The Graphics Card Shortage of 2021: What It Means for You

If you’ve been shopping for a new graphics card lately, chances are, it’s been a frustrating experience with the graphics card shortage. Just about everyone is out of stock. And if you do find one for sale, double-check that purchase price. It’s very likely way above retail.
That said, how bad is the problem? Flagship cards like the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 or the AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT regularly sell for $500 or even $1000 over retail price on Amazon and other marketplace sites.
So, how did the global economy get to this place? And what should you do about it as a regular person trying to upgrade your gaming PC? Here’s what you need to know.

Causes Leading to the Graphics Card Shortage

The global economy has seen shortages of all kinds over the past two years. Each one of them is complex in its own way, and so is the current shortage of graphics cards. That said, there are several primary causes.

COVID-19

For the first several months of the COVID-19 pandemic, most nonessential production facilities were mostly or completely shut down. The companies that make graphics cards (and the individual components that go into the cards) faced these same shutdowns. As a result, fewer consumer-grade graphics cards were available in 2020 than would normally be the case.
Even once the manufacturing facilities resumed operations, it took a while for production to hit pre-shutdown levels. There were issues with staffing and reconfiguring production lines to accommodate social distancing. And with so much economic uncertainty, orders for these cards were lower at first.
But order levels didn’t stay low. Before long, consumers realized they were stuck at home for long stretches. So, they started buying things to make staying at home more comfortable, including graphics cards. But with low reserves and slow production, it didn’t take long for this surge in buying to create a shortage.

The Chip Shortage

To make matters worse, the same basic series of events happened to the firms that make the microchips that go into graphics cards (and, well, everything else). So when Nvidia and AMD went to increase their orders of the chips that make their cards run, it wasn’t quite so simple. Everyone needed more chips simultaneously, and the chipmakers couldn’t (and still can’t) keep up.

Cryptocurrency Mining

On top of all that, cryptocurrency mining has been at an all-time high. (Recent crackdowns in China, Mongolia and elsewhere may change this eventually.) And those cryptocurrency rigs need graphics cards. Cryptocurrency mining is extremely GPU-intensive, so miners bought up graphics cards like candy.
Of course, cryptocurrency miners tend to have pretty significant cash reserves. They can and do pay above market price, if need be— in a way that many gamers simply can’t. Elevated pricing has priced some consumers out of the market entirely.

Scalping

The latest round of graphics cards, like the GeForce 3000 series, was released during the pandemic. So why is there a shortage of these, too? Well, all the above reasons still play a role, but there’s another more infuriating reason: scalping. As these new cards hit the market, sophisticated scalpers bought up huge amounts of the inventory for the express purpose of flipping them on various marketplaces for a hefty profit.

When Will the Graphics Card Shortage End?

Shortages are always temporary in the modern global economy, right? So when will this current GPU shortage end?
There’s some evidence that the recent drama in cryptocurrency markets and mining has reduced demand for mining rigs, which is good news for gamers. Even still, Nvidia itself urges patience, telling The Verge that the shortage is likely to continue throughout 2021. It may not dissipate until sometime in 2022.

What Gamers Can Do Right Now

It’s one thing to know how this happened, but what can gamers do right now if they need a graphics card? Thankfully, there are a few workarounds.
  • Buy a last-gen card on the used market (older is better than nothing)
  • Buy a whole gaming PC (OEMs have better access to cards than individual consumers)
  • Keep using your current graphics card until the shortage eases.

An Upsie Extended Warranty: Crucial When Components Are Scarce

With hardware as important and expensive as a gaming PC, it’s always a good idea to have a protection plan in place, like the excellent extended PC warranties from Upsie. And amid the component shortage, an extended warranty becomes crucial.
Consider what could happen if your PC fails without a warranty. If that happens, you’ll be completely on your own to purchase a new PC, with both graphics cards and CPUs in extremely short supply. Upsie warranties protect your PC from component failure and other types of internal damage and cost up to 70 percent less than other PC warranties.
With an Upsie warranty, you can let someone else worry about supply chain and logistics issues. You sit back and relax, knowing you’re covered if something goes wrong.

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