Three weeks into 2018, it remains almost impossible to find a gaming graphics card selling for anywhere near its retail price, regardless of whether you’re looking for a GPU from Nvidia or AMD. The monthslong shortage, fueled by a rush on graphics cards that’s driven by people looking to mine Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies, continues to confound individuals that just want to buy a video card and use it in a gaming computer to, y’know, play PC games. Now it seems that Nvidia is trying to prioritize those customers over miners — or rather, push retailers to do so.
Cryptocurrency mining requires immense computational power, and miners figured out years ago that the chips in many high-end graphics cards are well-suited to the task. The values of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have skyrocketed in recent months — a single bitcoin is currently worth well over $11,000, although that figure is in flux and has been trending downward since a peak above $19,000 last month. This has led people to put together “mining rigs” — after buying multiple consumer graphics cards for the necessary computing power — and try to turn a profit on their investment by mining for cryptocurrency.
“GAMERS COME FIRST FOR NVIDIA”
For much of 2017, the increased demand for GPUs drove the cost of powerful cards — like Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070, GTX 1080 and GTX 1080 Ti, and AMD’s Radeon RX 570, 580, Vega 56 and Vega 64 — well above their suggested retail prices. For instance, the GTX 1070’s MSRP is $380, but it was selling for upward of $450 last year. Lower-end cards like the GTX 1050 and 1060 weren’t affected initially, but miners have moved on to them as the better cards have sold out, pushing up prices for the cheaper GPUs as well. And as the value of bitcoin spiked in December, prices rose even further.
Nvidia is reportedly asking retailers to do what they can when it comes to selling GPUs to gamers instead of miners.
“Gamers come first for Nvidia,” said Boris Bohles, PR manager for Nvidia in the German region, in an interview with the German publication ComputerBase. “All activities around our GeForce products are for our core audience. We recommend our trading partners make arrangements to ensure that gamers’ needs are still met in the current climate.”
A representative for Nvidia declined further comment to Polygon, citing the company’s quiet period. (Nvidia’s next quarterly earnings report arrives in roughly two weeks.)
It’s unclear how far retailers can or would be willing to go in this respect. Many of them have already tried limiting GPU purchases to one or two per customer, hoping to block miners looking to buy graphics cards in bulk. But that tactic seems to have been ineffective, if current prices are any indication. The GTX 1070 — which, remember, has an MSRP of $380 — is out of stock at retailers like Newegg, where it’s fetching upward of $900 from third-party sellers.