The wait for a hot new gadget is one of my favorite aspects of the holiday season. However, for many people this year, enthusiasm has rapidly turned to annoyance as high-profile electronics have become more challenging to obtain than a copy of Half-Life 3. The recent RTX 3000 card GPU series from Nvidia and the rival RX 6000 range from AMD and the newest generation consoles experience extreme supply shortages. As if that weren’t enough, AMD’s latest Zen 3 CPUs are proving to be just as enigmatic. To be honest, it couldn’t have come at a worse time, given that these goods reflect huge strides forward in terms of price to performance. Then, why can’t you buy RTX 3000 cards?
Let’s start with the significant issue at hand, scalper bots yanking up all the available stock. While some of the largest online retailers’ attempts to discourage bots from making sales, stock declines of high-demand items only lasted a few seconds before selling out. But where did all of these bots came from.? Is the deep web the future? That’s one of them. It turns out that all of these bots have already been published and can be bought from specific websites. While these bots aren’t inexpensive, they’re priced well enough that after a piece of gear is flipped at a discount of several hundred bucks or more, the scalper isn’t going to care if they paid for a bot or not.
Add that to the most anti-scalping and anti-price gouging regulations target event tickets and vital goods rather than gadgets. You have a scenario in which there isn’t anything you can do except be careful, wait for the supply and demand a little, and fight the urge to buy from those nasty scalpers. Before you think we’re all going to accuse the bots and call it a day, Let’s go a little further.
Intel’s issues with developing CPUs on ever-smaller processor nodes may have foreshadowed the current shortages. While Intel does not produce chips for consoles or graphics cards, at least not yet, other chipmakers may be experiencing similar difficulties in creating more sophisticated silicon. Except for the RTX 3000 series, all of these platforms are based on a seven-nanometer process, which is slightly smaller than their predecessors. Even the Ampere cards use an eight-nanometer method, which is still very small. Chip yields decrease due to the inherent difficulty of fitting more and more transistors into the same region. This means that a minor processor will result in a higher proportion of faulty chips that would be discarded, higher costs, and potentially slower production. It’s been well known, often even by the chip makers themselves, that making these more sophisticated chips is more complex and expensive.
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Moore’s Law estimated that faster chips would be less expensive, but this was only true up to an extent. While Nvidia claims that they had plenty of supplies and that the problem was its demand was unprecedented, the lack of information concerning this year’s big-ticket electronics can mean that chip production difficulties are to blame. We’d be foolish if we didn’t bring up the pandemic. Like most of the country restricted from driving or going to public places, people have turned to games as a way to pass the time instead. Gamers are rising to prominence. As of September 2020, gaming industry revenues in the United States have increased by more than a third over the previous year.
The pandemic has also forced many of these shoppers online, making it easier for scalpers to impersonate Smaug, the dragon, while hoarding their money. Manufacturing and supply chains are now being disrupted to varying degrees, making it even more difficult for chip manufacturers to increase production. Overall, it’s been a complete storm of reasons that have kept you from getting your hands on that GPU or console.
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