In the months since Nvidia launched Turing, CEO Jen-Hsun Huang has been aggressive in positioning the GPU family as a decisive success. Sales data (not to mention Nvidia’s revenue) has not reflected this argument, but the collapse of cryptocurrency sales and the decline in data center shipments make it much harder to tease out how Nvidia’s shipments have changed between Pascal and Turing. Steam Hardware Survey data, however, is available for both time periods. We’ve been tracing the month-by-month changes in Turing adoption and comparing them with the same time period (measured in months since launch) for Pascal.
Up until now, none of these comparisons have been good for Turing. While we acknowledge that the Steam Hardware Survey is not a perfect metric for GPU market share, it remains the best overall guide that we have to what consumers are purchasing for themselves. This month, finally, Nvidia can claim a single data point moving in its favor: RTX 2070 adoption is happening more quickly than GTX 1080 adoption in 2016, according to reports from Steam in both time periods. We are far enough away from the Pascal launch that we expect GPU availability to be strong in this time period, and the cryptocurrency market hadn’t yet exploded, sending GPU prices through the stratosphere.
The slideshow below compares the percentage of Steam users with a given GPU, measured in the months after that GPU launched. There’s a 0 percent period in the graphs to show the time lag between when cards debut and when they actually appear in the Steam Hardware Survey. If a GPU launches in May, May is considered to be Month 1 of launch. The RTX 2080 and 2070 use an 8-month period to reflect the time since launch, while the RTX 2060 uses a four-month window (it launched in January).
Because Nvidia chose to raise its GPU prices when it launched Turing, Turing GPUs of the same brand structure (x60, x70, x80) are all approximately one price bracket more expensive than their Pascal predecessors. To account for this, we also compare these cards apples-to-apples as far as cost.
Here’s the entire data table.
As always, take these comparisons with the understanding that they aren’t (and don’t claim) to be absolute guaranteed metrics. But Nvidia continues to make aggressive claims about how well Turing is doing in-market. From the company’s most recent conference call:
Our strategy with RTX was to take a lead and move the world to Ray tracing. And at this point I think it’s fairly safe to say that that the leadership position that we’ve taken has turned into a movement that has turned next generation gaming Ray tracing into a standard. Almost every single game platform will have to have Ray tracing and some of them already announced it and the partnerships that we’ve developed are fantastic Microsoft DXR is supporting Ray tracing, Unity supporting ray tracing, Epic is supporting Ray tracing, leading publishers like EA has adopted RTX and supporting Ray tracing and movie studios, Pixar has adopted — announced that they’re using RTX and will use artifacts to accelerate their rendering of films.
And so, Adobe and Autodesk jumped on to RTX and that will bring Ray tracing to their content and their tools. And so, I think at this point it’s fair to say that that Ray tracing is the next generation and it’s going to be adopted all over the world.
It’s absolutely true that various platforms and game engines have announced some support for ray tracing, but the idea that the capability has exploded from nowhere to world domination in a few months is misleading at best. Best case, we are at the very beginning of a gradual technology transition that will see ray tracing adopted as a complementary technology to rasterization. We have no concrete information about what sort of ray tracing the PS5 will actually be capable of. Game engines are adding RT support, but it takes years for game engine support to translate into robust gaming support. This kind of issue is why we counseled patience and caution when Turing launched eight months ago.
An ecosystem of words is not the same as an ecosystem of games you can purchase and enjoy right now, and there aren’t enough RT-enabled titles to qualify as an ecosystem — not by a long shot. By the time there are, Turing will have long since been replaced by something new. And claiming major victory for pushing ray tracing into corporate and 3D rendering markets, where it’s existed for years, isn’t much of an achievement to crow about. Nvidia and other companies have worked to improve ray tracing for a decade and more. It’s the availability of real-time ray tracing for gaming, specifically, that would be such a change from the current rasterized status quo. Turing adoption has lagged Pascal, almost across the board. Only now, eight full months after launch, do we see signs that any Turing SKUs are outperforming a Pascal equivalent — and we see it, thus far, in just one GPU SKU.