Why Are Video Cards So Expensive Right Now?

If you’ve been trying to pick up some parts for a new gaming PC build lately, you may have noticed a disturbing trend – video card prices are through the roof! Particularly Nvidia’s GTX 1000 series video cards, and AMD’s RX 500 series GPUs. We’re not talking slight price inflation here, either – GTX 1060s, for example, are now costing upwards of $450! That is absolutely insane.

So, why is this happening? What’s causing video card prices to explode? The answer is pretty simple.

Bitcoin mining.

If you’ve never heard of Bitcoin mining, I’ll get to it in a sec – first, in case you haven’t even heard of bitcoin, here’s a brief explanation – Bitcoin is a type of cryptocurrency, and cryptocurrencies are currencies that employ encryption techniques to regulate the generation of units of said currency, and employ Bitcoin miners to verify the transfer of funds. Cryptocurrencies operate completely independently of banks.

Recently, the price of Ethereum (another type of cryptocurrency) has been skyrocketing, causing more and more people are starting to jump on the cryptocurrency bandwagon. You have people investing in the currency, trading it, and building high-powered “mining rigs” to mine the currency.

Bitcoin mining is the process of verifying Bitcoin funds transfers and is done via “mining rigs”, which usually have two (or far more) high-powered, mid-range video cards due to the massive amount of GPU power the process of bitcoin mining requires. These rigs run Bitcoin mining programs, which essentially solve complicated math problems to validate transactions and commit them to a blockchain. Bitcoin miners are typically competing with each other to be the first to assemble all outstanding transactions into said blockchain.

If that all sounded like rocket science to you, no worries, it’s a bit out of my wheelhouse, too. I’ve never cared much for cryptocurrency. Regardless, the bottom line is that because cryptocurrency mining has exploded in popularity with all the attention Ethereum (And cryptocurrency in general) has gotten lately, a ton of people are going out and buying a bunch of mid-range AMD video cards to assemble into specialized mining rigs. Naturally, that means that the market is running low on those GPUs, which means people are instead turning to NVIDIA cards – which means we’re now running low on both major brands of video cards!

As a result of this shortage, prices are going up, and fast. 

 

But that’s not even the worst part. It would be bad enough if it was just mid-range cards that were going up in price (due to how easy they were to buy in bulk compared to, say, a 1080) but because these cards are becoming unattainable by PC gamers who want to get started right now, people are being forced to pick up the higher-end cards, which just creates even more of a GPU shortage! Having said that, this secondary shortage is probably going to take much longer to become troublesome (if it happens at all), as not everybody who can’t get a 1060 or 1070 is just going to run out and pick up a top-tier GPU right away – budget matters. Rather, they’ll probably save up for a couple weeks longer than they normally would have and grab it then, or just wait this whole fiasco out. However, it’s still a problem in the mid to long term.

So, how do we solve this video card shortage? How can we get around it?

Frankly, you don’t and you can’t. There’s nothing we can do but wait it out. Once the craze dies down (and who knows how long that will take), prices will undoubtedly stabilize, and video card manufacturers will probably ramp up production a bit to compensate. Regardless of that, though, it’s leaving a lot of prospective PC gamers in the lurch right here and now. Not everybody wants to wait god knows how long just to build themselves a decent gaming rig – and very few people can afford the massive increase in price. Whether they somehow try to get around this (by buying a higher powered GPU, or trying to find somewhere that has stock locally) or they just sit and wait, people are understandably frustrated.

Though this is of little consolation, NVIDIA and AMD are aware of the problem and are going to start creating GPUs specifically designed for Bitcoin mining soon. That’s excellent news for the PC gaming community’s future, but it does little to solve the problem right now. The last time this sort of thing happened on a scale as large as this one was back in 2013 – and that lasted some time.

My advice to anyone who’s been looking to assemble their own rig is to just check your local computer store to see if they have the GPU you want because it’s not looking too likely that you’ll be able to pick it up online anytime soon.

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