Nvidia Pulls RTX 4080 12GB After Backlash

Nvidia’s three-card lineup – RTX 4090, RTX 4080 16GB, & RTX 4080 12GB – to kick off its Ada series of GPUs will now limp to launch with only two products. Nvidia announced last week that it is “unlaunching” the RTX 4080 12GB barely a month before its November 16 debut. While we approve of the decision, it also leaves quite the mess to clean up.

Sorry, But Not Sorry
For background, Nvidia immediately faced backlash after it announced the RTX 4080 12GB as an -80 level card despite its major differences from the RTX 4080 16GB. To many, it looked like an attempt to pass off an RTX 4070-like video card as a more capable – and more expensive – product.

To say that Nvidia’s announcement was brief is an understatement. “Having two GPUs with the 4080 designation is confusing. So, we’re pressing the “unlaunch” button on the 4080 12GB.” No additional details – such as the minor point of what will happen to the card – were included.

We do applaud Nvidia’s admission that this product was a bridge too far for – even for the company that unapologetically reaped record profits during pandemic shortages at the expense of gamers. It’s not often you see something resembling pro-customer sentiments in a discrete GPU market with only two options (two-and-a-half if we include Intel alongside Nvidia and AMD).

What’s Next?
Nvidia’s decision leaves its partners and itself in logistical and strategic predicament.

How Will Partners React?
Nvidia is reportedly offering to partly subsidize the costs of destroying and replacing existing packages. But that won’t be enough.
  • AIB partners work on tight margins and many were counting on a Q4 launch windfall
  • Products that have already been packaged have to be rebranded, perhaps redesigned, and marketing and packaging redone
  • It's a tense time for Nvidia's relationship with AIBs
What Will Nvidia do?
The company has some unenviable decisions to make, all with noticeable downsides.
  • The RTX 4080 12GB will presumably become an RTX 4070, perhaps 4070 Super or Ti
    • Pricing (and profits) will have to be adjusted down
  • It’s too late to physically alter performance, but Nvidia might be tempted to limit performance through software
    • This would be a PR disaster
  • Will Nvidia have to delay launches further down the product stack?