Nvidia is the largest and most successful graphics card manufacturer of all time, despite AMD’s best efforts. But just because he wears the crown, doesn’t mean this king has never wavered. In fact, like its fiercest competition, Nvidia has made some big mistakes over the years, leading to embarrassment at best and billions of dollars lost at worst.
If you’re here to make fun of the bear, you’re in the right place. Here are the biggest Nvidia fails of all time.
Nvidia has made some amazing graphics cards over the years and their latest ones are some of the best graphics cards available today. But he has also made some bad cards, and some that were downright terrible. Nvidia’s worst GPU ever was arguably the GTX 480. Built on the Fermi architecture, it was incredibly power-hungry — it drew as much as some dual-card systems from AMD — and that in turn led to high temperatures.
It may have been just about the fastest graphics card you could buy, but with multi-GPU configurations still viable in 2010, it wasn’t as big a deal as it is today. Couple that with a high – for the time – price of $500 and the GTX 480 was dead in the water.
Too expensive, too hot, too power hungry and not fast enough to justify any of that.
Today, Nvidia’s RTX brand graphics card hardware and capabilities can be an industry mainstay, with ray tracing performance and upgrade support being key factors in any modern graphics card review. But in 2018, that was not the case. Nvidia faced an uphill battle with the RTX 2000 series. the first generation of GPUs with new hardware accelerators for specific and, until then, practically unheard of tasks.
It was a classic chicken-and-egg problem, and although Nvidia tried to push both out of the nest at the same time, it ended up with the proverbial zygote all over its green face.
The first attempt at deep learning supersampling was impressive, but overwhelming, with too many visual artifacts to be considered a necessary feature. Ray-tracing was even worse, having limited effect on how good a game looked, while crippling performance on even the most expensive of Nvidia’s new cards. And there have been precious few games that have supported either, let alone both.
Those expensive cards weren’t all that good when they weren’t ray tracing. The RTX 2080 was almost competitive with the GTX 1080 Ti, which had been released a year and a half earlier and cost $100 less. The RTX 2080 Ti was a big performance improvement, but at close to double the price of its predecessor, it was a tough sell and the generation never really recovered, with only a few of the low-end cards ever buying many gamer PCs.
Trying to get an ARM
In one of the biggest tech acquisitions in history, Nvidia announced in 2020 that it was going to buy UK-based chipmaker Arm for a total of $40 billion, including Nvidia’s 10% stake. However, Nvidia quickly ran afoul of the UK Competition and Markets Authority, which raised competition concerns, suggesting that Nvidia’s ownership of Arm could limit its competitors’ access to Arm chips.
This was followed in 2022 by the European Commission’s investigation into potential competition concerns, finding that due to Arm’s previous agreements with Nvidia’s competitors, the acquisition would give Nvidia too much knowledge of its competition.
Those regulatory hurdles eventually stalled and then ended any hope of a deal, and both Arm and Nvidia announced they had collapsed in February 2022. Due to changes in stock prices at the time of the cancellation, the deal was worth about $66 billion.
Over reliance on cryptocurrency mining
Cryptocurrency mining has been a factor in most of the graphics card shortages and subsequent price crashes in recent years, but the one that lasted from about 2017 to 2019 made it clear just how much. Not without Nvidia’s efforts to hide it, though. While it claimed that cryptocurrency mining was only a small part of its graphics card sales, it was shown to be obfuscating the truth by looking at the purchases of smaller numbers of graphics cards as purchased for gaming, regardless of where they might end up. .
While this gave plenty of justification for Nvidia to sell cards at a premium, as it sold them handily, regardless, the cryptocurrency boom was followed by a crypto winter. When prices collapsed in early 2018, GPU sales fell dramatically and Nvidia’s stock price fell 50% in just a few months. Further falls followed later in the year, with the botched launch of Nvidia’s RTX 2000 series, with Nvidia making it clear that its cryptocurrency mining sales continued to shrink.
In addition, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigated Nvidia for misleading investors by misrepresenting how significant its sales were in cryptocurrency mining. Nvidia eventually paid a fine of $5.5 million in restitution in 2022.
The RTX 4080 12GB launches
Even the innocent launch of the RTX 2000 series didn’t make Nvidia “launch” a product and pretend it never existed, but that’s exactly what happened with the RTX 4080 12GB. Debuting alongside the RTX 4090 and RTX 4080 16GB, it was immediately derided by gamers and enthusiasts alike, who cited the high price, reduced performance, and deliberate misnaming to hide its shortcomings as major red flags. .
This was an RTX 4070 in disguise – indeed, it was eventually relaunched as the RTX 4070 Ti several months later – and no one was going to pay RTX 4080 prices for it.
Nvidia eventually had to pay its partners for all the RTX 4080 12GB packs they had to destroy, but that doesn’t count all the hours spent developing the BIOS for the card, custom cooling designs, and marketing campaigns. It was a mess, and nobody was happy about it.
Nvidia has had a number of interesting software projects throughout its history, but Hairworks might be the most controversial. A further evolution of the PhysX technology it acquired when it bought Ageia in 2008, Hairworks was designed to make hair and fur look more realistic in games, and it did. Sometimes.
The first game to support it was The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, a game praised for its incredible graphical fidelity that still holds up well today. But Hairworks was decidedly unimpressive. Not only was it locked to those using Nvidia hardware, but it had a huge effect on performance, hitting 10-20 fps on even high-end gaming PCs when running it at full detail.
And it didn’t even look that good! While there will always be some subjective perspective on visual effects in games, Geralt’s overly smooth, overly shiny hair was too distracting for many players, and the performance hit was impossible to justify. Others really liked the effect, however, particularly the hair and fur on some of the game’s monsters, which looked much more lifelike.
Ultimately, Hairworks hasn’t seen much adoption in all games, even those that use a lot of hair and fur effects, and while it doesn’t have the performance impact it once did, it’s still something many players would rather have do without.
For many PC enthusiasts, this failure hits them just as hard as Nvidia. In August 2022, long-time Nvidia graphics card partner EVGA announced that it was exiting the GPU business entirely. This ended a 20+ year graphics card production streak and brought an end to many of the most iconic lines of GPU enthusiasts, including the incredible KINGPIN editions of flagship cards that regularly broke world records.
This was a huge surprise because up to 80% of EVGA’s business was GPU sales. But it was Nvidia that caused the rift, and ultimately, EVGA’s exit.
EVGA CEO Andrew Hahn explained at the time that the relationship between the two companies had deteriorated significantly over the years. He said that Nvidia’s constant price increases, selling its own first-party GPUs, and falling margins for GPUs from generation to generation made it an industry that EVGA no longer wanted to be a part of.
Nvidia has undoubtedly moved its stock of new cards to other board partners, but it lost something special with EVGA. We all did.