John Carmack has proposed an auction system for popular gaming products like GPUs, the PS5, and Xbox Series X. Carmack, the co-founder of id software, believes “we really would be better off with a transparent auction system directly from the manufacturers and a more efficient market.”
This type of auction system could be used to beat scalpers, who wouldn’t be willing to pay inflated prices on highly prized new products. “There would be much indignation at reported prices out of the gate, but removing intermediaries should net out better for consumers in the end,” says Carmack on Twitter.
Due to a global chip shortage and incredible demand, the true price of a PS5 was more than $1,000 in December, and RTX 3080s were selling for $1,227 instead of the $699 sticker price. Even older graphics cards are sold out right now, and resale value on eBay is climbing.
Nvidia is even bringing back its old RTX 2060 and GTX 1050 Ti GPUs to deal with this global chip shortage. The supply situation looks set to last for months, too. Microsoft has warned the Xbox Series X will be in short supply until June, and Nvidia says its supplies will be lean until at least May.
Nvidia’s RTX 3080 has been in high demand. Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge
Supply constraints are obviously a problem, but Nvidia revealed last month that its $499-and-up RTX 30-series GPUs have sold almost twice as much as the RTX 20-series did after the same amount of time. A lot of people are clearly trying to upgrade their PCs, and even the PS5 has been selling just as well as the PS4 did during its launch period despite the supply constraints.
An auction system may cut out the scalpers who try to profit off this supply and demand cycle, but unless every manufacturer participates then it’s unlikely to have a significant impact. We’ve seen many attempts at stopping scalpers, including retailers with their own queue systems, or through bundling these new GPUs and consoles with additional products.
All of the latest AMD and Nvidia GPUs can still be found at inflated prices on eBay, and additional taxes on graphics cards imported from China have also bumped up the prices in the US.
Nvidia is even trying to tackle the demand for its upcoming $329 RTX 3060 graphics card by making it less appealing to Ethereum cryptocurrency miners. The drivers that you need for the RTX 3060 to work will nerf the hash rate of Ethereum mining by around 50 percent, to make the cards more focused on gaming.
Carmack isn’t a fan of Nvidia’s latest approach. “What a terrible engineering task to give someone — figure out when we are being used for this thing we are quite good at, and break it,” said Carmack on Twitter.