Nvidia’s biggest mistake of all time

Despite AMD’s efforts, Nvidia is the largest and most successful graphics card manufacturer of all time. But just because he wears the crown doesn’t mean this king has never wavered. In fact, Nvidia, like its fiercest competition, has made some major missteps over the years that have resulted in embarrassment at best and billions of dollars wasted at worst.

If you’re here to poke fun at the bear, you’ve come to the right place. Here are Nvidia’s biggest mistakes of all time.


GTX 480

Nvidia has made some amazing graphics cards over the years and the latest represent some of the best graphics cards available today. But there have also been some bad cards, and some that have been downright terrible. Arguably the worst Nvidia GPU of all time was the GTX 480. Based on the Fermi architecture, it was incredibly power hungry – drawing as much as some dual-card systems from AMD – and that in turn led to sky-high temperatures.

It might have been the fastest single-die graphics card you could buy, but with multi-GPU configurations still viable in 2010, that wasn’t as big of a deal as it is today. Combine that with a – for the time – steep 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 this.

RTX launch

Today, Nvidia’s RTX brand of graphics card hardware and its capabilities could be an industry mainstay, with ray tracing performance and upscaler support being key factors in any modern graphics card review. But that wasn’t the case in 2018. Nvidia faced an uphill battle with its RTX 2000 series; the first GPU generation with new hardware accelerators for specific and until then practically unknown tasks.

It was a classic chicken-and-egg problem, and while Nvidia tried to force both out of the nest at the same time, it ended up with the proverbial zygote on its green face.

The first attempt at deep learning supersampling was impressive, but disappointing, with far too many visual artifacts to consider it a must-try. Ray tracing was even worse, with a limited impact on how good a game looks while crippling the performance of even the most expensive of Nvidia’s new cards. And there were few games that supported both, let alone both.

Those expensive cards weren’t even that great, even if they didn’t have ray tracing. The RTX 2080 was just barely competitive with the GTX 1080 Ti, which was released a year and a half earlier and cost $100 less. The RTX 2080 Ti was a big step up in performance, but with a price tag almost double that of its predecessor, it was a tough sell and the generation never really recovered, with few of the lower-end cards ever gaining much traction found gamer PCs.

ARM logo on the side of a building.

ARM acquisition attempt

In one of the largest tech acquisitions in history, Nvidia announced in 2020 that it would buy UK-based chipmaker Arm for a total of $40 billion, including a 10 percent stake in Nvidia. However, Nvidia quickly ran afoul of the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, which raised competition concerns and suggested that Nvidia’s ownership of Arm could result in it restricting its competitors’ access to Arm chips.

This was followed in 2022 by the European Commission’s investigation into potential competition concerns, which found that acquiring Nvidia would give Nvidia too much knowledge of its competition due to Arm’s past dealings with Nvidia’s competitors.

Those regulatory hurdles eventually faltered and then ended all hopes of a deal, and both Arm and Nvidia announced it had fallen through in February 2022. Due to stock price changes, the deal was valued at $66 billion at the time of cancellation.

RTX 3060 custom mining system.

Over-reliance on crypto mining

Cryptocurrency mining has been a factor in most graphics card shortages and subsequent price crises in recent years, but the one that ran from 2017 to 2019 or so showed just how much. Not without Nvidia’s attempts to hide it, though. While it claimed that cryptocurrency mining accounted for only a small portion of its graphics card sales, it turned out that it had obscured the truth by considering buying a smaller number of graphics cards as bought for gaming, regardless of where they ended up could be .

While this gave Nvidia plenty of excuse to sell cards at a premium as it was selling them hand over fist, the crypto boom was followed by a crypto winter. When prices plummeted in early 2018, GPU sales fell dramatically, and Nvidia’s stock price fell 50% in just a few months. More declines followed later in the year with the lackluster launch of Nvidia’s RTX 2000 series, with Nvidia making it clear that its cryptocurrency mining sales had continued to decline.

To top it off, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigated Nvidia for misleading investors by misreporting how significant its cryptocurrency mining sales were. Nvidia eventually paid a $5.5 million fine in compensation in 2022.

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

RTX 4080 12GB will not boot

Even the lackluster launch of the RTX 2000 series hasn’t caused Nvidia to “unlaunch” 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 the subject of ridicule from gamers and enthusiasts, who cited its high price, reduced performance, and deliberate mis-naming to hide its shortcomings as big red flags.

This was an RTX 4070 in disguise – in fact it was relaunched as the RTX 4070 Ti a few months later – and nobody would pay RTX 4080 prices for it.

Nvidia ended up paying its board partners for all the RTX 4080 12GB packaging they had to destroy, but that doesn’t take into account all the hours spent developing the card’s BIOS, custom cooler designs, and marketing campaigns. It was a mess and nobody was happy about it.

Witcher III Hairworks.

hair work

Nvidia has had a number of fascinating software projects over its long history, but Hairworks might be the most controversial. Hairworks, an evolution of the PhysX technology it acquired when it bought Ageia in 2008, 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 graphic fidelity that still stands the test of time. But Hairworks was decidedly nondescript. Not only intended for those using Nvidia hardware, it also had a massive impact on performance, dropping even high-end gaming PCs by 10-20 fps when run at full details.

And it didn’t even look that good! While there’s always a subjective perspective to be considered when it comes to visual effects in games, Geralt’s overly sleek, overly shiny hair was too distracting for many players, and the performance hit was impossible to justify. However, others really liked the effect, especially the hair and fur of some of the game’s monsters, which looked much more lifelike.

Ultimately, Hairworks hasn’t found widespread acceptance in games, even in those that use a lot of hair and fur effects, and while it doesn’t have the performance penalties it once did, it’s still something many players would rather do without.

EVGA's prototype RTX 4090 graphics card.
The EVGA RTX 4090 prototype never made it into production. Jayz Two Cents

lose EVGA

This failure hits many PC enthusiasts just as hard as Nvidia. In August 2022, longtime Nvidia graphics card partner EVGA announced that it was withdrawing from the GPU business entirely. This ended a 20+ year line of graphics cards and many of the most iconic GPU enthusiast lines, including the incredible KINGPIN editions of top cards that regularly broke world records.

This came as a big surprise since up to 80% of EVGA’s business was related to GPU sales. But it was Nvidia that caused the rupture and eventual exit of EVGA.

EVGA CEO Andrew Han stated at the time that the relationship between the two companies had deteriorated significantly over the years. He said that Nvidia’s continued price hikes, sales of its own first-party GPUs, and generation-to-generation declining GPU margins have made it an industry that EVGA no longer wanted to participate in.

Nvidia has no doubt moved inventory of its new cards to other board partners, but something special has been lost with EVGA. We all did.

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