The Merc reports about a federal antitrust probe -- the best kind of probe -- into the graphics-card industry. Nvidia and ATI -- through recent buyer AMD -- have been served with subpoenas asking for company documents that go back to the late '90s. The Justice Department wants records about "customers, product lines, competition, pricing of products, prices of competitors' products, market studies, and product volumes," according to Nvidia mouthpiece Michael Hara, as quoted in the article.

The feds haven't described the exact nature of the investigation and haven't made any allegations, saying only that it relates to "anti-competitive practices." But the probe is most likely about collusion and price-fixing between graphics card companies. Basically, competing companies agree to set similar price points, keeping them artificially high, while limiting the affect of market forces to lower prices.

Could this mean the beginning of the end of $600 -- or more -- enthusiast graphics cards? Have console prices been (slightly) higher because of artificial GPU costs? As consumers, we can only hope, but it'll take many months before we learn if the companies broke any laws.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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