For a brief moment earlier this week, PC gamers looking to upgrade their rigs with the latest video cards from AMD or Nvidia felt some hope. The bitcoin-like cryptocurrency Ethereum that is driving up demand for many of those GPUs saw a drastic drop in value down to $235 from a recent high of $397. And some consumers thought that was potentially the beginning of the end for the GPU drought of 2017, but it wasn’t to be. Ethereum has recovered, and that means you are still competing with “miners” for the limited stock of Radeon RX 580s, GeForce GTX 1080s, and more.
Ethereum is trading well over $310 at the time of this posting, according to tracking site Coindesk. And that means a graphics card like the RX 580 (which starts at $250) is affordable enough for cryptocurrency miners to still earn a profit after factoring in energy costs. Ethereum is a digital coin that enables people to purchase access to distributed computing power. You can lend your PC’s power to that network to help solve those contracts in exchange for Ethereum — this is called “mining.” The price of Ethereum almost hit $400 on June 14, but miners were flooding the market in search of cost-efficient cards well before that point. The high price just meant that nearly every new GPU from both Nvidia and AMD was economically viable.
This has, of course, left gamers frustrated. You can go on eBay now to get an RX 580 card from a third-party seller for $450, but you will struggle to find one on Amazon or Newegg at its suggested price.
AMD revealed earlier this month that cryptocurrency mining was leading to a rush on its products. And it isn’t slowing down. Even a permanent drop down to $235 for Ethereum would potentially only price out certain cards and make them easier to find.
The real solution to this problem is maybe already in the works. Nvidia and AMD know that they are benefitting from miners, and rumors claim that both companies are considering launching dedicated mining versions of some of their cards. The idea is that AMD and Nvidia would tune the cards to run 24/7, which is how mining operations work. But whether that will free up supply on other GPUs for your typical gamer building their first rig will depend on a number of factors, and you can bet that if a popular card like the GeForce GTX 1070 can make more money than a 1060 Miners Edition (or whatever Nvidia would call it), then the 1070 would sell it quickly.
This contributed post was originally written by Jeff Grubb on VentureBeat.