After 22 years of being an Nvidia-only GPU/AIB partner, EVGA, the largest AIB supplier of Nvidia GPU-based boards in North America, has had enough. The company told us they would not sell AIBs based on Nvidia’s next-generation series of GPUs. The news comes as a huge surprise to us, and it will likely shake up the entire PC graphics industry. EVGA is the leading AIB supplier in the US and a leading supplier in Europe.
EVGA came into prominence in 2000 when it developed the first highly efficient cooler for Nvidia’s GeForce MX 440, affectionally called the banana because of its color and shape. The company entered the market with graphics boards targeted at gamers in 2002.
|EVGA’s first Nvidia cooler.|
Over the years, the complexity, wattage, price, and size have grown from a small, single-slot AIB to an oversized, dual-slot, 500 W, $1,500-plus monster. The transistor and processor density of GPUs have ramped faster than Moore’s Law and have delivered amazing results and compute acceleration across a range of industries. They found use in games, media & entertainment, simulation, crypto mining, and AI training, to name a few.
|The AIB’s evolution over time.|
To help integrate the GPU into all types of market segments, Nvidia invested heavily in R&D, spending over $5 billion in 2021 and is estimated to spend over $7.5 billion in 2022.
|Nvidia R&D spending over time.|
But, at the same time, manufacturing costs, R&D expense, and market costs have gone up, margins for the AIB partners have come down. The old joke about making it up on volume became less and less funny over the years. Nvidia’s margin, however, went up over time as they moved into adjacent markets.
|Margin change over time.|
However, the cost of goods, manufacturing, and marketing for EVGA and presumably other AIB partners went up. Also, EVGA is unusual compared to its peer companies in the AIB market because the company maintains a large engineering staff and designs its PCB and cooling system, as well as provides software for monitoring and overclocking (EVGA Precision), 24/7 premium customer service, 48-hour RMA return policy, and an innovative Queue system that delivered AIBs to gamers during the pandemic. EVGA also put more into their packaging than most (if not all) of their competitors as part of its goal to be the quality AIB supplier to the demanding high-end gamer.
|EVGA RTX 3090.|
Slowly, over time, the relationship between EVGA and Nvidia changed from what EVGA considered a true partnership to customer–seller arrangement whereby EVGA was no longer consulted on new product announcements and briefings, not featured at events, and not informed of price changes. On September 7, Nvidia offered via Best Buy an RTX 3090 Ti for $1,099.99, undercutting EVGA and other partners that were offering their products at $1,399.99. There was no warning of the price cut, and it left the partners with little choice but to sell their inventory at below cost to meet the Nvidia price. MSI dropped their price to $1,079.99 on New Egg, and EVGA dropped theirs to $1,149.
|Nvidia cuts price on RTX 3090 Ti.|
EVGA says it will continue to sell and support its existing Nvidia-based AIBs, while maintaining enough inventory to support its three-year warranty, but it is ending its relationship with Nvidia.
EVGA will still offer its award-winning PSUs (power supplies) and the rest of the product lines.
What do we think?
EVGA dropping Nvidia will put a big hole in Nvidia’s North American sales of AIBs (where EVGA enjoyed 40% market share) and EVGA fans in Western Europe. Nvidia can overcome that by adjusting the allocation levels for the remaining AIB partners, as well as direct sales through Best Buy, but it will take a quarter or two. Given the inventory overhang that partners and Nvidia are having, there seems to be no rush.
The elephant-in-the-room question is, will EVGA pick up AMD or Intel GPUs? Either company would be delighted to add the EVGA brand to their partner list. However, the CEO and founder of EVGA, Andrew Han, has expressed a desire to slow down a bit and spend more time with his family. The AIB business is truly a 24/7 pressure cooker, and after 22 years, it’s starting to take its toll. However, physicist-trained entrepreneur Han may just need a short recharge period; he’s not taken a vacation in years.
Han told Nvidia of his decision in June, so this is no news or shock to Nvidia. But it is a tectonic shift in the channel and the gamer community. Gamers weren’t the only ones who valued EVGA’s high-quality AIBs. Content creators, financial advisors, and hedge fund managers were also dedicated buyers.
Financially, it will reduce EVGA’s total revenue, but the company will increase its profits by escaping the margin squeeze from AIBs. Han has said he has no interest in selling the company. Ironically, when the Nvidia RTX 4000 series does come out, it will require many end users and most OEMs to increase the size of their PSUs—and guess who has an answer for “where can I get one?”