Scoring a Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-series graphics card is a tough task. In fact, getting hold of one of the coveted cards is arguably even more difficult than tracking down a PS5 restock.
So, naturally the PC gaming community was pretty excited when rumors started circulating that Best Buy would be dropping fresh stock of the entire Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-series this week. However, that anticipation quickly turned to frustration when the restock took place yesterday and there was a pretty big catch.
Best Buy did indeed restock the entire GeForce RTX 30-series range, including the very hard to find Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090, but if you wanted to buy one you needed a Totaltech membership. Totaltech is the retailer’s premium subscription service and comes with an eye watering $200 annual membership fee.
For some context, Best Buy launched its Totaltech membership program last October. It gives customers around-the-clock tech support, up to 24 months of product protection on most Best Buy purchases, free delivery, and a few other periodical benefits. This Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-series restock wasn’t the first time the retailer had paywalled hard-to-find items either.
Just a few weeks after the service launched, Best Buy began holding PS5 restocks that required a Totaltech membership. These gated drops weren’t well received by gamers, but have occurred multiple times over the past few months so the electronics retailer obviously sees them as worthwhile despite the backlash.
It’s hard to argue with that assertion either. The retailer's latest stock of Nvidia RTX 30-series cards sold out in just a few hours even with the widely criticised $200 paywall. Totaltech exclusive PS5 restocks have also previously sold out in rapid time. While the internet may grumble and groan it seems that some gamers are willing to quietly swallow the additional cost to get their hands on in-demand tech.
It should be noted that right now getting hold of a Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-series card typically requires engaging with resellers. We’ve seen models of the GeForce RTX 3080 and 3090 cards being listed for as much as double retail value on resale sites. There is an argument to be made that at least with Best Buy Totaltech you’re getting some additional value for your extra $200.
Of course, that doesn’t totally excuse Best Buy for what is a fairly anti-consumer practice. There’s certainly an argument that the retailer is using the allure of a Nvidia RTX GPU restock in order to promote its own membership service, which feels a little cynical to us.
Best Buy is not the only retailer to have experimented with placing popular items behind a paywall. Amazon and GameStop have both run PS5 and Xbox Series X restocks that require paid membership. In the GPU space, retailer Newegg regularly holds its Shuffle promotion which assigns graphics card stock at random. However, it’s free to enter the Newegg Shuffle.
We definitely don’t agree with Best Buy, and other retailers, attempting to strongarm customers into paying for memberships they may not want in order to buy popular items, but it looks like the practice is here to stay for now.
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Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.