Bitcoin mania is hurting PC gamers by pushing up GPU prices


Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum, Ripple, and Litecoin have soared in value over the past year, thanks to continued interest from a range of investors. As the price of these cryptocurrencies has increased, graphics cards have also seen big price increases thanks to retail stock shortages. A range of mid- or high-end graphics cards from AMD or Nvidia are in short supply, mostly due to cryptocurrency miners buying them in bulk to build machines to mine bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies.

Polygon reports that pricing for Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070 should be around $380 (depending on the model), but that some cards are now being sold for more than $700 due to the stock shortages – an increase of more than 80 percent. Cryptocurrency miners use stacks of graphics cards to solve the mathematical problems need to authenticate payments on the network and create new bitcoin. There’s only a finite number of bitcoins available, and because of the way the network is designed, each new bitcoin takes more power to mine. This has led to increased demand for more powerful graphics cards to tackle multiple cryptocurrencies.

The graphics card pricing is making it a lot harder to build a gaming PC from scratch right now, especially as the stock shortages of mid-range cards like the GTX 1060 or GTX 1070 also push up the prices of more capable cards. Nvidia’s GTX 1060, GTX 1070, GTX 1080, and AMD’s Radeon RX 570, 580, Vega 56, and Vega 64 cards have all been impacted in recent months.

Nvidia is advising its retail partners to prioritize gamers over miners, but retailers are able to generate some impressive margins at the moment so it’s unlikely that simple advice will result in real changes. Some retailers are limiting purchases so miners can’t buy stacks of cards, and Polygon reports that Micro Center is specifically offering discounts to PC gamers who are buying the cards alongside other components. Micro Center blames high demand from miners and constrained shipments from vendors for the industry-wide shortages.

It’s a problem that’s affecting pricing worldwide, not just in the US, and it seems unlikely to end unless graphics card vendors can flood the market to keep up with demand. It could put off PC gaming newcomers who are deciding between building a mid-range PC or opting for a PlayStation 4 Pro / Xbox One X. Gamers have had to put up with volatile pricing of RAM over the years, and as Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency pricing continues to fluctuate it’s clear that graphics cards will be the latest bottleneck in building the perfect gaming PC.

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