The great GPU crisis – why are graphics cards so expensive now, and just how bad is it?

ZEC tales

Updated to reflect the latest, even more horrifying graphics card prices & availability, plus the concurrent RAM shortage.

If you’ve made a point of leaving any conversation as soon as you hear the sound ‘bitc…’ start to emanate from someone’s face-hole, I’ve got some bad news for you. The effects of the cryptocurrency goldrush are no longer confined to twitchy-eyed evangelists and screechy news headlines – for the second time in recent memory, it’s caused a huge spike in graphics card prices, both new and second-hand, as the crypto-clan rush to snaffle up any GPU they could possibly use to mine blockchain currencies such as Ethereum and Zcash. Even the recent decline in crypto exchange rates hasn’t brought GPU pricing back down to Earth – quite the opposite, in fact.

This means two things for us, in practice. 1) Now is the worst possible time to buy a new graphics card for gaming 2) now is the best possible time to sell on any unused old graphics cards you own.

One thing I’m not going to do here is get into any speculation or armchair theorising about the future and/or wisdom of cryptocurrencies, beyond observing that their rise, fall or constantly spiking variations thereof is likely to affect graphics card prices until either something significant happens either in the entire crypto industry or hardware-makers take a concerted stand. I want to stick to what this means for us, as players of PC games in early 2018.

Let’s take the case, for instance, of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070, a card that for the last year was one of the best graphics cards for people who want to play new PC games at near-maximum settings at 1080p or QHD without breaking the bank. Even as recently as mid-December, you could pick up a GTX 1070 for as low as £350.

Today? Well, for starters you almost certainly won’t be able to find one direct from a retailer, be that high street or the likes of Amazon. They’ve all been bought up and either dedicated to mining or scalped onwards. The ones you can find are by and large restricted to resellers on Ebay and Amazon, with prices massively hiked to reflect the demand. As such, the cheapest in-stock and new GTX 1070 I can find on Amazon UK is £560, and from a third-party reseller. Over £200 more than it would have cost just a few weeks ago – and more than a mighty Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 would have cost at a similar time. Amazon does list a 1070 for £511, but, as with most any mid or high-end current GPU right now, it’s back-ordered.

Some retailers are directly selling GTX 1070s, such as Scan – but unhappily they’re priced at £550 minimum, and almost all are out of stock and on back-order. That’s the bonkers situation in a nutshell.

Gigabyte GTX 1060

This price-perversion spreads like a stain in both directions. An Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 (more useful 6GB model) now goes for close to what a GTX 1070 ‘should’ cost, for instance, the cheapest new one coming in at £334 at the time of writing – but again that’s on back order, with the cheapest in-stock being £340. By contrast, as recently as the closing days of December 2017, you could snag one for £215. That’s around a 50% bump in the space of little more than a month.

However, prices for the more powerful GTX 1080 and GeForce GTX 1080 Ti aren’t quite as heavily affected in many places, as their heavier power consumption broadly makes them less proportionally efficient for mining, due to energy costs and PSU needs. Perversely, right now it’s even possible to buy a GTX 1080 for £487, significantly less than a GTX 1070, although the ongoing stock shortages mean you’ll likely be in a for a long wait. At the same time, we are seeing hundreds of pounds/dollars being added to the prices of in-stock 1080s and 1080 Tis, with the latter occasionally selling for four figures to miners in a hurry.

Even older generation cards are affected. There are new GTX 980s selling for £422, whereas this time last year the Amazon Warehouse had refurbished 980s going for just £200. A second-hand GTX 970, meanwhile, can go for as much as £250, whereas a few months ago a seller’d be lucky to get £80.

What this means, unhappily, is that people with cash to flash aren’t too locked out by the blockchain goldrush, but those of us whose means limit us to mid-range cards – the £200-300 bracket – are going to have a very hard time until either the crypto bubble bursts in a more permanent way than the current decline (which itself is luring many speculators buying or mining low to potentially sell high later), or governmental regulation or hardware company restrictions break up the party.

nano

All this affects AMD just as much, by the way, with the AMD Radeon RX 570 and AMD Radeon RX 580 being much sough-after for mining right now.

However, it’s even worse for the newer RX Vega 56 and RX Vega 64 cards, which are almost impossible to find new and in-stock because they’re so well-suited to digging for Ethereum, the world’s second-largest crytocurrency, after Bitcoin. Techspot recently reported that it was unable to find a single Vega 56/64 in stock in the US or Australia.

Even older cards on the second hand market are also suffering/benefiting from the craze. Let me give you an example of my own. For the past year, I’ve had a Radeon R9 Nano – a mid-range card at best by today’s metrics – sat unused in a drawer, as I’d upgraded to a GTX 1080 Ti to power my stupid ultra-wide monitor last year.

This card was released in summer 2015, and originally RRPed at $650/£450. In 2016, it received an official price cut, down to $499/£350. As recently as December, i.e. mere weeks ago, I would have been lucky to get £250 for it on eBay.

A couple of weeks ago, in the name of experimentation and not for one minute expecting it to work, I listed it for £380. I figured that ultimately I’d lower that to around £300 and be very pleased with that indeed.

When I woke up the following morning, it had sold. £380. Guess who’s getting himself a new mobile phone this year? But also: holy shit, this is so messed up. Right now there are no R9 Nanos listed on eBay, leading me suspect that I could have gotten even more had I waited a few weeks.

The primary reason for all this is, as I say, crypto-mining, a craze so pervasive that even UNICEF are getting into it. However, a current worldwide shortage of fast RAM for graphics cards and systems alike is further compounding the problem. DDR4 sticks are also boasting inflated prices right now, and also with no apparent end in sight. It’s not anything like as hard to come by as GPUs are, but the prices are even further through the roof – the cheapest 8GB DDR4 stick I can find is £63, whereas less than a year ago you could bag similar (but faster!) for £40. Even the older DDR3 is not spared, and nor is the GDDR5 used by most well-specced new graphics cards.

Though the amount of cash you have to lay down to buy system RAM is still much smaller than that required for a decent new GPU, memory costs have overall risen more dramatically and it’s not looking like that will change any time soon. There is no one absolute reason for the DRAM price-hike, but the two most prevalent theories are that mobile devices and servers are occupying too much of the supply chain (although mobile growth seems to be slowing), and allegations of collusion on the part of primary DRAM manufacturers Micron, SK Hynix and Samsung.

Crypto remains very much the main driver for graphics card prices and availability, though, as mining operations are buying up cards in bulk. ‘Bitcoin’ is the first word on everyone’s lips of course, but these days it’s not particularly well-suited to GPU-based mining, whereas alternative crypto-currencies such as Ethereum and Zcash are.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve haven’t gone far down the rabbit hole of specific currencies. There are many more kinds, and which ones are considered ‘best’ for mining can change regularly, but, as I understand it, it’s currently considered the case that Nvidia cards are better for Zcash and AMD cards for Ethereum, both of which could be traded for cash or Bitcoin, or kept around in the hope they’ll accumulate.

There are a whole lot of people going into this stuff hard, which means buying multiple GPUs and setting them to mine all day, every day. The larger-scale miners buy cards in bulk which is why most places are out of stock, and it’s this lack of availability that drives up prices. Certain cards are considered sweet spots due a combination of tech and power draw, and the GTX 1070’s a prime example of that – my Nano, meanwhile, is favoured because it’s also very small and thus you can get more of ’em into one space.

I can’t speak to the specific maths of other boards, but the example I can give you – after setting my PC up to mine Zcash a few days back, purely to research this piece – is that of the GTX 1080 Ti. When mining as part of a pool (solo mining by and large requires a whole building full of PCs to pay off – which is another reason why cards are in short supply and with crazy prices, because this stuff really is happening at an industrial scale), I can expect this card to earn between 0.3 and 0.4 Zcash, or ZEC, in the space of a month.

Running it for just an hour earned 0.0004 ZEC, and before I bailed out because the mining was making my mouse lag too much, I was up to 0.00173 ZEC. I may need to cash that in for ibuprofen to treat the headache caused by the constant fan noise, and moisturiser for my skin, desiccated by the sort of heat no British room should know in early February.

After energy and cooling costs are deducted, right now this would translate to between $110/£80 and $140/£100 per month, if I sold on the Zcash for conventional money. This would pay off the cost of a new GTX 1080 Ti (if bought at RRP) in somewhere between six and seven months, and if I ran it for a year I’d be looking at £600-700 profit, as well as having a top-flight gaming card.

This is presuming Zcash and other cryptocurrencies hold their value for that long, of course, which can be affected by everything from investor confidence to new regulations, to the mining market becoming oversaturated by all these people buying all these graphics cards, and most of all to whether or not hardware makers step up production to meet demands. This isn’t straightforward, because they don’t want to be left with hard-to-sell excess if the market nosedives even more dramatically than it has in recent weeks, and because the DDR shortage limits production in the first place.

The unpredictiably of the crpyto market means it’s also possible rates could spike once again, and thus miner profits grow significantly too. But clearly it’s a big gamble. The more comparatively cost- and power-efficient mid-range cards are thus a more appealing prospect for the speculative miner.

mining

Personally, I am deeply disinclined to leave my GPU mining – not just because of the deep uncertainty around these currencies, but also because of environmental impact, noise and heat generation and potentially shortening my card’s lifespan. People rushing wholesale into this stuff don’t care about any of that, of course, and folk running multiple PCs with multiple cards could potentially get themselves into a situation whereby they can pay off replacement boards fairly quickly. However, those tempted by setting their PCs to mine should be conscious that they’re up against people with literal warehouses full of dedicated mining PCs, and in the longer term that’s only going to worsen the odds of your GPU digging up the right numbers.

Where does this end? God, no-one knows, but in the short term, we’ve got a real problem – upgrading our PCs for new games is pretty much impossible right now, or at least deeply unwise. It almost gets into a situation where you have to mine in order to pay off the price-gouge, which is absurd and horrible.

On the other hand, you might have some cash in the attic if you’ve an old card or two sat around. Another example I can give is that of my even older GTX 970, which I’d have been lucky to get £70 for a few months ago, but sold on for £160. Which I regret – I settled for the first offer because I was convinced all this would be over any day now, whereas if I’d hung on for another week or two I’d probably have bagged £200. So there’s a lower-level gamble for you – you could sell your old kit now to fund an upgrade a few months later, when maybe/hopefully prices will have settled down, or you could sit on it in the hope values keep going up, while risking them suddenly crashing.

Nvidia and AMD, for their part, are yet to go far out of their way to addresss. It’s good for their share price, after all, plus there’s the issue of manufucturing shedloads of GPUs only to suddenly find that no-one wants to buy ’em anymore.

However, Nvidia at least has made some noises that retailers should prioritise game-players over miners, though it’s a suggestion rather than a rule, and God knows how it could be enforced. AMD, meanwhile, claimed in a recent investor call (as reported by Polygon) that it does intend to ramp up production, noting that GPUs sold for crypto-mining currently constitutes “a good part of our business.” However, they are limited by the reduced availability of GDDR5 and HBM2 memory used by their boards.

gpu-availability

A more concrete attempt to tackle this is that some major online retailers are restricting sales of graphics boards to one per customer, although I imagine that anyone running a GPU farm is more than capable of setting up multiple accounts on Scan or Ebuyer. What no-one is doing, obviously, is pricing GPUs in accordance with their original RRPs, which you can cross-check against here and also (if you’re in the US) check availability if you’re thinking of buying a card.

I would very strongly suggest that you keep your upgrade powder dry for now, and pray that this year’s big games don’t go too overboard on system requirements. Or as a stopgap solution, you could try out Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming thinger, which works a whole lot better than we suspected it might.

133 Comments

  1. causticnl says:

    its really getting silly, waaay back a 500 quid card was top of the range, now its mid range.

    • Skiddywinks says:

      Back when I first built a computer, a HD 4870X2 (two of AMD’s top GPUs at the time put on one board) cost me £330. Not too long after, you could get an aftermarket GTX 285 for £300 (best single GPU on the market at the time).

      Even £400 was more than what the best single GPU card cost. Now its like £700.

    • anjovi says:

      I guess this is one of the reasons why having so many lofi games coming out in recent times is handy xD

  2. rochrist says:

    That’s just lovely. :/

  3. Sin Vega says:

    Well done, nerds. You ruined the golden age of games.

    • Guvornatwo says:

      Just add it to the list

    • Don Reba says:

      If you think about it, all they did was gamify graphics cards. Now you get a score for running them and the ability to trade that score for money with other graphics card gamers.

    • MajorLag says:

      Not to mention driving up global power usage and enabling practical ransomware.

    • savagegump says:

      To their credit, nerds did also create the golden age of gaming!

      But as someone who was looking to get a new GPU this year, it is a bummer.

    • fish99 says:

      That was the 90s.

    • Anonaru says:

      Hmm.. I have a 680 GTX and 480 GTX in our two computers. This was our upgrade year for sure. Hopefully we won’t have to wait into 2019

  4. Zenicetus says:

    Ugh, I’m overdue to upgrade my GTX970 and was aiming to get a 1080 or 1080ti around this time. Hoping for the usual price reductions as new product is released. Needless to say, that’s on hold until the market changes back to something reasonable.

    The saving grace is that I’m only running a 1900×1200 monitor, so the 970 can still run most games at medium to medium-high settings. It’s the flight sims like X-Plane where I really could use more VRAM. Just have to sit back and wait now.

    • Guvornatwo says:

      It’s crazy that I picked up a 1080 before Xmas for £60 less than people are selling a 1070 after Xmas. What a ridiculous world we live in.

    • mnemos says:

      I’m in the same boat. I built my first PC in early 2016 and I’ve been thinking about upgrading my 970 soon. But at these prices? Yeah, no thanks. I’ll wait for Volta/Ampere and if the prices are still crazy then… well I spend most of my day in front of a computer and I can hit F5 pretty fast.

    • Creeping Death says:

      Got the same card and res monitor as you. Just finished playing Prey and Assassins Creed at max settings at a locked 60fps this week. Max settings PUBG never dips below 80fps…

      Why do you feel the need to upgrade?

      • ColonelFlanders says:

        The explanation is in the comment you replied to.

      • Carra says:

        Yeah, seems excessive to me too. I wait two generations before upgrading. Of course, Nvidia nor AMD are in a hurry to bring out new cards now that their current cards are flying out the windows.

    • Blacksilver65 says:

      Heavily debating whether or not I should throw my 1080 TI on eBay..

    • MajorLag says:

      I was also about ready to buy new kit and finally retire my 560ti, but at these prices I’ll just wait. I only one own game it can’t play anyway and my i7-2600k still holds its own.

    • Bfox says:

      I find it’s always worth skipping a generation of GPU so i’d suggest waiting for the 1170 or 1180 etc.

  5. toshiro says:

    This goes far beyond gaming. This is an absurd development that will have severe repercussions.

    • abomb76 says:

      Something has to change because it’s affecting not just gamers but businesses and ultimately the world.

      I manage an animation company and for a new project we need to staff up quite significantly…except we can’t because it’s next to impossible to kit the studio out with new machines in any sort of timely manner….

      And I’ve read articles regarding the global power consumption used by crypto-currency miners…it’s absolutely sickening. According to some sources, if it continues on its current trajectory, by 2020 Bitcoin mining will use as much power as the world does today. That’s just in 2 years!

      • nasKo says:

        >According to some sources, if it continues on its current trajectory, by 2020 Bitcoin mining will use as much power as the world does today. That’s just in 2 years!

        And a bike that goes from 0-100 in 4 seconds might break the sound within a minute if it keeps going!
        Extrapolation might not be a good way to approach this.
        The consumed energy is energy that’s produced. And by a large part, energy that wouldn’t be consumed otherwise.
        The energy consumption and gpu price hike is a result of crypto being so profitable at this point in time, not because any of them actually require that amount of energy. The mining difficulty usually just adjusts to the number of mining power.

        I don’t see the reds nor the greens doing anything about it, because after all it’s driving their sales.

        • Rocketpilot says:

          The consumed energy is energy that’s produced. And by a large part, energy that wouldn’t be consumed otherwise.

          Can you explain how you think electricity generation works? I was under the impression increased demand for power led to increased generation. If bitcoin creation is increasing demand for power, then more coal is going to be dug up and burned and we’re going have to deal with even more carbon in the atmosphere.

          Ok, we’re not going to deal with it, we’re just going to cook the planet and destroy human civilisation first.

      • corinoco says:

        And when it becomes economically unviable to do anything but mine bitcoins, how are we planning on eating or drinking? Or turning on a light? Hmm, might not need to, all the LEDs from GPUs will light our skies.

    • Massenstein says:

      Yeah :/ This bubble can’t burst too soon.

      • Ichi_1 says:

        It’s not a bubble and it isn’t bursting. It’s a growing market.

        • 65 says:

          Bitcoin at least is almost entirely a speculative bubble, it’s like it was taken from a Kindleberger/Minsky model textbook. And seeing as pretty much every other cryptocurrency has followed Bitcoins peaks and troughs, so is the rest of the market to some extent.

        • Smaug says:

          Yeah right

  6. Chromatose says:

    I’m super-glad I bought my 1070 about five months or so before prices decided to go bonkers. Surely this kind of insanity can’t sustain itself though?

  7. woodsey says:

    Last upgraded in 2015. Between this and the extortionate prices on RAM, I doubt I’ll be doing anything until 2019 at least.

  8. Hartford688 says:

    Just guessing, but I suspect it isn’t that Nvidia is happy with the high prices (most of that hike probably goes to the retailers who had ordered or held stock before the spike) but they are not confident enough that this demand will last long. Tooling up to increase supply sufficiently to reduce prices would be costly, and if the coin price dumps, demand could melt away like ice on a mining 1070. Could leave them with expensive excess capacity very rapidly.

    But just a guess, I don’t make cards or know their lead times.

    • Xerophyte says:

      Weirdly, talking to nvidia engineers at graphics conferences over the last year they were all chomping at the bit to leave graphics behind and get in on various AI projects because that’s where the company saw the future of the business. Hence essentially killing iray and all that.

      High end enthusiast gaming gpus haven’t been profitable for a couple of years now so it’s no huge surprise that they’re trying to retool for some other market.

      • Hartford688 says:

        Interesting, thank you.

      • frenchy2k1 says:

        Not sure where you get that info from, but it is bogus.
        Nvidia *is* developing a whole new new market in AI, including self driving cars, but their main business, so far and for the next 5 years at least, is and will stay gaming.
        Go read their result, next quarter reported this week.
        Gaming is over 50% of both sales and profit.

        So, no, they are not leaving the gaming market and it has been very profitable for them and still growing.

    • Buuurr says:

      Actually, I would say NVidia is ecstatic about this development. They are selling cards and they are selling cards for a high profit. They have been into research (gene folding, protein folding and whatnot) and AI development for a long time now. It is where their money is made. Not from one off gamers that buy a card once every five to seven years. They have been using GPUs with optimized software for quite some time now. Cheaper than a supercomputer. $49000 USD gets you an AI learning box. link to nvidia.com

      • frenchy2k1 says:

        Margins are bigger in professional applications, including AI and big data, but volume are smaller.
        link to anandtech.com
        Gaming was 60% of revenue last quarter. This is actually what gives them the advantage against new AI startup: they already have a market to be profitable with the same research.
        Nvidia has no intention to leave the very profitable gaming market (that they own at 70%+) behind, just open new markets with the same chips, similarly to how their professional video cards hardly interfere with their gaming development…

  9. biggergun says:

    Funny thing is, the profits from mining are not even that big, especially if you factor in the rising difficulty. Most of the ordinary people building up GPUs would be better off investing elsewhere.

    Which makes me even more pissed off. Not being able to buy a GPU because of a genuine gold rush is one thing, not being able to buy it because of a stupid mindless stampede is somehow more insulting. Just let me play my videogames goddamnit.

    • Rich says:

      That sounds a lot like the real gold rush; almost no one actually made any money out of the effort they put in. Except the saloon owners, I guess.

      • Premium User Badge

        dnelson says:

        “If you want to make money, don’t mine the gold. Mine the miners.”

        • pookie101 says:

          That’s it in one. You don’t make money chasing a gold rush you make your fortune selling to the poor saps hoping to make it rich

      • MrEclectic says:

        Biggest and most lasting success story of the California Gold Rush: Levi Strauss

    • varangian says:

      Actually it seems, for the moment at least, to be pretty profitable if you get the scale right. There was a segment on Newsnight a few days ago where they went to a bitcoin mining operation ‘somewhere in London’. Basically a very noisy and hot room full of Chinese bitcoin miners – a single purpose server based around a GPU. According to the bloke running the joint running costs soak up about 25% of the value generated. Put quotes around value if you like but whilst there’s a supply of greater idiots willing to pile in it seems to be quite an efficient way of turning electricity into money, a 75% profit is not to be sniffed at.

  10. WingcommanderIV says:

    I’ve got my SUrface book and I’m hoping it’ll last me for like 10 years. I’m poor. I mainly do console gaming anyway, need my pc more for old games not on consoles.

    • dr.denton says:

      I think this is a big selling point for PC gaming: a huge backlog of brilliant and cheap games that run on even the oldest hardware.

  11. skyturnedred says:

    I thought about upgrading over the summer, but decided to hold off for a bit. Guess that’s not happening anytime soon then.

    My dear GTX470, stay strong.

    • Ragnar says:

      Wow, good luck to you.

      My GTX 470 died 6 years ago, and the GTX 660 that replaced it died last year.

  12. Imperialist says:

    I think this is going to have lasting repercussions.
    Nvidia apparently asked retailers to prioritize gamers over miners…but i dont see how they will manage to do that when you can make a transaction in a few clicks on Newegg, short of sending some suit-clad shady N-Man to your doorstep, who puts on his black gloves and quietly questions you in your bathroom with a silenced pistol (Powered by Nvidia) to your family’s heads.

    The hope is that the flood of people trying to get rich quick will destroy the cryptocurrency market. Its amazing how quickly people will flock to something profitable if it doesnt involve real work…another joy of the late 2010s era.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Yeah before 2010 everyone just worked good honest jobs and were satisfied with getting rich very very slowly XD

    • BooleanBob says:

      Rising inequality and a decline in quality jobs definitely makes this sort of thing look more attractive, I’m sure.

      • Ragnar says:

        All the miners in NA that I’ve read about are tech savvy people who are pretty well off. Some are IT professionals, some are high-school students, but they all had the funds to buy half a dozen GPUs, which would be $1200+ before the prices started going up.

        If you have $1k+ to “invest” in crypto-currency mining, you’re clearly on the well off side of the inequality divide.

    • TrenchFoot says:

      Yeah I’ve seen a huge uptick in the number of ads for various kinds of crypto-nonsense. Might be a sign that the bubble is achieving maximum volume, and the old-timers at the top of the pyramid are trying to lure in a few last suckers.

  13. Core says:

    People developing cryptocurrencies should do the decent thing and tweak their mining algorithms to favor video cards meant for professional work like Quaddros and such. I don’t think the current gaming ecosystem can survive if they keep snatching all of the stock meant for gaming, and jacking the prices. Vast amounts of people are being priced out from being able to enter this hobby because of the ever growing cost of entry.

    • Buuurr says:

      Yeah, because being nice is always more important to businesses than making money. They are using the best tech to achieve the best results for the most gain. It isn’t rocket science. NVidia and vendors all support a step away from gaming and into markets that will actually make them money like healthcare, AI development and research. This has been going on for years. No one has noticed until now.

      • frenchy2k1 says:

        You’re missing his point (that new crypto coins algorithms are said to be “ASIC-resistant” or “GPU-optimized”) and he is being confused by the simplified talk.

        1. Bitcoin mining proved nice for simple people at the beginning, but quickly, real operations moved to specialized hardware (ASICs), shutting out small crypto miners. To avoid that with newer coins, those use hashing algorithms qualified as “ASIC-resistant”, hence why everyone is using GPUs to mine ether but noone mines bitcoin on those anymore.

        2. “ASIC-resistant” is a terrible name. What people really means, is that your algorithm is not limited by your computing power (where a specialized chip would work better), but rather by another characteristic of your system. For ether, for example, you need lots of memory bandwidth with low latency. So, technically, you could design an ASIC to mine ether, but it would need similar high speed memory in similar quantity to a graphic card. As you would produce less cards than mass market graphic cards, your cost would be higher, even if your processor on the card was both smaller and/or more efficient.

        Professional cards work as well (or even better) than consumer cards, but their very high upfront cost prevent them from being generating fast returns.
        Example: study of mining on a Titan V ($3k card):
        link to legitreviews.com
        It mines at 3x the rate for 12x the upfront cost

  14. Eddy9000 says:

    Interestingly the sale of overpriced mining tools foreshadowed another great bubble bursting during the North American gold rush. Silt pans and boots were being sold for hundreds of pounds, food and beer for 50x normal prices at mining encampments. When people who know about money make money from fleecing people with overpriced tools rather than using the tools themselves to get rich you know the vein is about to run dry…

    • toshiro says:

      That is really valid! Thank you for that.

    • teije says:

      Great point, what we’re seeing now is a classic mania, no different from tulips or the South Sea bubble. Doesn’t mean that mining cryptocurrency doesn’t have a future, just that there’s a lot of people jumping into right now without any due diligence and it’s going to end badly financially for the majority of them.

      • Ergates_Antius says:

        On the plus side – the market could be about to be flooded with cheap second-hand GPUs

  15. iainl says:

    My 770 is still doing a surprisingly reasonable job with geometry, but the 2GB memory just isn’t enough since the consoles made 4GB for textures standard. There’s no way in hell im paying these prices, though. The CPU’s still an Ivy Bridge as well, but the DDR3 would need replacing with a new processor and that’s even more overpriced than the GPU.

    • Ghostwise says:

      I’m also making burnt offerings to my old 770 to convince her to hold on for a few more months. Don’t die on me baby !

  16. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Hm, I was hoping to upgrade soon. I guess I’ll just wait till the stupid bubble pops and then either pick up stuff used for pennies on the dollar, or just buy a new card when the prices drop.

    GTX970 still runs most things fine, for the most part. 1080p and all.

  17. Stargazer86 says:

    I ordered a new computer off of ibuypower just about 2 weeks ago. I was researching part prices with PC Part Picker to see if I could get a better deal buying my own parts and building it myself and discovered that, well, no. No I could not. Not with the same parts at least. Between RAM and video card prices it wound up costing just about the same. Looking up the same rig today, it’d actually cost me 200 dollars more than it did 2 weeks ago because the graphics card I had selected suddenly shot up in price.

  18. automatic says:

    “Mama always said stupid is as stupid does.” – Forrest Gump

  19. HiroTheProtagonist says:

    The problem is twofold: there’s a general shortage of cards for gaming now, and once the latter-day miners wise up and realize that their investment in hardware won’t turn a profit for a long time, they’ll dump their hardware into the used market on unsuspecting buyers looking for cheap cards. And as many people know, cards that have been running at 100% utilization 24/7 for months on end aren’t necessarily in good shape afterwards.

    My only hope is that the next generation will see AMD/nVidia putting out specialized mining cards so that those of us looking to build gaming rigs aren’t left in the dust. I’m going to ride my 1070 for at least another 4-5 years, but it’s a shame that practically nobody can get in due to Gold Rush 2.0

    • Don Reba says:

      Manufacturing capacity is limited, so development and production of specialized mining cards will still reduce supply of gaming video cards, raising prices. And then, once the miners buy up all the specialized cards, they are again free to turn to the regular ones.

      • jssebastian says:

        Not really. What happened with bitcoin is that once specialized mining cards were on the market, mining with GPUs made no economic sense anymore, so GPU prices just came back down.

        Now, it’s not all as simple as that, there may be cryptocurrencies that have been designed to have different properties in terms of how efficiently they can be mined on different kinds of hardware, so your mileage may vary.

    • MajorLag says:

      Even better would be a new entry into the gaming GPU market. Someone to really shake things up, maybe provide a consistent well-thought-out ISA and low level access so we can ditch the current crappy APIs for good.

  20. jssebastian says:

    This is going to sound like one of those “I left my office job…” spam posts, but it’s actually an on-the-topic anecdote about how industrial-scale this mining thing is.

    Friend of mine left his job and is now building GPU-based mining rigs with tens of cards each, and selling them for tens of thousands of euros. His associate is national distributor for a major manufacturer, and their operation alone is probably making a significant blip in the nationwide supply.

    These are just open rigs with no box, clients buy them, put them in a warehouse somewhere and mine away. While they were testing one of these, they had turned off the heating and the rig was keeping the entire shop warm just on the heat from the GPUs.

    Just one correction on this article: it’s not that you can’t mine bitcoin, you can even mine it with GPUs or even with CPU, just that you can’t do it profitably because the competition has moved on to dedicated mining hardware (ASICs). This is probably why you mention this is the second time that cryptocurrencies are causing a GPU price spike: first time it was to mine bitcoin directly. Now that’s no longer possible (and hasn’t been for a while), but you can instead mine other cryptocurrencies that have also grown in price on the tails of bitcoin’s rise. So with a bit of luck this will also end some time soon, whether or not the cryptocoin bubble deflates…

    • sabrstryk says:

      These second-generation currencies were also designed using algorithms that are intended to be harder to implement as ASICs. If they stick around, then I wouldn’t be too surprised to see additional hardware manufacturers try to enter the market with more specialized systems.

      One of these days someone will build a currency that’s designed to run on SoCs, and money really will be burning holes in people’s pockets.

      • frenchy2k1 says:

        The algorithms are *NOT* harder to implement in hardware (if anything, they are simpler), *BUT* they depend on a additional hardware, for example good amount of very fast memory (for ether).
        So, you *could* create an ASIC to mine ether, but it would need GBs of very fast memory on a very wide bus, just like the graphic card you try to replace. Building such an ASIC is non-trivial (refer to GDDR5 memory speed changes in the past 5 years) and would be expensive to manufacture, then integrate on a board (or even worse, HBM memory).
        By that point, you have no advantage compared to commodity hardware (a mid market graphic card like a 1060 have 6GB of GDDR6) and your volume is much smaller, leading to higher costs (spread your design costs on less units and additional cost per unit from suppliers).

        Some crypto coins are even designed for CPUs, with branch heavy code, leading to a good CPU mining as fast or better than a GPU (similar, branch prediction would be hard to implement well).

        They basically target functions that specific chips have already implemented very well.

  21. TheButler83 says:

    Started a rebuild just after Christmas as the Rzyen prices dropped and managed to get a good deal on ddr4 amazingly. Now got a nice build sitting empty with no GPU as it’s just impossible to find one to buy. Had a stock alert for 1060 which sold out from a retailer within 90mins of the stock alert. Received another one today for a 1060 6gb which was 260 last week now being sold for 370 a week later.

    It is ridiculous. Even if I feel like just throwing money there’s naff all actually in stock. If I’m going to be gauged then I’d at least like to get the damn thing in a reasonable time.

    Ps Alec I’ll bite your hand off to take that 970 off your hands for 150! Situation is that bad at the moment!

    • Ragnar says:

      That sucks. My daughter’s video card died last year, and the old spare card we had lying around also died. I was waiting on prices to drop to get her a replacement, but at this point it looks like she’ll be in integrated graphics until the next generation arrives.

      I never thought I’d be grateful the Intel CPUs have built in graphics.

  22. malkav11 says:

    I feel so much better about spending sane MSRP – i.e. $500 – (as a Black Friday “deal”) on a 1080 last year, when I would usually prefer to get a one-rung-down card (the 1070 here) after a year or so has knocked the price down some.

    Except of course, 1070s haven’t been in that range in ages, and even on Black Friday with “sales” on both cards it was under $100 difference to bump up to the 1080…and that one was actually still in stock, while the 1070s vanished immediately.

    • guidom says:

      I was also lucky – got my reference Vega 56 in the first days after release for 389 squid. At the time I thought it was expensive!

  23. Premium User Badge

    The Almighty Moo says:

    So I was holding out to put together a big lovely rig, watching the advice from our dear Mr. Laird, but now this has happened. I’m tempted to revert back to laptop gaming again at the moment. My old one has last five years of solid gaming and ets dragged all over the country with me.
    I havent seen laptop prices affected by this yet, and am doubtful they will be outside of the ram shortages.

  24. TrenchFoot says:

    I built a big enough system a few years back and don’t hit the high-end of gaming needs, so I’m cool. I’m more interested in sites that run scripts to steal cycles. Here’s a list of domains that run some of those scripts, (as well as a list of other nasties out there). You add it to the Hosts file in Windows, which is probably here: \Windows\System32\drivers\etc
    link to github.com
    As far as mining goes, I predict the top 0.01% will make out fine based on the number of people who still fall for other schemes because “they have a system.”

  25. MrEvilGuy says:

    My Rx 480 was meant to be a placeholder for my new build until prices dropped on Vega or 1080s, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. I can wait. But selling it now for more than I bought it new is tempting, but would leave me computerless.

  26. Dynamique says:

    Making money out of not-so thin air got real with the crypto craze…
    I read a report on some guys doing this “big scale” – and it really seems an ecological disaster. Plus I dislike the libertarian attitude of some cryptocurrency-apologists… Blockchaining in gerneral is an interesting technology, though.

    • ChrisT1981 says:

      The Problem with the cryptocurrency apologists is, that they haven’t wrapped their head around the fact yet, that rather than replacing old hard Money currency and changing how paying and the Banking System works they have been taken over by the very People that drive the “old” System. This cryptocurrency thing is just the real estate bubble from 2007/2008 in a new costume and it will leave behind a few People filthy rich for no effort and a lot of ruined lives.

    • MajorLag says:

      Blockchain very much feels to me like a clever solution in search of a problem.

      • elysrum says:

        I’d actually say it is a very clever solution to a pretty specific problem that has been subordinated by a high profile implementation.

        Blockchains ongoing problem now will be separating itself from cryptocurrencies.

  27. nitric22 says:

    One thing to keep in mind though is that not everyone will be “in the know” about this price spike. I just took a glance on Craigslist here in Colorado where I reside, and noticed a second hand GeForce TitanX going for $550 (£349). Some folks will still be selling their second hand cards without knowledge of the current price spike. So, while there are risks associated with buying used, and the chances of finding such a deal may be slim, there is still hope for those in need of an upgrade.

  28. CdrJameson says:

    If they want to prioritise gamers, just design some graphics cards that are terribly power hungry. Then they’d make no economic cryptocurrency sense.

    • MasterPrudent says:

      Because gamers really want cards that saddle you with some combination of excessive power bills, a lot of heat and noise and short operating lives.

  29. ThePuzzler says:

    I feel bad that I didn’t buy bitcoin when the prices were low. But at least now I can feel good that I bought a 1070 when the prices were low.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I did buy a bitcoin when they were cheap, but then I spent it on a graphics card and a monitor.
      If I’d held on I could probably afford a whole new computer by now (even at these inflated prices), but in my mind you’ve not made money from something until that money is in the form of something tangible, and my ultra widescreen monitor is so very shiny :)

  30. dr.denton says:

    A cynical part of me is hoping for a reliable XB and PS4 hack.

    A problem shared …

  31. Cryio says:

    Here we go again. GPUs now ARE NOT currently expensive because crypto mining. They’re expensive because DDR ram modules are crazy expensive currently.

    • ColonelFlanders says:

      Yeah it must be pure coincidence that the prices keep rising in tandem with Bitcoin’s popularity in the media. Must be one of those weird correlations, like fathers who buy pampers buying more tennis rackets.

    • Asurmen says:

      Or both?

    • Cederic says:

      No, the RAM price is factored into RRP. These cards are selling for way about RRP.

    • foop says:

      And they’re out of stock everywhere because of DDR4 prices too?

    • Ragnar says:

      That sounds like what gamers-turned-miners tell themselves so they can sleep at night.

  32. pookie101 says:

    It’s reached the point where even CNN mentioned the graphics card shortage and price rises for gamers

    It’s actually gone mainstream

  33. Raoul Duke says:

    The environmental implications of this are appalling.

    I hope the people running these farms lose it all in the crash. I look forward to buying their repossessed 1080s for a few bucks in due course.

    • AbyssUK says:

      Environmentally, it depends on the power generation and how you use the heat. If miners have any sense they’ll locate ways of using cheap electrcity (solar/wind) and then selling/reusing the heat generated (setup in a basement of a residential tower block supliment heating of the hot water systems). If I owned a residential tower block I’d be looking at setting up a mining operation in the cellar linked into the hot water system with wind/solar generators on the roof.

      Hell if i had solar already on my house I’d have a medium mining rig setup linked into my water heating system. Factor in the savings on gas/oil and it becomes easily doable. For a while anyway. Use ASICS (if you can get hold of them) and you’d be laughing.

      • Premium User Badge

        Risingson says:

        But this is not about you… this is about many many people that are not you.

        • BlueTemplar says:

          The people that are not like him will be outcompeted by people like him.
          It already started, with cryptocurrency miners switching from chinese coal to canadian hydro.
          And solar and wind are potentially even more interesting : as long as you have internet access, cryptocurrencies do not care where in the world you are located, and as long as most of your cost is electric power, their intermittency is not an issue (unlike for most other uses).
          And if you can sell the heat you generate to boot, waster’s only hope left is to steal that electricity…

  34. edwardoka says:

    I see the Golgafrincham B Ark colonists are still burning forests to stop their leaf-based currency from experiencing runaway inflation.

  35. VisibleMachine says:

    It’s funny how people who have no interest/knowledge in cryptocurrencies always like to talk about bubbles.

    Calm down and buy your card in a few months. Maybe buy some bitcoin in the meantime.

    • Premium User Badge

      Risingson says:

      Please tell me what exactly ISN’T a bubble.

      And well, even if it wasn’t, I’ve had a really hard time talking to friends and colleagues and asking them if they ever wondered about the ethical side of cryptocurrencies. Because why bother about stupid stuff like that.

    • toshiro says:

      Why would those that not share your opinion lack knowledge/interest in it? Are you trolling or did you just have bad luck thinking?

      • edwardoka says:

        Bravo, “Are you trolling or did you just have bad luck thinking?” is an excellent insult.

    • edwardoka says:

      “It’s not a bubble – you don’t know what you’re talking about.” — every economist in history, right before a commodity crashes.

      Just because the system is designed in such a way that supply is intrinsically linked to demand doesn’t mean that it can’t crash. There are many other factors that ultimately limit the supply.

      What happens when the power companies massively hike their price per kWh because their own supply/demand curve narrows? Yes, the price of cryptocurrency could also rise to meet the increased production cost, but power generation is used for things other than processing blockchain transactions.

      Hooray for those people unable to afford their domestic electricity bills. Cold beans for you!

      • VisibleMachine says:

        It’s not like people are totally oblivious to the fact of high energy usage (or other pitfalls in regards to mining), Ethereum itself will switch to proof-of-stake as soon as it’s feasible and there’s a lot of other coins and tokens working on similar solutions.

  36. kael13 says:

    I had planned on possibly getting the next iteration of Nvidia GPUs but it’s bad enough that I’ve written off the idea of upgrading my 980Ti for a long while yet.

    Instead, I recommend getting an additional hobby. EVs have given me a newfound love for the outdoors and I can’t wait for spring to finally get here.

  37. KingFunk says:

    To be honest, the whole thing is a bit mental so I would imagine some sort of crash or downturn is inevitable. Hopefully then cheap secondhand cards will flood the market as miners cut their losses…

  38. KastaRules says:

    I suggest we all revert to play 2D games.

    • April March says:

      I spent a few months without a PC last year and there was a suprising amount of 2D games that wouldn’t run on a crappy onboard graphics card.

  39. sapien82 says:

    Has NVIDIA developed the cloud GPU gaming so that people arent using their GPU to bitcoin mine , and so that if you do use cloud GPU to bitcoin mine then the bitcoin mining is monitored by NVidia
    or have I just been reading to many conspiracy sites

  40. Dezmiatu says:

    Yes, this would happen when I discovered my graphics card isn’t good enough to run Dark Souls 3. Weep for me, for I am forced to go through a backlog of games and GOG sales to find gems I would delay indulging in otherwise. I must console myself with modding Dark Souls 1 + 2 if I want that particular fix.

  41. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    What was updated? Just the scattered pricing bits? Something about how little of the article was changed for a repost makes this seem kinda odd. Do you really need to recycle content from like last week?

    • Alec Meer says:

      It now also has an explanation of the RAM situation, a round-up of what hardware manufacturers and sellers are doing about the crisis a few weeks on, updates on how the situation has worsened and which cards are particularly affected, where to check availability and what the latest pricing is. There are a great many changes throughout, though the meat of the post is the same.

      Doing these things as separate post was not really worthwhile as would require a significant of repeated explanation – much more effective to have everything in one place.

      • Premium User Badge

        Drib says:

        That’s reasonable then, thanks for clarifying. I somehow didn’t notice the extra bits there. Need more coffee, or maybe less.

  42. Don Reba says:

    Thanks to the miners, I was able to sell my old videocard, which I would have otherwise thrown out or given away.

  43. Dogshevik says:

    I´ve said it once and I´ll say it again.

    Reality is the most stupid version of Cyberpunk I have ever seen.

  44. Szhival says:

    My GTX770 is 3$ more expensive at the site I bought it – three years ago.

  45. WJonathan says:

    At age 44, I’m actually proud to admit that I understood nothing of that first paragraph.

  46. Premium User Badge

    MOOncalF says:

    I tended to the stance that even if miners were causing a surge in prices, you could be leery of middlemen for taking the money and pointing the finger, this article did open my eyes a bit to the idea of bulk buys straight from manufacturing. I fear now that the distortion will be permanent and that this is simply the new normal, I suspect if graphics cards make it to gamers they’ll be the cast-offs of purpose-built companies redistributing used tech from processing farms. Does it all toll ominously for the future of PC gaming? I love my desktop PC dearly but it’s been clear to me for years that it is unnecessarily bulky in a world of increasingly compact computing devices, I can see consoles weathering such a storm, but DIY PC compatibles? Nichedom might well await. *Edit* I for one welcome our new crab-faced overlords? Yeesh, I wanna just back away from everything I just wrote.

    • Ragnar says:

      Bulk buys from the manufacturer, as seen on MassDrop, aren’t any better. Anything close to reasonably priced sells out in a few minutes, while some manufacturers – like MSI – are charging 30-50% over MSRP even for direct bulk orders.

  47. snowsurfer says:

    Sooo, even if I sell my two 980 Tis on eBay for a good price, I still wouldn’t be able to afford or even find a 1080Ti (with the resulting cash from the hypothetical “sale”). OK….

  48. Love Albatross says:

    What the hell is going on with this: link to stores.ebay.co.uk

    Gotta be a scammer right?

  49. Det. Bullock says:

    I am ever so thankful for the impulse buy of a brand new RX 580 8gb at 250 Euros in November, otherwise with these prices I might still be stuck with a Radeon HD 7770 1gb.