The last two years haven't been much fun for gamers and PC builders: the prices of the best graphics cards haven't so much increased as rocketed into orbit, out of orbit and into far-flung galaxies where GPUs are worth more than all the precious metals in the universe. And I'm not exaggerating: last year we were seeing RTX3090s, whose recommended retail price is $1,500, going for more than twice that on eBay; RTX 3080s, RRP $700, were going for three times the recommended selling price.
The good news is that the various different factors that all contributed to that are starting to lessen, and prices are on a downward slope at long last. We're not quite at manufacturers' recommended selling prices just yet, but we're getting there. The availability problems are largely gone and that means prices are going to start falling too.
So what caused the silly prices in the first place? If you're thinking "cryptocurrency miners"... well, yes. But they're not the only reason.
Why GPU prices got so silly
A lot of the problem comes down to classic supply and demand. People wanted graphics cards, manufacturers couldn't make them fast enough, so prices rose accordingly. But there's more to it than that.
Part of the supply shortage was due to the pandemic. With factories in lockdown there was a global shortage of semiconductors that affected pretty much anything with a chip in it, and complex, high end graphics cards were particularly affected. That pushed the price up because some people didn't want to wait. And we can't help but notice that during that period, manufacturers' recommended selling prices for some of their higher end cards started to go up too. The thinking is obvious: if people are making big profits selling GPUs, the manufacturers would rather it was them than the scalpers.
Another issue was caused by distributors taking advantage of the shortage to push bundles: we'll give you X GPUs if you also take Y products that haven't been selling so well, such as a bunch of motherboards. In some cases that meant you couldn't just buy the GPU; you had to also pay for components you didn't necessarily want or need, or even buy a whole system. And then of course there were the crypto miners, buying as many GPUs as they could to make Armageddon happen more quickly. But that's another article, and I'd rather end on a high note: GPU prices really will go down in 2022.