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An Ask - Help me reconcile the consistent message "PC Gaming is Growing" vs. Long term decline in desktop GPU production

Xebec

Member
Based on sources quoting Jon Peddie Research, it appears that desktop discrete graphic cards shipments have continuously decreased over the last 15 years, in terms of units sold. Per articles linked below, JPR data shows a peak of ~ 97M graphics cards shipped in 2007, decreasing to ~ 73M by 2010, losing ground every year to 44M in 2015.. then a slight uptick n 2017 but back down to ~40M in 2019 and 2020.

I'm struggling with these numbers a little bit as the news and of course self-biased parties like AMD, Intel, Microsoft, and Nvidia are consistently stating that the gaming market has been growing on PC. Besides gaming, I also see multiple reasons for increased demand for Discrete GPUs -- mining demand has been a ramp up over the last 10 years, and professional applications are continuing to find new uses for "gaming" cards.

I don't believe this overall trend is due to price increases per die size over time or R&D costs - there's quite a few years there where price per working chip went down clearly and considerably. (though with exceptions: 20nm seemed a bit muddy cost-wise per Nvidia).

I'm also not convinced this is a pure play to increase the ASP and margin of GPUs sold, at least not over the whole 15 year decline -- it's only the last few years that there has been a hard "pass" of the low end market by Nvidia and AMD to focus on higher end GPUs.

Any ideas what's going on here? Is the demand actually trending down slowly, or maybe it's getting harder to compete for good wafer pricing and availability as the rise of higher margin SoCs first on 'good nodes' (2007-2015) and then leading edge nodes (2015+) has occurred? Perhaps gaming console sales are playing a part here?

Thanks!

Example Article Quoting Jon Peddie Research:

The specific chart from this article (Year over Year discrete desktop cards)
https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/kPvLRRbPngV2PYtyPc3MHY.png

Chart showing quarterly shipments - from Q3 2005 through Q4 2020:
 

Daniel Nenni

Admin
Staff member
I thought gaming consoles were a big driver for AMD and others? My kids all have consoles. They use them for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc... as well as games. And what about gaming laptops? Not my area of expertise but I am certainly interested as GPUs are big business for the foundries. I will ask around, get some experts at the table.
 

Daniel Nenni

Admin
Staff member
From a friend:

Console sales have been fairly steady as far as I can tell - This generation (PS5/XSX) definitely seems to be selling better than last (especially if you include the Switch in that), but it's not like console sales are up 3x or something insane lol. It's not enough to account for that gap.

I have to assume it's all about the fact that APUs are increasingly "good enough" for most people, and those low end cards I remember being popular around 2011 as a necessary minimum (HD 6450 from RADEON, GT 520 from Nvidia) are nearly completely obsolete. I remember being told back then that those little 25-50w office PC GPUs were insanely high volume sellers even if nobody talked about them. Even now the old and ridiculous HD 5450 is still #16 for some bizarre reason: https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Computers-Accessories-Computer-Graphics-Cards/zgbs/pc/284822

But I remember even just 8 years ago one of those $40-$60 GPUs would consistently be in the top 5 forever on Amazon best sellers whenever I checked, and now it's #16. That's my quick explanation. Gaming is getting bigger (but Integrated graphics can play eSports games), and more people are buying high end cards for enthusiast gaming - but less people are bothering to get that minimum GPU anymore.
 

usersegment

New member
Hi there,

I registered to post this after reading your question, but sadly Daniel beat me to the punch.

The only part I can really add now is that your first two data points in years 2007 and 2010 are important as 2010 was the year that intel first started selling their integrated APUs (CPU with GPU on the same die), and in 2011 AMD followed with their (llano based?) APUs. Prior to these products the choice was to either get a motherboard whose chipset included an integrated display adapter or to purchase an add-in-board based 'GPU' solution. While the first generations of APUs were not very good, the reason they were introduced and continue to be made is that they were and are 'good enough' for enough people that they have cannibalized the low end GPU market.

This means that it can simultaneously be true that discrete desktop cards have been in steady decline while PC gaming has grown, the low end is just gaming on APUs rather than cheap add-in-boards now. Meanwhile data center and compute applications seem to be demanding ever higher volumes of GPU or GPU like chips.
 

Xebec

Member
Thanks Daniel and "usersegment" - those explanations make perfect sense given what's going on. The timing your friend observed of "cheap" dGPUs dropping off the sales list is a great observation and does align well with ever-improving APUs, implying strongly how desktop dGPU sales could drop in volume while the gaming market grows.

I definitely recall the big deal around the AMD Llano and I think Intel Clarksdale launches, and you're right -- that's when iGPUs became truly useful for 3D.

If consoles sales are flat, the only other modifier I can think of is that laptop sales have been taking a greater PC marketshare, and gaming laptops have become a lot better over the last 5-10 years as well ..

Thanks again!!
 

VCT

Member
10 years ago. Low end discrete GPU ($50-$100) were not for gaming. They were mostly replaced by improved embedded GPU.
Pure gaming GPU market qty still grows. They are different market.
 
Even now the old and ridiculous HD 5450 is still #16 for some bizarre reason: https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Computers-Accessories-Computer-Graphics-Cards/zgbs/pc/284822
Those half-height cards might be popular for applications where a full-height may not fit in the case (if they have an alternate bracket that drops the secondary VGA port), which should include datacenter usage, but I don't know if most of those folks will be shopping through Amazon :/
 
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