Nearly nine months ago, Nvidia said it would launch its most affordable RTX 3000 graphics card yet — the $329 RTX 3060. Good luck actually finding one at that price, right? That’s why I subtitled my review “$329 with an asterisk sign.” And sure enough, they were nigh-impossible to find on launch day for Nvidia’s sticker price.
But that same day, February 25th, I signed up for EVGA’s graphics card waiting queue on a whim. And after waiting in that queue for so long that I completely forgot I ever signed up, I got a surprise. On Monday, I received an email from EVGA letting me know I could actually purchase that $329 card for $329.
So I did. Yesterday afternoon, a brand-new RTX 3060 arrived for $379.41 after tax and shipping. That’s a card that’s generally selling for north of $700 on eBay.
The queue worked! It remembered me, and it gave me what I wanted once it was ready. I never needed to wake up early and smash browser refresh buttons, never needed to throw down with scalpers, never needed to pre-fill my credit card information into half a dozen websites, never needed to pay an exorbitant finder’s fee. I just had to register an account and try EVGA’s two-step verification a few times (the website choked for me at first), and then I had 20 full hours to complete my purchase.
We called out the industry in late 2020 for failing to let us simply sign up to buy products when they’re ready to ship, the way Apple, Samsung, and others have done. But there’s been little movement since. While Sony did finally introduce a way to register your interest in buying a PS5 last month, and Valve did introduce a first-come-first-served reservation system alongside its (now-delayed) Steam Deck handheld, most people who simply want to buy a new console or a new PC graphics card are at the mercy of the internet feeding frenzy.
How has a tiny company like EVGA, best known as one of Nvidia’s board partners, figured out what almost every other company hasn’t? Well, it’s not quite that simple.
For one thing, as we pointed out in that late 2020 story, there are some perverse incentives that may keep companies from fixing the mess. Scarcity isn’t always a bad thing for retailers since it drives word-of-mouth, and some people may give up on the thing they came to buy and buy something else instead. (Big-box retailers also love the frenzy of in-person Black Friday shopping sprees, for that matter, even though people can get hurt and even killed in a stampede. At least that’s not a concern here.) But EVGA wins when you can buy a graphics card, and all of its new cards are in high demand.
But also, EVGA isn’t actually satisfied that it’s figured out the queue quite yet. If you want to follow my lead and join the queue, you actually can’t — the company shut down its queues about a month ago after feedback that it still wasn’t quite fair. The company’s tweaked its queue system a few times now, but there are still concerns that, for instance, some users were able to purchase multiple cards instead of just one for personal use.
“After taking much feedback, we are working on a new version for [the] future with improvements to speed up queue fulfillment and fairness. This new queue may have some new rules and requirements, so for the time being, we have closed the existing queue for new signups as we continue to fulfill those in line, and plan to have more announcements in the near future,” EVGA said.
Hopefully, EVGA can share its learnings with some other companies, too, because we’re not liking the way the industry is pointed now: it feels like retailers themselves are starting to become the scalpers, in a sense. Walmart and Best Buy offer paid memberships, in addition to Amazon’s Prime, that just so happen to let you into their member-exclusive sales — many of which are for in-demand tech, like consoles. They’ll tell you that’s not the primary purpose of these services, but for now, it seems like retailers are capitalizing on the scarcity of this gaming hardware with an upcharge instead of committing to making the lines work for everyone else.
That means you may have to wait twice: once for companies like EVGA to create the line and then again in the line to actually get your new console or GPU.