Nvidia reported record financial results on Thursday for its first fiscal quarter that ended April 29, and it also saw its stock price hit an all-time high of $260.13 per share, giving the company a market value of $157.9 billion. Based on all of the hype around Nvidia, you would think that the reason for this is its strength in artificial intelligence chips or the use of its graphics chips for crytpocurrency mining.
In fact, Nvidia’s biggest business is gaming. It generated $1.72 billion in revenue from gaming graphics chips during the quarter, up 68 percent from a year earlier. The gaming revenues are 47 percent of Nvidia’s overall $3.21 billion in quarterly sales.
If Nvidia were counted in market researcher Newzoo’s list of the top 25 public game companies (Nvidia is not actually in that list), I figure it would easily be in the top 10.
The Santa Clara, California company’s next largest business was data center chips, which generated just $701 million in revenue. That is a kind of proxy for its AI revenue growth. Cryptocurrency mining seems to be a big driver of the stock price, and yet it came in at just $289 million, and Nvidia said that amount would probably shrink to $100 million in the current quarter.
These numbers tell us that gaming is the under-appreciated asset at Nvidia. The growth of PC gaming is strong, and Nvidia supplies chips for the red hot Nintendo Switch game console. Tegra processor revenues — which includes the Switch — was $442 million. So most of Nvidia’s gaming business is still focused on the personal computer.
For sure, I understand why investors seem to be ignoring games. Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, has been vocal about talking about the future of technology being AI, and that vision for the future is why investors are so bullish on Nvidia. Self-driving cars may be the future, but Nvidia halted road testing of those cars after a deadly incident involving Uber’s technology for autonomous vehicles.
Cryptocurrency is also quite sexy. But we should remember that games pay the bills not only at Nvidia, but also at companies such as Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, Dell, HP, and Qualcomm. Gaming is the tip of the spear that pushes hardware innovation.
Vijay Sharma, product management leader at Nvidia, showed me last week one of the relatively small reasons why the company’s technology is driving gaming forward. Nvidia’s MaxQ technology is aimed at bringing down the power consumption and costs of Nvidia-based laptops. Those laptops have starting prices as low as $699, and there are 85 models based on MaxQ technology, which finds the sweet spot between power and performance.
Sharma said the MaxQ technology puts desktop-class performance into laptops, allowing the computers to function at the peak of efficiency. The latest GeForce 1080 graphics can provide performance that is four times faster than a PlayStation 4 in a laptop that has eight hours of battery life. Laptops based on MaxQ are as thin as 16 millimeters.
That’s about the size of a magazine without a ton of advertisements. 25 new MaxQ models have debuted since last June. MSi and Gigabyte have launched new MaxQ-based gaming laptops with Nvidia GeForce 1070 GTX graphics.
These kinds of machines bring the power of the PC to games, and games like Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds provide the fuel and innovation to move the game industry forward.
Sharma also talked about a new wave of G-sync HDR monitors. These gaming displays get rid of artifacts such as tearing, stutter, and ghosting, and they run as fast as 240 hertz. The G-sync displays range in size from 15.6 inches to 65 inches. Nvidia certifies these monitors when it comes to refresh rate, response time, visual quality, and flicker.
Acer and Asus are launching a couple of new 27-inch 4K G-sync HDR monitors later this month, where the colors are quite intense. I checked out the quality of the screens playing games such as Final Fantasy XV and Destiny 2. I could see the color difference in side-by-side comparisons with older monitors, and I didn’t notice any lag in the gameplay.
These advances might not seem all that sexy or understandable to investors. But it’s steady progress like this that keeps the PC gaming ecosystem humming, despite predictions that the personal computer is going the way of the dinosaur.
A bunch of tech companies drew attention yesterday for visiting the White House with the aim of getting President Donald Trump to think harder about an AI strategy for the country. That’s a big topic to wrap our heads around, and we should do it for sure. But hell, we ought to come up with a strategy for making sure that we remain competitive in the $137.9 billion gaming industry as well.