Gamers at risk of further GPU price hikes due to Micron DRAM fab breakdown

Micron GDDR5X memory

Demand for DRAM memory chips is at an all-time high, and prices for system memory and graphics cards have been hit the hardest due to lack of supply. Sadly, a report from DRAMexchange has outlined yet another reason why the memory chips on your graphics card may running low in the next month.

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A problem arose at Micron’s Taiwan-based memory facility, where a gas generation system supplying nitrogen was on the fritz. The system has since been repaired in the US, and the facility is expected to get back up to speed sometime in early April – however, the downtime will have knock-on effects for the already stretched DRAM market.

DRAMexchange expect contract prices of system DRAM to increase by 3% in the second quarter of 2018, compared to the first. It’s not just system memory either, they also expect the graphics market to be hit particularly hard by the production fault due to concurrent strains on meeting demand for graphics cards – which you may have already noticed the ramifications of if you’ve attempted to purchase a graphics card in the past six months.

Micron accounted for around 21% of the DRAM market in Q3 2017, trailing behind only Samsung and SK Hynix – at 45.8% and 28.7% respectively. It was only in March when a blackout at a Samsung fab potentially jeopardised 3.5% of the world’s supply of NAND chips, proving just how threatening malfunctions at huge fabs can be to the market as a whole.

Graphics card memory

Micron were reported to have suffered a similar issue back in July of last year, when an entire DRAM facility was said to have shutdown. However, Micron later made a statement implying that, while a minor event had occurred, it hadn’t massively impacted the business.

While graphics card pricing has somewhat plateaued – occasionally even reducing in some regions – and availability woes have been eased slightly, gamers are still not out of the woods yet. Graphics card pricing is still much higher than it was on average at the same time last year, and DRAM pricing has supposedly increased 5% in the first quarter of 2018 alone.

With any upcoming graphics card releases – such as Nvidia’s Volta or the rumoured AMD Vega refresh – being kept under wraps for the time being, gamers need as much good news as they can get to tide them over until new cards eventually arrive. More memory shortages are certainly not helping the dire hardware landscape, and hopefully the effects of Micron’s kerfuffle on the wider DRAM market are kept to a minimum as the facility returns to full capacity.