Graphics card prices are spiking due to the Bitcoin craze

Those into PC gaming know that one of their machine’s components is especially critical when it comes to getting good frame rates in games. It’s not the processor, memory or hard drive, rather, it’s the graphics card inside a PC that is key to getting a good gaming experience when playing PC games.

And although over the years it’s not been hard to get a good deal when buying a graphics card for your PC, it seems now is not the time to go shopping for a graphics card if you’re looking for a bargain.

This is because for the past year or so cryptocurrency miners have been snatching graphics cards like crazy in order to mine digital currencies such as Bitcoin, which you’ve likely heard about as it’s been all over the media since its price spiked dramatically last year. Actually, Bitcoin’s price hit a high of almost $20,000 US dollars last December, only to drop back to a little over $10,000 this January.

This may have had to do with the fact that businesses like Steam have dropped support for Bitcoin payments after realising that something as volatile as Bitcoin (it’s price has fluctuated wildly in the last couple of months) is actually not very useful as a form of payment.

But some still believe digital currencies like Bitcoin are the future, though, and many expect their price to keep rising. And some have referred to Bitcoin as “digital gold” too, an analogy that makes sense taking into account that new Bitcoins have to be mined (like gold), a process that requires a tremendous amount of computational power.

It wasn’t long, though, before those in the Bitcoin mining business discovered that PC graphics cards are particularly good for this purpose, as their ability to perform millions of calculations per second helps speed up the mining process quite a bit.

This has led to the current shortage of Nvidia and AMD cards, meaning prices have risen quite a bit from the manufacturers’ recommended price. For instance, a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti has a MSRP (manufacturer suggested retail price) of $700 US dollars according to Wikipedia, but lucky you if you’re able to get this card for less than $1000 at online stores such as Amazon.

Another example is the popular GeForce GTX 1060, which has a MSRP of $250, but is now hard to get for less than $400. Even lower-end cards are affected by this, and the GeForce GTX 1050 won’t be easy to get at its MSRP of $110.

Crazy speculation in Bitcoin has driven graphics cards prices to insane levels in the last couple of months.

AMD cards prices have also risen dramatically due to the cryptocurrency mining craze, and a midrange model like the Radeon RX 580, which has a MSRP of $229 (8 GB version) and $200 (4 GB version) is now going for over twice its MSRP. Also, the entry-level Radeon RX 570 is selling for more than $400 online, while its MSRP is only $170, meaning it’s a really bad time for those looking to get a graphics card on the cheap.

Of course, this is all about the forces of supply and demand in action, and while Nvidia and AMD have trouble keeping up with the high demand graphics card prices will continue to soar.

So, what can PC gamers who wish to get a graphics card at a good price in the current climate? Not much really, but at least Nvidia itself has spoken out so that gamers can get better deals from now on. In an interview with ComputerBase (via Polygon), Nvidia’s PR manager Boris Böhles said that “gamers come first for Nvidia”, also adding that the company recommends its partners “make arrangements to ensure that gamers’ needs are still met in the current climate”.

This is still not much consolation for those who were looking to upgrade their graphics card or build a PC now, but at least there’s always the option of buying a prebuilt machine, though. Many PC makers source parts months in advance and can get good deals from manufacturers, meaning this might be the best option for those looking to get hold of a gaming machine now.

Either that, or wait until the cryptocurrency mining craze dies down, something that’s not so unlikely taking into account the way Bitcoin’s price has crashed this month, so it might just be a matter of waiting a bit longer to build your dream gaming PC then.

IMAGE CREDITS
GeForce GTX 1080 (Nvidia Corporation)
Radeon graphics card (Advanced Micro Devices)
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