Okay, not really. I still get a run a metric shit-ton of sexy sexy Fallout 4 mods considered too filthy for the likes of Xbox. And I still get the joy of being able to build and show off my own machine, loading it with blinky RGB lights and controllers that impress old people and small children.
But holy fuck has it gotten expensive lately. ‘Used to be that people built their own rigs because it was cheaper than buying a factory-built alternative and you could get features that weren’t yet offered by the mainstream market. But that seems to no longer be the case. What had been a pretty wallet-friendly enthusiast market is currently a shitshow of scalping, price gouging and general buggery.
I built a new PC this month and spent far too much on things that ought to cost a fraction of the price. Here’s a list of them.
The first thing I had to overpay massively for was memory. Here’s an Amazon order I made in 2015 for 16GB of DDR3.
And here’s the current listing for the exact same product.
To make sure I wasn’t just looking at some out of production hardware that was still in crazy demand somehow, I checked Corsair’s own website for the same model number.
What the hell, guys?
This is a years old product and most people (myself included) have since moved on to DDR4, so I suppose it’s possible that the production has slowed on DDR3, making the chips harder or more expensive for module manufacturers to obtain.
So let’s take a look at the sticks of DDR4 I just bought last month.
What used to be the cheapest and easiest component to upgrade now costs just slightly more than my motherboard. I was actually going for 32GB this time around, but the current pricing was too prohibitive.
The reasons for the price hike aren’t exactly somewhat shrouded in mystery. What I said earlier about increased demand for less chips is certainly true, as the mobile market has moved to utilizing DDR4, adding a whole lot of demand. But there’s another element to the current astronomical prices in computer memory.
Despite having many different stick assemblers to choose from as customers, 93.6% (as of Q4 2016) of actual DRAM chips themselves are made by three companies and bought up by the people making the module that slots into your motherboard. This is known as an oligopoly, and the incentive for these three companies to compete with one-another is relatively low compared to a more open market. In fact, they’ve straight up admitted that they’re openly colluding to not compete on prices.
This isn’t the first time that RAM manufacturers have done this. They’ve even run afoul of US antitrust laws in the past.
So if you’re wondering why your new set of DRAM modules suddenly costs three times more than it did two years ago, your answer is partly increased demand from smartphones, and partly an insane amount of corporate greed. I’ll let you sort out which you think is more culpable.
This is the one I think people were suspecting. Graphics cards have risen to astronomically high prices lately due to the latest cryptocurrency boom. Expect to pay upwards of 150% of MSRP for any modern card. That is, if you can even find one to begin with.
I wanted a GTX 1080Ti. I had the money for a GTX 1080Ti. I could not find a GTX 1080Ti. I even spent a few weeks setting up all kinds of trackers to have alerts sent directly to my phone whenever a 1080Ti came into stock at a major retailer. Almost every time I was alerted to a new supply of cards somewhere, they would be gone by the time I opened the webpage listing on my PC. I tried to buy an open-box one from a local Micro Center and in the time between loading the page and clicking ‘Add to Cart’, the thing had already been bought by someone else.
When I did by some miracle find an in-stock Ti, the price was so inflated that it ought to be illegal. Nvidia sells it’s own (poorly cooled, never in stock) reference model at $699.00. Third party cards using the chipset can be expected to retail for slightly higher due to better cooling solutions or factory overclocking.
This is what Newegg’s listings for Tis looks like now.
It’s worth noting that when I was looking for a card several weeks ago, the prices were much closer to $1,000, which was ridiculous enough at the time. But now we’re looking at over twice the MSRP of Nvidia’s reference model. This is insane.
I ended up settling for an overpriced GTX 1080 for $650 and hoping that the crypto market would crash again by the time Nvidia released a consumer-level Volta card.
I wasn’t actually completely joking when I titled this post “PC Gaming Sucks Now”. Even without the memory price-fixing, PC gaming is becoming prohibitively expensive to get into. For the price of that ASUS card pictured above, I could buy all of the items listed below on Amazon.
- An Xbox One X
- A Playstation 4 Pro
- A PSVR Headset to use with my new PS4
- A Happy Hacking Professional 2 Topre Keyboard imported from Japan
And have $40.42 leftover for beers to drink while I play my new games consoles. And I’d get to play that new Monster Hunter game what everyone’s talking about. In 4k.
So why is everything so ephemeral and expensive right now? Easy. There just aren’t enough graphics cards.
The causes of this shortage are twofold. The first and simplest being that the above mentioned DRAM shortage and price-hike is making cards more expensive to manufacture.
The second is because libertarians run everything.
Bitcoin is in its biggest bubble yet at the moment, and one that only seems to be getting larger as crypto talk enters the mainstream more and more. What once had been an interesting exercise in cryptography and peer-to-peer accountability turned vehicle for the drug and child-porn industry took on another surprising transformation: speculation commodity.
With more and more people and companies buying up cards to mine various cryptos with, very little are leftover for those of us who, you know, just want to render stuff. Unfortunately the resulting shortage is making just rendering stuff prohibitively expensive.
Here’s a mid-range card I bought in spring of last year.
And here’s today’s listing.
What the hell is wrong with this market?
Nividia is on the record as being as unhappy about this as the rest of us, and rightly so. A bubble is a bubble and losing the favor of their intended demographic for a short-lived craze obviously isn’t going to be profitable in the long run. Because of this they’re unlikely to step up manufacturing to meet new demands that might not even be there next week. Hell, it maybe unlikely they they even can meet current demands with the current DRAM chokehold going on.
In conclusion, fuck corporate greed, fuck trusts, fuck Bitcoin, fuck Eth, fuck tulips, fuck Beanie Babies, fuck child pornography and fuck you especially if you’re a graphics card scalper.
Go buy a PS4 or Xbox and do some of that newfangled Monster Hunting or something I don’t know. Just hold off a little while on getting into PC gaming if you were planning to because it’s complete ass right now.
Actually just go buy a Switch if you don’t have one already. You can play it on the loo.