Its not often that the graphics card market is starkly presented in the fashion as seen in the above chart, but it is extremely interesting! This image was created by Beyond 3D forum member “dbz” and its a long-running chart of his that uses data pooled from sources like Mercury Research, John Peddie Research (JPR), Business Week, the Wall Street Journal and other sources used by Nvidia and AMD/ATi themselves over the years. The result is a somewhat accurate showcase of how graphics market share has been divided up between the last two remaining players in the discrete market.
While the chart itself is seemingly horrifying, there are some notes on how you should read this. The widening gaps between the two GPU vendors are partly fuelled by their own successes, but are largely influenced by how the market has widened and increased on a global scale. It is true that shipments of desktop computers has been on a downward trend over the years, but that’s a statistic for full systems. Components like the motherboard and graphics card continue to see growth, with ASUS and Gigabyte even posting record numbers for shipments in the past year. The computer industry is nowhere near its actual peak – there are still global markets that are largely untapped.
There’s a really sharp swing in the market share at Q2 2014, around the release of the Radeon R9 295X2. At this stage, AMD was battling off stigma thanks to the poor performance of the blower-style GPU coolers on their Hawaii chips, so fitting the R9 295X2 with a water-cooling unit seemed to make sense. Unfortunately for the AMD, they priced it way out of reach of anyone, launching at $1499 (half the price of a Titan-Z, mind you) and with super-low volume initially. It was becoming clear that dual-GPU cards no longer made sense as even Nvidia’s last one for consumers was the GTX 690 (the Titan-Z is irrelevant to consumers, mostly) launched in May 2012.
Public perception, you see, is almost as important as the marketing itself. If people were still insisting in 2014 that AMD’s drivers were bad and needed to be flushed down the drain, then that definitely helped to play into the fate of the R9 295X2. Coupled with AMD’s frame rating issues at the time, it really didn’t help that the dual-GPU experience still wasn’t where it ought to be.
As 2014 progressed, things got progressively worse. AMD started to scale down shipments of their older cards and instituted price drops across the board to begin clearing out old inventory. The only new product at this stage was the Radeon R9 285. Nvidia, meanwhile, was going full-scale assault with the Geforce 900 series launch, following the GTX 980 and 970 up with the GTX 960, a budget card that easily matches the insane popularity that saw the Geforce 8800GT become Nvidia’s longest-running card in terms of its relevancy and ability to play new games.
What does 2015 look like? Well, we don’t know. AMD will certainly be on a downward trend again and they can’t afford not to hike back up to between 30-40% market share. The R-300 series needs to be completely ground-breaking and future-looking to allow them to swing up again. If you look at the spikes seen by Nvidia, the most recent one was for the GTX 480, a GPU that broke new ground and offered silly amounts of performance for $500 or less.
AMD’s R9 390X needs to have that same level of improvement AND it needs to sell for less than $500. If it doesn’t, they can kiss goodbye any hope of swinging back in to be more competitive with Nvidia.