One of the most important choices every PC builder makes is which graphics card to buy. That choice has been getting much more stressful lately as the price of GPUs skyrockets. You can thank the surge of interest in cryptocurrency for the increase in graphics card prices, but Nvidia is trying to do something about it. “Trying” is the operative word here.
As recently as the middle of last year, you could get a high-end GPU from Nvidia for around retail price. The cost of AMD’s cards has been on an upward trend for even longer, though. Late last year, increased interest in cryptocurrency sent speculative virtual money enthusiasts running for their nearest GPU retailer to pick up equipment for a mining operation. That’s left precious few cards for gamers who just want to frag some noobs.
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are too mature now for a small-scale GPU mining operation to net much cash. Even newer coins like Monero might only make an operator the equivalent of a few dollars per day, but a jump in the value of the coins could make them instant millionaires. As a result, it’s a terrible time to buy a GPU for gaming. Cards like the GTX 1070 that cost under $500 last year are now selling for closer to $1,000. Even used cards will cost you $800 or more.
Nvidia has had enough of the price gouging, so it’s asking retailers to reserve some supply for gamers. Specifically, Nvidia’s proposal is a limit of two cards per customer, enough to set up a sweet SLI rig if that’s what you’re into. It can’t make anyone do that, but its own online store has implemented the pricing limit. Nvidia hasn’t increased the price of the “Founder’s Edition” cards, either. Even with the limit, Nvidia’s supply is all sold out.
It’s nice that Nvidia is taking notice of the problem, but targeting retailers probably won’t do much good. A significant volume of supply is probably never making it to retailers in the first place. Manufacturers like Asus and MSI are happy to sell cards wholesale in bulk. So, miners buy a crate of GPUs direct and save a few bucks, but retailers have fewer cards to sell.
If you need a graphics card, your best bet is to wait on Nvidia to restock at its more reasonable prices. I wouldn’t expect those units to last long, though. If people aren’t buying them for crypto mining, they might just flip them for a big profit to those who are.