Dealers left short-handed as card supplies run dry

Dealers left short-handed as card supplies run dry

Growth in demand for hardware-intensive games has caused a spike in demand for high-end graphics cards that is forcing resellers to scramble for stock.

Graphics guzzling titles like the recently released Doom 3 and Far Cry have seen demand for high-end cards including the ATI Radeon X800 and Nvidia 6800 outstrip supply.

Managing director of Sydney-based reseller, Plus Corporation, Nigel Fernandes, said he had seen demand for high-specification graphics cards jump markedly in recent months.

“The number of people spending $600 to $1200 on a high-end card has gone up by 75 per cent in the past six months,” he said. “These days there is no shortage of people walking in and buying expensive graphics cards.”

The six-week waiting list his customers faced was typical of an overall shortage in the industry, he said.

“Anybody dealing with the ATI Radeon X800 XT can’t get them and the Nvidia 6800 cards are just as scarce,” he said.

Business development manager for Melbourne-based reseller, Centre Com, Ramon Costello, said his company had been experiencing similar stock problems.

“X800 cards have been hard to get and we still haven’t seen any X800 XT platinum editions hitting these shores in great numbers,” he said.

PC and components product manager for Achieva, John Chi, said the market had moved into its traditional quiet season but demand from gamers showed no signs of slowing down.

“Every dealer is trying to get their hands on high-end cards,” he said. “We can’t get enough stock so the overall numbers we are selling is quite limited. But we’d sell more if we had them.”

Plus Corporation’s Fernandes said gaming, as the major driver for graphics card up-take, had really taken off since the turn of the year.

Centre Com’s Costello said there was a general feeling of buoyancy in the consumer market but agreed that games were the biggest source of demand for powerful graphics cards.

“The gaming market is buzzing with releases such as Counter-Strike: Condition Zero and Doom 3. Far Cry has also pushed the boundaries and we’re now waiting on Half Life 2,” he said.

“We’re seeing a real sweet spot in games. They are pushing the market forward and, as a result, the video card market has become very competitive.”

Fernandes and Costello also agreed that Australia’s relatively minor stature in the global market was a factor in the supply shortage.

“Australia only makes up a few per cent of the global market and high-end graphics cards aren’t usually shipped here in any great amount,” Costello said. “The distributors have probably been caught out a little bit with stock predictions. The US is getting the bulk of product, so Australia will have to wait until vendors have that market covered,” Fernandes said.

But Achieva’s Chi claimed vendors such as ATI and Saphire were attempting to increase the percentage of high-end chipsets shipped to Australia. However, he said some delays on the manufacturer side were caused by the increased cost and higher failure rates typical in producing high-end cards.

“The production quantity is not meeting demand because the yield rate is probably not as good as it is for low-end cards and it costs a lot more to make the chips,” he said.

Product manager for Bluechip Infotech, Rosanny Zhao, also placed emphasis on the manufacturers.

“Earlier in the year, manufacturers shifted focus onto the new PCI Express cards and didn’t put a large quantity of accelerated graphics port [AGP] cards through,” she said.

Neither Zhao nor Chi would say how much the shortages had cost their companies. But Zhao, who estimated PCI Express cards would begin to ship in serious numbers in coming weeks, said losses had been minimised because the distributor still had access to a few select models.

High demand for graphics cards would continue, Fernandes said, because many consumers were holding off from purchasing until PCI Express models became widely available.

“Nvidia and ATI don’t have high-end graphics cards for the new Intel PCI Express format yet, so that’s causing people to lay back and wait,” he said. “They can’t produce enough of the AGP cards so they haven’t bothered to start producing the PCI Express cards yet.”

Games such as the highly anticipated Half Life 2, would also see resurgence in the larger components marketplace as people sought to upgrade other hardware components, Fernandes said.

“Customers want faster memory, new motherboards and processors when they find that their 2.0GHz Pentium isn’t enough,” he said.

“New games definitely help to drive the upgrade cycle.”

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