Despite how hard it’s become to purchase a GPU at anywhere near MSRP over the past two years, there was still one beacon of hope. Best Buy has been the sole distributor of Nvidia’s extremely reasonably priced Founder’s Edition cards, so if you got lucky and were able to add one to your cart, you could actually get an RTX 3080 for $699, for example. That’s a smokin’ deal, as those rare cards sell for around $2,000 on eBay. However, as of yesterday that beacon has been extinguished. Best Buy has seemingly locked all Nvidia GPUs behind an “exclusive” membership program called Totaltech, which costs $200 per year. Even worse, the new requirement applies to all Nvidia GPUs, including ones from its Add-in Board (AIB) partners, not just the Founder’s Edition cards.
Best Buy’s new “strategy” was revealed to gamers on Thursday of this week, which is the usual day of the week when the company has “drops” for GPUs. Hopeful gamers polished their F5 keys and headed to the company’s website, only to find that all of the its GPU listings were now labeled as an Exclusive Access Event. Even worse, the only way to gain access to this exclusive event was to enroll as a member of the company’s Totaltech program.
But being a Totaltech member doesn’t guarantee you the right to buy a GPU. It just offers you extended warranty, free Geek Squad, free shipping, better support, and so forth. Totaltech is the price of admission BB is charging if you want to buy a graphics card from the company. It seems more like a scalper tax than anything else, since people buying multiple cards wouldn’t scoff at an extra $199, but that’s a bit steep for someone who just wants to buy a single gaming GPU for themselves.
And of course, that’s exactly what happened according to online reports: scalpers signed up in droves and bought every single card they could get their hands on. Although Best Buy limits the sale of cards to one model per person, that doesn’t prevent someone from buying an RTX 3080, 3070, 3060, and so forth, in one transaction, which is precisely what Videocardz reports happened. Also, someone on Reddit linked to an Imgur gallery showing receipts for multiple people who were busy stockpiling GPUs on Thursday.
It seems as if this new restriction just locked out all the gamers, and let the scalpers and their bots run wild in the Best Buy store for once. One Reddit user who uses bots posted a comment in the thread about it, noting that with this “paywall” in place, scoring a GPU has never been easier, writing “Botting was the easiest it’s been yet, all you needed was a decent bot and a few tt accounts to cook a bakers dozen ;).” Said user defended his or her actions by pointing out they use the cards for mining, which unsurprisingly didn’t stop the avalanche of hateful comments.
All in all, this seems to officially be the end of the line for those who were still holding out hope they would score an Nvidia Founder’s Edition GPU for themselves. Best Buy was the last place to get one at MSRP. Of course, there’s still the EVGA queue, which to its credit hasn’t been price gouging either, but the wait time could be months. Your humble author signed up for an original RTX 3080 when the queue first opened after the Ampere launch, and had yet to receive a notification about it a year later.
There’s always the Newegg Shuffle too, which allows you to enter a random drawing for the chance to buy a GPU, but Newegg has heavily inflated prices, and usually bundles them with power supplies, monitors, and other accessories, so you could end up paying a ridiculous premium for a package of parts, when all wanted was a GPU. Newegg was also found to be forcing people to buy faulty power supplies as part of its bundling program previously. The Newegg Shuffle isn’t exactly a great option either.