Nvidia began selling its new generation of graphics cards this morning at 9AM. Within minutes, the cards were sold out and the websites of multiple major retailers had crashed. It was a repeat of what happened the previous night with the PlayStation 5. Video games are big business, everyone wants the newest technology, and retailers aren’t prepared to meet the demand of an audience that has little to do but stay at home and play video games during a pandemic. Now, pre-orders for the PlayStation 5 and RTX 3080 line of graphics cards are listed on Ebay for double and triple their suggested retail price.
“SOLD OUT” is trending on Twitter this morning as PC and console gamers come together to commiserate over not being able to secure the electronics that will propel them into next-gen gaming. Nvidia's new flagship line of GPUs—the RTX 3080—sold out in seconds. I was trying to buy one this morning and literally watched the “not available” tag on several stores refresh into “sold out.” Something similar happened last night during Sony’s bungled launch of the PlayStation 5 pre-orders.
Sony announced the price and launch date of the PlayStation 5 yesterday during a live streamed event. It failed to mention when it would begin taking pre-orders for the system or what games would launch with it. They left that to Geoff Keighly, who explained the situation in a tweet following the event. “Per Sony, PlayStation 5 pre-orders will be available starting TOMORROW at select retailers,” Keighley said in a tweet.
Starting around 9PM EST that evening, Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Gamestop began selling pre-orders for the PlayStation 5. It was unclear if Sony had given them the all clear to start or if the retailers decided to get a head start on sales. The sites of the major retailers crashed or experienced technical problems.
I was attempting to buy a PlayStation 5 from Best Buy at the time and the system let me get as far as attempting to input my payment information before stalling out. The console remained in my cart as I periodically refreshed the site. I’d click the button to check out, the site would pretend to load and then kick me back to the cart. Eventually, the Best Buy website informed me that the item was no longer available.
Similar stories played out for many people last night as they tried to pre-order the new console. It also happened this morning as people rushed to buy Nvidia’s new RTX 3080 series of graphics cards. Late last night, Nvidia confirmed with The Verge that RTX 3080 sales would begin at 9AM EST this morning. As with the PlayStation 5, I tried to secure an RTX 3080 but both Newegg and Nvidia’s websites crashed. I received an email from Nvidia telling me the cards were available, an hour after they’d already sold out everywhere. NowInStock, a website that keeps track of what items are in stock at what stores, has been on and off today. At the time of writing, electronics retailer B&H's website is still down. Other GPU makers' sites, like EVGA, have also been on and off.
"This morning we saw unprecedented demand for the GeForce RTX 3080 at global retailers, including the NVIDIA online store,” Bryan Del Rizzo, a representative of Nvidia, told VICE. “At 6 a.m. pacific we attempted to push the NVIDIA store live. Despite preparation, the NVIDIA store was inundated with traffic and encountered an error. We were able to resolve the issues and sales began registering normally. To stop bots and scalpers on the NVIDIA store, we’re doing everything humanly possible, including manually reviewing orders, to get these cards in the hands of legitimate customers. Over 50 major global retailers had inventory at 6 a.m. pacific. Our NVIDIA team and partners are shipping more RTX 3080 cards every day to retailers. We apologize to our customers for this morning's experience."
At computer retailer MicroCenter somewhere in America, people lined up outside to sit through the night and secure one of the 15 cards the store said they had inside. People line up for electronics all the time, but typically not for a graphics card and not during a pandemic.
At this point, we still don't know if the GPUs are a hot commodity simply because people want to play games using the latest and best hardware, or ir cryptocurrency miners, who use the same hardware, are driving up demand as they did back in 2017 when cryptocurrency values skyrocketed.
Meanwhile, the Ebay listings for both the PlayStation 5 and RTX 3080 are flowering. On Ebay, folks are listing the new GPUs for $9,000 and $10,000, more than 10 times the asking price of $699. The new graphics cards are a huge improvement over their predecessor, preview tests showed off their ability to run games much better than the RTX 2080 and popular GTX 1080. That also makes them attractive to cryptocurrency miners. Graphics cards are the workhorse of a good crypto mining operation and fans worried that miners—or resellers looking to sell to miners—would swoop in and grab the initial run of graphics cards. It’s unclear what happened here, but the cards sold out fast and crashed retailers websites before they were gone. Now, there are more than 60 listings for the cards on Ebay.
Sony’s PlayStation 5 launch seems to be a comedy of errors. It had previously said there would be “plenty of advanced notice” for pre-orders. Instead, fans were sent on a last minute scramble to buy something that won’t be out for two months because major retailers launched early. The bungled pre-order launch coming on the heels of a Bloomberg report that Sony had to cut its initial run of the new console due to chip shortage isn’t a good look. Sony denied reports that it’s facing a shortage and claimed it will have more units at launch than it did with the PlayStation 4.
Receiving the email from Nvidia an hour after the card had sold out was particularly galling. There’s a sense online that regular people didn’t have a chance to buy these products. Many of us were probably competing against bots—automated programs that navigate websites and purchase popular items before the public has a chance to buy them. The problem has plagued the concert industry for years and there’s a good chance people used bots to buy up the PlayStation 5s and RTX 3080s.
It’s also possible that the items are so overwhelmingly popular that normal consumer demand has outstripped supply. Either way, a lot of people don’t have the new GPU or console they wanted and are left waiting for the next round, hoping they can beat everyone else to checkout.