prices stay high long enough and demand stays strong, AMD, Nvidia and Intel are likely to see if they can leave it that way.

Read now: