March has been a huge month for PC gamers. GDC brought deep insights into the future of graphics technology, GPU prices crashed, and Nvidia and Intel launched new graphics cards. This month set the tone for 2022, and PC gamers have a lot to look forward to.
There were no one-off stories this month, with most announcements and releases receiving multiple follow-ups. To bring you up to speed, I’ve rounded up the most important PC gaming news from March and what it means for the future of the hobby.
GPU prices crash on Earth
The biggest news for PC gamers in March had to do with lower GPU prices. Finally, it looks like graphics cards are approaching list price, with some cards actually selling out for List of prices. I never thought I would be happy to pay the asking price for products that are a year and a half old, but here we are.
Earlier this month, I actually recommended against buying GPUs at this time, despite the price drop. A few weeks later, prices have dropped significantly and all trends point to a return to normal over the next few weeks.
It’s time to celebrate, PC gamers. You can ultimately buy a graphics card.
GeForce RTX 3090 Ti: expensive and power hungry
You can buy a graphics card, but probably not the latest from Nvidia. The company launched its RTX 3090 Ti towards the end of the month. It’s the halo product that Nvidia fans have been waiting for, but it comes with some worrying signs for the future of PC graphics.
As rumors suggested, it comes with huge power requirements. The base model requires 450 watts on its own, and some third-party boards require power connections capable of delivering up to 1200W of power. The next-gen RTX 4080 could also have high power requirements, so the future of PC gaming looks… hot.
It looks expensive too. GPU prices are dropping, but the RTX 3090 Ti is selling for an obscene price. Towards the end of the month, Nvidia even bragged to investors that customers were spending an average of $300 more on a graphics card.
The fast future of PC game load times
Microsoft finally opened up its DirectStorage API in March, allowing developers to implement sideloading technology into their games. We don’t have DirectStorage games yet, but developer Luminous Productions has pitched the tech to GDC, saying it could help Speak charge in as little as 1 second.
According to the developer, that’s not even the full advantage of DirectStorage. Luminous Productions claims to have been able to eliminate I/O bottlenecks, but the future of DirectStorage will also include GPU-accelerated file decompression. This could help kill loading screens in PC games for good.
More than that, DirectStorage frees up a lot of CPU power. A developer video explaining the technology claimed it could reduce CPU overhead by up to 40%. DirectStorage will help your games load faster, but it can also help them run faster.
DLSS gets worthy competition
Nvidia Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) has been the de facto scaling technology for nearly three years, but fierce competition is on the horizon. AMD has announced FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) 2.0, which looks like a massive improvement over the first version. Finally, DLSS could be dethroned.
Intel also provided details on its XeSS scaling technology, which works with GPUs from several companies, unlike DLSS. By the end of the year, we will have two branded scaling options that work on all graphics cards and could provide DLSS-like image quality.
The strongest evidence of DLSS obsolescence, however, is Ghostwire Tokyo. It’s the first game to ship with Unreal Engine’s Super Time Resolution (TSR), and it looks nearly identical to DLSS. Even better, it works with any modern GPU or console, and Unreal developers can easily implement it in their games.
A new challenger for GPUs
The decades-old battle between AMD and Nvidia was turned upside down in March. Intel launched its first discrete graphics cards, called Arc Alchemist. Along with performance, Intel has announced a range of features that the GPUs will support, including DirectX 12 Ultimate, AV1 decoding, and XMX AI accelerators.
We only have laptop GPUs so far, but Intel has provided a design preview for its upcoming desktop cards. The future of PC gaming looks like a three-way race, which should hopefully spur more competition than we’ve seen in recent generations.
That’s only if Intel can update the cards, though. AMD hasn’t been content to just let Intel have the upper hand, so the company has publicly released its own benchmarks comparing Intel’s new mobile GPU to one from AMD. And the results aren’t great, with AMD’s lowest mobile GPU wiping out Intel’s.
We have a new challenger in the world of graphics cards… at least for now.