2021 has been a heck of a year for just about every entity in the technology industry thanks to the global chip shortage brought about by factors such as the pandemic and never-before-seen levels of demand for gadgetry. And now, 2022 is set to usher in a whole 'nother year of pandemic pandemonium (Omicron or otherwise) and supply chain headaches spawned from the problems of 2020 and 2021.
But it's not all doom and gloom. Exciting new technologies are on the rise and 2022 means every company has a chance to steal the limelight and figure out how to best work within the new confines of the tech world, especially in the PC gaming scene. Giants like Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA are all-in on finding ways to keep profits up and consumers happy even with supply shortages cropping up everywhere. The question is: Does anyone look to have an advantage in 2022? And, by extension, what can consumers look forward to in the new year? We reached out to analysts to learn more about what the big players have in store for PC gaming now that 2021's in the rearview mirror.
Sizing up the competition
There's no doubt that all the industry giants have some sort of ace up their sleeve for tackling the problems facing the tech world right now; it's just a matter of whose ace is most beneficial when pit against the current market landscape. That's why Intel, NVIDIA, and AMD are such an interesting trio of competitors. They have plenty of differences, but when it comes to PC gaming, there's a lot of overlap. Of that trio, then, who has the edge?
Forrester Analyst Will McKeon-White shared his group's thoughts on the matter. "Whoever is able to start evening out the supply chain problems will do the best," he said. Because said supply chain issues are afflicting all three of the major players in a very real way when it comes to physical hardware production and distribution, McKeon-White posited 2022 doesn't have a clear-cut winner in that space. However, he pointed to 2023 as the year Intel could pull ahead thanks to its current investments and efforts in upping production capacity in response to the global semiconductor shortage.
With that said, there are more ways than one to satisfy gamers' needs. If companies aren't able to beat each other with physical product output, then it's up to them to assume the advantage on a different battleground.
"Everybody is hedging their bets well," McKeon-White said, referencing how the aforementioned three companies each have their hand in a different pot to sustain themselves. AMD has the benefit of being inside Xbox Series Xs, Intel has everything from XeSS to its Arc line, and NVIDIA has software solutions such as DLSS as well as the power of its GeForce Now experience.
While all of the aforementioned items give their respective companies a bit of a safety net, it's the digital toolkits that may stand out the most in 2022 since they sidestep the difficulties facing the hardware market. When discussing NVIDIA's cloud gaming activities, McKeon-White didn't mince words. "In the interim, I definitely think that it is an edge," he said, pointing out how giving consumers a cloud option in the current landscape is a serious benefit. He highlighted that the cloud gaming ecosphere has yet to truly prove itself, but that it's still a big gain in the short-term and will likely prove to be in the long-term as well.
Gartner Senior Director Jon Erensen shared similar sentiments with regards to the advantages of offering streaming options. "I think NVIDIA has been an early vendor looking at this," he said, referencing the company's efforts to stay ahead of the pack in that sector. "I think NVIDIA is in good shape from that perspective."
However, an edge is only that. It's not an all-encompassing foundation capable of remedying the larger issues at play in the industry. "They've all been impacted by this," Erensen said of the chip shortage's toll on gaming companies at large. He posed this question: "Who has the size and scale to really have outsized influence?"
Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA certainly fit the bill for companies of a scale large enough to power through the pandemic's ramifications, but they appear to be moving at different paces in terms of who's best set up for specific timeframes. 2022's current optics seem to leave NVIDIA in a good spot thanks to GeForce Now and its digital ambitions, including DLSS. However, in 2023 and beyond, Intel's Arc platform could be advantageous once gamers have time to see how it stacks up to the competition and forego their "let's see how this plays out" approach, as McKeon-White put it.
The upscaled verdict for 2022
With regards to digital efforts that'll be helping companies win over consumers in 2022, McKeon-White had positive words for NVIDIA. "What NVIDIA's been doing with things like AI — rendering — is very impressive."
It's worth noting that Intel and AMD are developing their own solutions in this department. Team Blue has XeSS, while AMD has FidelityFX Super Resolution. There's a lot to factor in when it comes to the ongoing "AMD FSR vs. NVIDIA DLSS" competition, but the point is that the big three realize AI and software are going to play a big part in the hardware race of 2022 and beyond, so none of them are dangerously far behind each other in that department.
Consumers can enjoy these digital, computational innovations throughout 2022 while the world's hardware supplies stabilize, and then there will be items like the best graphics cards to look forward to. Because even in the current climate, rumors are still swirling that tech such as NVIDIA's RTX 40-series GPUs will be making a 2022 debut.
Rumors and speculation aside, though every company has some sort of advantage, the consensus is that 2022 is still anyone's game thanks to the unusually large assortment of fluid market variables. We'll just have to keep watching to find out who pulls ahead and enjoy all the fancy new gaming tech that releases along the way.