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Thursday, December 7, 2023

An open letter to Intel: Help, you’re our only way out of the GPU crisis

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Hi Pat,
[damn. too formal]
Dear Mr. Gelsinger
[now it sounds like I’m writing a stern letter of complaint]
My dearest Patrick
[aaaand suddenly I’m in love]
What up, Mr. Intel?
[too YouTube]

Dear Pat,
Can I call you Pat? I’m writing this note out of a sense of desperation, because we have a problem in the PC gaming community and I really think you’re the only person actually in a position to help. For too long the fate of PC gamers has been in the hands of two graphics card manufacturers—namely Nvidia and ATI/AMD—so it was with great excitement that we learned of Intel’s renewed desire to enter into the discrete GPU market. 

And I’m going to be honest, we really need you.

I was a sad panda when 2020 and then 2021 passed without a genuine discrete Intel-powered graphics card hitting the market, especially considering the torpor the GPU industry has been in since we lurched into the pandemic ’20s. I know there’s talk of a release in Q1, maybe in Q2, but now I don’t care, just please make it happen this year.

I don’t have to tell you that unprecedented demand has hit graphics card stock levels, and supply chain issues have caused prices to spike, too. But that’s not the only thing that’s been happening. The blight of GPU mining has risen like some silicon zombie from beyond the grave, causing even more stock issues to the point where graphics cards have become such a precious commodity enterprising folk have been bot bulk buying them up, holding them to ransom, and reselling them for unprecedented amounts of money.

For enterprising folk, read: opportunist scumbags.

This has been going on for so long, where resellers are making far more from selling GPUs than standard retailers, that the shops themselves now want their piece of the action. So, they’ve hiked prices and are reportedly refusing to stock reference-priced cards post launch, manufacturers in their turn are seeing retailers making bank off the GPU crisis and plumping up their own margins. And now both AMD and Nvidia are regretting pricing their best graphics cards at $649 and $699 respectively and seem to be cashing in by hiking up the prices of graphics silicon from the start.

I mean, look at the new ‘budget’ GPUs released this year. They’re both practically just higher-margin rehashes of previous generations of cards, offering little in the way of extra performance, and purely betting on sales by virtue of merely inhabiting the shelf space in retail.

I’m struggling to see a future where, even when AMD and Nvidia can manufacture as many chips as they wish, they will actively choose to lower the current pricing structure. I can’t see investors being happy to see the currently high margins cut for the benefit of gamers. Especially when those gamers are consistently paying through the nose no matter what price tag is attached to the cards.

It’s not in AMD or Nvidia’s interest to change the pricing structure of GPUs for the better. And that means, if there was ever a time for Intel to enter into the graphics card industry, it’s right now. If you can turn up with a range of Arc Alchemist GPUs at the level the leaks are promising, in half-decent volume, and undercut the competition… well, that will instantly win you the hearts and minds of a generation of PC gamers. 

You don’t need to have the most powerful new GPU to release the best graphics card of 2022, you just need it to perform competitively and be priced at a level that doesn’t make us wish you’d at least bought us dinner first.

So, Mr. Pat, I say you have before you an unprecedented opportunity to launch a brand new product category for Intel and be sitting at the top table right from the start. I understand you may have your own manufacturing issues, given that you’ve chosen to fight for fab time at TSMC with the rest of the silicon community, but please tell me you’re making a whole load of your new GPUs and that’s why it’s taken you so long to actually get around to launching them. Please.

You’re our last best hope for peace in the graphics card market, don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Because, El Paterino, you could become a latter-day hero for literally dozens of PC gamers. And isn’t that a legacy worth fighting for?

Yours sincerely,
Dave

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