If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re someone who is interested in PC Gaming. You’re probably looking into building your own PC for the first time. Or if you have been playing on PC for a while, you’re probably looking into upgrading the build you have currently like me. Either way, likely you’ve taken a look at the recent prices of graphics cards and you think to yourself: “What the hell? Why are the prices so freaking high?!” Well, if you want the really short answer, I’ll just give it to you and be on your way. It’s cryptocurrency, mostly bitcoin and ethereum that’s exploded in the economy. This explosion of bitcoin and these virtual currencies have caused shortages in the market, which also cause a dramatic shift in prices as you see in most retailers of graphics cards.
Oh, you wanted a bit more of an explanation? Well, if you’re still reading at this point, I take it you want me to go into a bit more detail of cryptocurrency and why this is happening. Alright, as a disclaimer, I won’t go into much detail about cryptocurrency in of itself and the whole market dynamic behind it. Admittedly, I don’t understand much of cryptocurrency other than the basics. I’ll just explain the basic parts of cryptocurrency mining that’s affecting PC Gaming as a whole, as that’s what 99% of you are interested in anyway.
So, what’s cryptocurrency mining? What’s cryptocurrency? Well, cryptocurrency is essentially a virtual currency. Bitcoin especially, these virtual currencies are highly unstable but highly valued, which is why it crashes a lot and the value of it typically goes from costing thousands of dollars per unit to just a few hundred. There’s more types of cryptocurrency such as Ethereum and Blockchain. As you can see from the picture above, you see a mining rig. Miners purchase multiple graphics cards to “mine” out cryptocurrency by doing computational work. And that’s just a small mining rig. I’ll show you a picture below. In some cases, miners have mining farms that contain dozens or hundreds of graphics cards at a time with mining cabinets that stretch out as far as the eye can see. Yeah, it’s ridiculous.
Why do people do this? Why do they sink thousands of dollars for collecting so many graphics cards? Cryptocurrency is essentially a trading business where miners generate Bitcoin, Ethereum, or whatever, and they sell them back for thousands of dollars. It’s an investment. Now, I’ll cast my bias towards miners aside and say that I understand the return on investments. There are stories out on reddit that explain people paying off their debts and paying off student loans with cryptocurrency. Yes, the whole cryptocurrency mining craze is ruining the whole GPU market, but cryptocurrency in some ways, have helped people. However, it is incredibly risky (and expensive), so I don’t recommend trying to do it if you want to get into it. Like I said, these virtual currencies are very unstable and could plummet in value at any rate. Just recently, the Bitcoin market just had a large crash.
Why are GPU prices rising so dramatically? As I said in the introduction, there is a market shortage, which causes this increase in prices. As you can see in the screenshot above, you can see that GTX 1080 Tis are pretty much double the price than what they use to be. No graphics card is safe. It used to be that the mid-range GPUs were overpriced but the high-end cards were still fine. But, that’s no longer the case anymore. Keep in mind, this screenshot was taken a couple of days ago. Things may have changed slightly from what you see in the screenshot above. Also keep in mind that the graphics card manufacturers such as ASUS, EVGA, Gigabyte, and MSI are not setting the prices. It’s the retailers that set the prices. What’s even worse is that the manufacturers cannot produce graphics cards fast enough to keep up with demand. That’s why when you go on PCPartPicker.com and search for graphics cards, a lot of them are out of stock because one or two people are buying up 20-30 graphics cards at a time for their mining farms.
Enough explaining! What can we do about this? Can this be stopped? What can be done? I’m pretty sure this is what all or most of you want to hear. Not much can be done to stop mining. In some countries, it’s illegal but that doesn’t really mean much to the countries where mining is actually legal. See, please understand that this is a business. If there’s money to be made, people will do it. It’s human nature. However, what I think can be done about this is to keep graphics cards that are specifically made for gaming out of the hands of miners. Nvidia and AMD have talked about doing similar to this, but we’ll have to see what they really do. In my opinion, I think they really don’t care because, in reality, a sale is a sale. They wouldn’t care who’s buying their stuff as long as they still generate revenue.
So, what can you, as a gamer, do? Buying a prebuilt PC nowadays seems like a pretty good option right now. I know buying prebuilts is considered blasphemy among the PC Gaming community, but it’s something that’s looking to be the best option right now. Things have changed. It used to be where you could build a PC hundreds of dollars cheaper than buying a prebuilt for the same specs, but the tables have turned. Now, buying a prebuilt can be cheaper than building a PC option due to the fact that RAM and GPU prices have gone up. In my next article, I can probably make a few recommendations of prebuilt PCs that newbies should look into buying.
However, don’t panic. It’s not like this is the end of PC Gaming as we know it. There is some hope that things will get better. As we’re seeing right now, the bitcoin mining craze is slowing down. That’s not to say that the craze will completely stop, but I have no doubt that things will eventually go back to normal.