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Despite 17K Ampere Card Restock, Gamers Line Up at Best Buy, Leave Empty Handed

Best Buy RTX 30 Ampere Event, August 26, 2021
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

It's been nearly a year since Nvidia launched its Ampere GPUs with the GeForce RTX 3080, and things have not gone to plan. Normally, we expect new GPUs to sell out quickly for the first couple of months, then supply catches up to demand and you start to see cards regularly in stock and waiting on store shelves. The RTX 30-series and RX 6000-series — and any thing else worthy of mention in our best graphics cards list — continue to sell out in rapid fashion. Today, August 26, Best Buy had 17,000 Nvidia GPUs for sale at various locations around the U.S.

I ran over to my local store, a location in Fort Collins, Colo., just to check out the scene and see how many people were waiting for a new GPU. The answer: far more than there were cards available.

The pictures here are the remnants of the crowd, gaming hopefuls that didn't catch the worm. I was told people started lining up as early as 11 a.m. yesterday, with many camping out overnight. At 7:30 a.m., Best Buy employees went down the line, asking people what card they wanted and giving them a photo of the card in question — assuming that card was still available. All told, the Fort Collins store received 120 RTX 30-series GPUs, all Founders Edition models ranging from the RTX 3090 down to the RTX 3060 Ti. There were perhaps 200 people in line, and many left disappointed.

The lucky ones were admitted into the store starting at 8 a.m. to acquire their hard won reward: RTX 30-series cards sold at Nvidia's MSRPs. I figure quite a few people will end up flipping those cards on eBay for a tidy profit, as our GPU price index indicates the average price for a 3090 still sits at over $2,250. But of course, most people were far more interested in a less extreme, more affordable card.

Best Buy RTX 30 Ampere Event, August 26, 2021

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

By 10 a.m., there were still five unclaimed cards left on the shelves, from people that either had a change of heart or simply failed to show up. Yeah, I know: Who waits in line for hours, perhaps overnight, but then decides not to buy the part they got a ticket to purchase? (Answer: People that only wanted an RTX 3080, most likely.) There were still maybe 30 people in line, but another 100 or more people had arrived too late and didn't bother waiting around. The employees let us know that there were two RTX 3060 Ti cards, one RTX 3080 Ti, and two RTX 3090 cards. The last three cards make sense, but the 3060 Ti was a bit surprising.

In our testing, which you can see in our GPU benchmarks hierarchy, it's nearly as fast as an RTX 3070, and it beats the previous generation RTX 2080 Super by a few percent. More importantly, it was available for just $400. Incidentally, right now RTX 3060 Ti sells on eBay for an average price of about $930, more than double the MSRP. Worst-case, someone could buy the card and then immediately turn around in sell it for a nice profit. Not that we'd encourage people to do that, but it was surprising any GPUs were still waiting for the late arrivals.

Interestingly, one of the people at the front of the line had actually managed to get an RTX 3080 Ti earlier in the morning, but he had a severe case of buyer's remorse. (Note: No one wanted to provide me with names, choosing to remain anonymous.) That's not too surprising, considering the $1,200 asking price. He was waiting to swap the card out for the RTX 3060 Ti, which meant someone else in line would be able to buy the 3080 Ti. The fifth person waiting for the 10 a.m. deadline said he figured he was going to get an RTX 3090, as likely those two cards would be the last to go. It might be the fastest GPU on the planet, but $1,500 is still a bitter pill. When I asked if he planned on mining with the card, he said no, but he wasn't sure he'd actually keep it long-term. Such is the market we live in right now.

The last person I spoke with, who managed to land one of the remaining RTX 3060 Ti cards, told a story that's become all too familiar during the past year. He'd been planning a new build for over a year, hoping to replace his old PC with something more capable, but shortages had kept him waiting. Luck smiled at him today, though, and the new GPU should go nicely with his Core i5-11600K build that he's been using for the past month, playing StarCraft on Intel's integrated Xe Graphics while he waited for a GPU, "because that's about all the integrated graphics can handle."

I wish we could say there was light at the end of the tunnel, but it's still likely to be another six months or more before the supply of new GPUs can even come close to keeping up with demand. Maybe a few Best Buy locations didn't sell out quite as quickly, but 17,000 cards is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions of PC gamers apparently still waiting to upgrade. The lesson here is that if you really want a new graphics card and hear about another big drop happening somewhere, pitch  your tent and plan on spending the night. Otherwise, the only other real option would be to pay exorbitant scalper prices.

Jarred Walton

Jarred Walton's (Senior Editor) love of computers dates back to the dark ages, when his dad brought home a DOS 2.3 PC and he left his C-64 behind. He eventually built his first custom PC in 1990 with a 286 12MHz, only to discover it was already woefully outdated when Wing Commander released a few months later. He holds a BS in Computer Science from Brigham Young University and has been working as a tech journalist since 2004, writing for AnandTech, Maximum PC, and PC Gamer. From the first S3 Virge '3D decelerators' to today's GPUs, Jarred keeps up with all the latest graphics trends and is the one to ask about game performance.

  • evdjj3j
    My state was one of the only ones that got ZERO cards, the state is not even in the list. I'll never shop at Best Buy ever again and I'm convincing as many of my friends to do the same.
    Reply
  • nitts999
    evdjj3j said:
    My state was one of the only ones that got ZERO cards, the state is not even in the list. I'll never shop at Best Buy ever again and I'm convincing as many of my friends to do the same.

    Yes, and then they will really miss out on the sales of the cards they refuse to sell you!

    While you're at it, why don't you claim you'll never, ever buy NVIDIA again b/c they didn't supply your retailer adequately?

    Best Buy is obviously not loving this situation, they are doing what they can. Imagine how pissed people would be if their store got a single card and people were camped out for it.
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    Honestly they should have made it an online lottery tied to your Best Buy account. With so many stores and so few cards it was never going to end well, especially for those in states which received zero cards.
    Reply
  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    I was at a location that supposedly got only ~ 135. Last time they did this, the same location got 200. Since I was more than halfway down the line of more than 200, I didn't get a card.

    If BB had just waited for the same amounts as last time, more people would have been happy. Sure, I know you could say that they can't wait forever, but it definitely seems like 200 is much closer to how many people wait in line.
    Reply
  • flux104
    Nothing more than a personal anecdote for your amusement... I read about the drop late last night and decided to arrive at the Holyoke, MA Best Buy around 6:00 a.m. "Surely, 100+ people won't be as foolish as me to wake up early for this." Touche, human race. I tried to count the line and thought there may be a chance. Come ticket time, they ran out with about 30 still ahead of me. In my naivete, I imagined a couple hundred of my fellow gamers would comprise the line, seeking gaming nirvana. It was obvious most of the people, particularly toward the front, were mere scalpers. I mean, these were rough-looking people. Right: don't judge a book by its cover. And I usually don't. But if you saw these people, I mean, you would have to agree: they aren't the kind that sit in front of a gaming rig in the evenings playing the latest nerdy RPG. Many of them drove off immediately after receiving their ticket. To do what? I wondered. Xerox the ticket and return trying to sell fakes to innocent gamers? Sell the ticket quickly online and do the deal in a back alley? I thought about trying to strike up such a deal, then got back flashbacks of trying to score weed in Hollywood when I was 15. I got ripped for $20 and nearly beat up. Too old for that <Mod Edit> now. At present, in the midst of my Mr.-Smith-Goes-To-Washington disillusion, I'm not exactly complaining about these scalpers. In fact, I feel more just pity and sadness that there is a segment of our society that, for whom, it is worth spending the night on a sidewalk for a few hundred bucks. I drove home somewhat disappointed, but glad that I didn't invest more time, and grateful to be a noble gamer rather than the alternative. For now, back to gaming on my GTX 1070 for the few months, as I simply can't bring myself to pay two or three times MSRP for a video game thingy. Good luck in your quest, fellow gamers.
    Reply
  • thisisaname
    You make it sound like 17 thousand cards was a lot but when spread over the whole of America it is a tiny amount.

    https://www.tomshardware.com/uk/news/over-1-million-pcs-sold-every-dayhttps://www.worldometers.info/computers/
    Reply
  • evdjj3j
    nitts999 said:
    Yes, and then they will really miss out on the sales of the cards they refuse to sell you!

    While you're at it, why don't you claim you'll never, ever buy NVIDIA again b/c they didn't supply your retailer adequately?

    Best Buy is obviously not loving this situation, they are doing what they can. Imagine how pissed people would be if their store got a single card and people were camped out for it.

    <Mod Edit - comment removed>
    Reply
  • cryoburner
    Best Buy has close to 1000 locations in the US. So 17,000 RTX 30-series cards would mean that each location would have only got around 17 cards on average, had they been distributed evenly. And if some stores like that particular one claim to have received 120 cards, then that just means the majority of stores got few, if any, with the bulk of cards going to a relatively small number of locations. Actually, having a look at the leaked list for the drop, the cards only went to a little over 100 locations, each getting around 100-200 cards, while close to 90% of stores got none.

    There isn't even a Best Buy near here, with the area mostly served by another regional chain, so the closest store is around an hour's drive away, and that one didn't get any cards. The nearest store that actually got cards was around a three-hour drive away. Which makes acquiring a reasonably-priced Founder's Edition card impractical, since Nvidia stopped selling them directly online shortly after launch, and decided to restrict them to that chain, for whatever reason. Though I suppose if someone is willing to camp out overnight for a graphics card, driving multiple hours get to a store might not be much more of a stretch.

    (Note: No one wanted to provide me with names, choosing to remain anonymous.)
    Most of them were probably resellers, hoping to make a quick profit off flipping the cards. People actually looking to get a card for gaming are not as likely to be paying close attention to inventory leaks that only provide a day's notice. Resellers will be all over those though. More gamers would probably get their hands on the cards if they just trickled the supply out a few each day, and spread them out to more locations, rather than selling them all at once at relatively small number of their stores to make a spectacle out of it.
    Reply
  • watzupken
    evdjj3j said:
    My state was one of the only ones that got ZERO cards, the state is not even in the list. I'll never shop at Best Buy ever again and I'm convincing as many of my friends to do the same.
    Why blame BB here? Are they withholding any cards? Think about it, 17K cards is actually not a lot. BB don't just have a single outlet to distribute the cards. It is not like you stay in a cave to not hear about the persistent supply issue.
    Reply
  • watzupken
    flux104 said:
    Nothing more than a personal anecdote for your amusement... I read about the drop late last night and decided to arrive at the Holyoke, MA Best Buy around 6:00 a.m. "Surely, 100+ people won't be as foolish as me to wake up early for this." Touche, human race. I tried to count the line and thought there may be a chance. Come ticket time, they ran out with about 30 still ahead of me. In my naivete, I imagined a couple hundred of my fellow gamers would comprise the line, seeking gaming nirvana. It was obvious most of the people, particularly toward the front, were mere scalpers. I mean, these were rough-looking people. Right: don't judge a book by its cover. And I usually don't. But if you saw these people, I mean, you would have to agree: they aren't the kind that sit in front of a gaming rig in the evenings playing the latest nerdy RPG. Many of them drove off immediately after receiving their ticket. To do what? I wondered. Xerox the ticket and return trying to sell fakes to innocent gamers? Sell the ticket quickly online and do the deal in a back alley? I thought about trying to strike up such a deal, then got back flashbacks of trying to score weed in Hollywood when I was 15. I got ripped for $20 and nearly beat up. Too old for that <Mod Edit> now. At present, in the midst of my Mr.-Smith-Goes-To-Washington disillusion, I'm not exactly complaining about these scalpers. In fact, I feel more just pity and sadness that there is a segment of our society that, for whom, it is worth spending the night on a sidewalk for a few hundred bucks. I drove home somewhat disappointed, but glad that I didn't invest more time, and grateful to be a noble gamer rather than the alternative. For now, back to gaming on my GTX 1070 for the few months, as I simply can't bring myself to pay two or three times MSRP for a video game thingy. Good luck in your quest, fellow gamers.
    I certainly won't judge a book by its cover, but I am also confident that there are scalpers in the line. If you can flip the card for a tidy profit easily, it is surely worth the effort of getting up early to queue. The good thing is that it is not that easy for them to single handedly buy a bunch of cards up at one go.
    Reply