There’s no single, solitary reason why it’s been so hard to buy certain PC components over the past year and a bit – it’s more like a perfect storm of multiple circumstances, unfortunate coincidences and unforseen annoyances. That said, one of the biggest underlying causes of MIA CPU and graphics card stock has been a shortage of the chips needed to make them, and it’s a shortage that Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger has warned could likely continue into 2023.
Speaking in Malaysia (and as reported by Nikkei Asia), Gelsinger warned that industry efforts to expand production would take time to take effect. Specifically, efforts that began around two years ago in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will need at least three years before bearing fruits. Other production drives are underway – the Intel chief was in Malaysia after announcing a 10-year plan to boost manufacturing in the country – though many are longer-term measures, like building and expanding factories, that won't make a difference anytime soon.
It should be noted that right now, Intel CPUs aren’t that hard to get hold of, even the latest and greatest 12th Gen Alder Lake processors. But recent shortages have occasionally seen the prices of both Intel and AMD parts shoot skywards, and we all know how difficult it still is to find a graphics card at anything approaching a sensible price.
Indeed, when we talk about a “chip shortage”, it’s not really referring to fully built CPUs. It’s the tiny semiconductors that are integral to CPUs and GPUs as well as less PC game-y hardware like smart home kit and even cars. The pandemic managed to both screw up semiconductor production and inflate demand, as more people staying and working from home raised the need for laptops and PC parts. Add in other factors like international trade barriers and the Taiwan drought earlier this year, and the availability of certain components was always going to be problematic even before cryptocurrency miners and opportunistic resellers showed up to complicate the demand side further. The most recent casualty seems to be Nvidia’s “new” 12GB GeForce RTX 2060, which allegedly had such little stock available that many retailers didn’t even bother to list it.
Basically it’s all a big hot mess, and is probably going to stay that way for a while. Intel, AMD and Nvidia are all set to announce major new product lines in the PC gaming space next year, which according to my calculations is before 2023, so we’ll have to see how they can stand up to this myriad of ongoing problems.