As a result of plummeting Graphics DRAM prices, the overall prices of NVIDIA & AMD GPUs which power graphics cards for the PC segment and consoles aren't going to climb any further starting this quarter.
Crypto Fall Hurts Graphics DRAM Market In Q3 2021, NVIDIA & AMD Graphics Card Prices Expected To Fall In Q4 2021
In the latest report by TrendForce, it is stated that the recent crypto fall has hurt the overall DRAM market, more precisely, the graphics DRAM segment which includes GDDR6 and GDDR5 products. There are several factors involved that led to this decline but the report highlights cryptocurrency as the primary one as demand for graphics cards from NVIDIA and AMD have fallen drastically as investor's interest in BTC and ETH has diminished significantly.
It should be pointed out that, given the highly volatile nature of the graphics DRAM market, it is relatively normal for graphics DRAM prices to reverse course or undergo a more drastic fluctuation compared with other mainstream DRAM products.
As such, should the cryptocurrency market remain bearish, and manufacturers of smartphones or PCs reduce their upcoming production volumes in light of the ongoing pandemic and component supply issues, graphics DRAM prices are unlikely to experience further increase in 4Q21. Instead, TrendForce expects prices in 4Q21 to largely hold flat compared to the third quarter.
We have been seeing reports that NVIDIA and AMD graphics card prices are returning to normal and are far from their '3x over MSRP' peak that we saw back in May 2021. Rising DRAM demand and the increased contract prices were the main reason that we saw the prices go up along with the pandemic situation and rise in components/logistics cost as a whole. But with DRAM prices coming to a halt and now expected to get better in the coming quarter, we can expect prices on graphics cards to fall down, especially if crypto remains down.
This is also great news for the latest consoles from Sony and Microsoft as graphics DRAM such as GDDR6 is one of the most vital components that power their new solutions. With prices falling on graphics DRAM, we can expect availability and pricing on those parts to improve too in the coming quarter.
Sudden Drop in Cryptocurrency Prices Hurts Graphics DRAM Market in 3Q21, Says TrendForce
A sudden drop in ETH prices led to plummeting GDDR5 and GDDR6 spot prices
Recent observations on the spot trading of graphics DRAM products indicate that the changes in this market closely correlate to the changes in the value of ether (ETH) because graphics cards are the crucial tool for processing the mining algorithm of this cryptocurrency.
ETH prices fell by more than 50% within a two-month span as a result of the latest measures enacted by regulatory agencies around the world to suppress the speculation of cryptocurrencies. Accordingly, cryptocurrency miners’ and investors’ interest in ETH has also diminished significantly.
The plunging demand from cryptocurrency miners also means that a substantial number of graphics cards are being pushed into the second-hand market. TrendForce’s investigation shows that spot prices of graphics cards have fallen by about 20-60% over the past month or more. The differences in the magnitude of decline depend on brand and technology generation. Furthermore, the across-the-board decline in spot prices of graphics cards has also severely constrained the spot demand for graphics DRAM.
According to TrendForce’s understanding, even though spot prices are still higher than contract prices for GDDR6 chips, the difference is rapidly shrinking. This, in turn, will have an adverse effect on the general price trend of GDDR6 chips in the future. The trading is even more subdued for GDDR5 chips that are used in the earlier generations of graphics cards from NVIDIA and AMD. Spot prices are now actually about 20% lower than contract prices for GDDR5 chips. The difference here indicates that there is a glut of older graphics cards, and the GDDR5 chips that are embedded in them are no longer in high demand.
Contract prices of graphics DRAM are expected to increase by nearly 15% for 3Q21 as graphics DRAM suppliers’ fulfillment rate remains relatively low
Regarding the contract market for graphics DRAM, the sell-side has considerable leverage in price negotiations as these suppliers prioritize the production of server DRAM ahead of other product categories. In the current ecosystem of discrete graphics cards, graphics DRAM buyers such as Nvidia are still opting for a business model based on bundle sales (that is, graphics card manufacturers that purchase Nvidia GPUs must also purchase graphics DRAM from Nvidia).
Given that Nvidia and AMD have cornered the vast majority of graphics DRAM supply, notebook OEMs and small- and medium-sized manufacturers of computer components (such as motherboards) will find it difficult to procure sufficient graphics DRAM, while DRAM suppliers’ fulfillment rate for graphics DRAM chips remains relatively low. These aforementioned factors are responsible for not only the nearly 15% QoQ hike in the overall contract prices of graphics DRAM for 3Q21 (which is slightly higher than the corresponding price hikes in mainstream PC and server DRAM products for 3Q21), but also why spot prices of GDDR6 chips are about 10-15% higher than contract prices.
On the whole, prices in the graphics DRAM spot market, which is an extremely responsive market, have already begun to reflect the weakening demand from the end-product segment, particularly for graphics cards (NVIDIA/AMD) used in cryptocurrency mining. As the supply of second-hand graphics cards increases, some graphics card manufacturers may thus kick off promotional price cuts to boost sales. In addition, buyers in the spot market may also begin anticipating even lower prices, and this anticipation will likely either lead to a massive decline in their graphics card demand or result in these buyers adopting a speculative attitude regarding graphics DRAM. TrendForce, therefore, believes that the gap between spot prices and contract prices of GDDR6 chips will begin to narrow in 3Q21.