You've probably heard about the chip shortage somewhere over the course of the last couple of years, or at the very least, you've probably noticed how expensive electronics have been. The bad news is in: The chip shortage isn't ending anytime soon, according to Intel's CEO. So, in this article, we'll explain why the chip shortage isn't going away and why consoles, computers, and more will remain expensive.
What's This 'Chip Shortage' and Why Does It Matter?
When we say 'chips' we aren't talking about Lays or even computers in general. Chips mean microchips. Semiconductors. These kinds of basic technological building blocks. Chips, in this sense, permeate nearly every industry, and in many ways, the global economy is totally dependent on their production as the demand for smart devices continues to explode.
From cars to medical devices to phones to gaming consoles to computers, we need a steady supply of chips to build the everyday devices we've all come to rely on either directly or indirectly. Suffice it to say, they're important.
The problem began with, as you can guess, COVID-19. Across the world, the output of manufacturing plants dropped over the course of the pandemic, but that's not all. COVID, also, created the need for a huge variety of electronics that chipmakers, in turn, focused on building, further limiting their production.
Then, as U.S. relations with China began to sour and sanctions came out, chips became even more expensive and harder to acquire. On top of all this has been an extraordinary demand for electronics caused by the pandemic: Millions, if not billions, are staying inside, and there's not much to do at home without the internet, computers, TVs, video games, or phones.
Recently, there's been another major development: The manufacturing plants that actually produce chips require, as you might expect, a huge variety of chips themselves. Producing microchips takes an almost unbelievable level of precision, while the chips used in electronics to actually manufacture chips are now experiencing a shortage, too.
This means new factories that companies like Intel are building in Europe and the U.S. will, inevitably, be delayed, and these kinds of plants already take enormous amounts of time, money, and resources to create. And even when they're operational, manufacturing chips takes a while, too.
Essentially, the whole chip supply chain continues to experience major bottlenecks, which has caused Intel's CEO to revise his prediction on when the world can expect the chip shortage to end: What was once 2023, maybe 2024, has become 2024, maybe 2025.
What Does the Chip Shortage Mean for Gaming and Consumer Tech?
First off, it means that PlayStation 5s and Xbox Series Xs are going to continue to be hot commodities that may not be the easiest or cheapest things to go out and acquire. This isn't anything new, though, unfortunately. While the same can be said for other kinds of consumer tech and gaming hardware, some things have also changed.
When the chip shortage first hit, NVIDIA was on its 3000-series of cards. These cards offered up a major leap in performance as compared to NVIDIA's 2000-series that was pretty widely lambasted as being an expensive, half-step that really didn't fully deliver on the ray-tracing experience. Accordingly, 3000-series cards were enormously popular, and thus, they became unbelievably expensive.
Even to this day, GPUs are pricey and tough to lock down. Especially if you're angling to pick up anything remotely high-end. Many have seen the unfortunate reality of cards that were released two, three, four, five years ago selling used for what they were originally sold for when new.
In 2022, rumors of NVIDIA's 4000-series are picking up steam, and there's reportedly a lot to be excited about. In general, the 4000-series cards are expected to offer up another major leap in performance with up to twice the power of a similarly-spec'd 3000-series card. These are rumors, and this kind of performance differential may not translate perfectly into the real world, but this is still a major cause for concern (as well as excitement).
If these cards end up being another must-have product, especially for the many who didn't manage to pick up a 3000-series and may not have wanted a 2000-series either at launch or later for 3x the price, there could well be an even more insane GPU gold rush that causes all PC hardware, again, to skyrocket in price and availability.
How Can You Avoid Overpaying on Electronics?
First and foremost, you've got to do your research and stay informed. Regardless of what you want to buy, the best shot you'll have at actually acquiring it is to nag something off of a pre-order that you're anticipating going live far in advance.
This means you'll want to set up Google Alerts, or something, to get daily updates on a product you're anticipating to be announced soon. You may even want to book mark the company's website and check it each day. You could consider making that particular page your homepage for a while.
Once you know when pre-orders for a product are going to happen, make sure you're ready the day of, and more importantly, monitor social media. Oftentimes, pre-orders will go alive later or earlier than is expected, and during the process, pople may discover important issues or ways to avoid annoyances.
Unfortunately, pre-orders are going to be highly sought after by fellow consumers, bots, and scalpers, so you may not be lucky. Naturally, using a VPN or multiple phones/computers to monitor a pre-order page as it's coming online is a good way to maximize your chances of buying something, but it's not a guarentee.
Once a product hits store shelves, you're going to want to sign up for stock alerts. There exist a huge variety of apps, services, and communites you can join or sign up for that will pipe notifications to your phone about the latest updates on stock. This way, as long as your vigilant, you'll probably be able to pick something up eventually.
Lastly, you'll want to try thinking outside the box. If you want a new GPU, for example, considering buying a prebuilt computer with that GPU. Businesses make much more money off you if you're spending more, so you'll tend to get screwed less. And if you've got a buddy who's maybe looking to upgrade his rig, you can toss your old GPU in the new PC's shell, and there you go.
Another thing to consider is buying secondhand from sites like eBay, Craigslist, and the like. Yes, you'll have to be careful and cautious so you aren't getting scammed by somebody, but oftetimes, these secondhand sellers are the only way to get a particularly hot product.