Crypto-miners bought 3m graphics cards in 2017, but gaming still dominates

ZEC tales

In these dark days of graphics card price hikes and crypto mining this and currency mining that, it’s easy to think that the powers that be have forgotten about us gaming folk and are simply concerning with making sure those pesky coin plunderers continue to line their respective pockets.

As it turns out, a new report from US data and marketing firm Jon Peddie Research suggests that gaming, not mining, is still the biggest market for the graphics card bigwigs, giving them plenty of incentive to meet the ever growing demand for more GPUs.

“Gaming has been and will continue to be the primary driver for GPU sales, augmented by the demand from cryptocurrency miners,” said Dr Jon Peddie, president of Jon Peddie Research. “We expect demand to slacken from the miners as margins drop in response increasingly utilities costs and supply and demand forces that drive up AIB (add-in-board) prices.”

Nvidia’s latest earnings report would seem to reflect this as well, with gaming being listed first in their top revenue drivers and cryptocurrency mining listed last. AMD also reported similarly strong growth in their graphics card department over the last three months of 2017, but has been much less clear about what all those cards are actually being used for.

Sadly, as much as Dr Peddie predicts a drop in demand over the coming months, it looks like general graphics card prices will take a lot longer to start falling. “Gamers can offset those costs by mining when not gaming, but prices will not drop in the near future,” he added. Well, thanks, Dr Peddie, how very helpful.

The value of various cryptocurrencies has been all over the shop recently, with bitcoin in particular dropping lower and lower over the past two months. Much to our continuing dismay, however, graphics card prices haven’t moved an inch, with cards like the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti still demanding at least £840, making choosing the best graphics card for your budget harder than ever.

Admittedly, the report doesn’t state just how many graphics cards were sold for gaming purposes in 2017, but it does reveal that cryptocurrency miners bought just over three million of them last year, spending a total of $776 million. Surprisingly, AMD was the primary benefactor of those sales, not Nvidia.

In fact, AMD managed to increase its market share by 8.1% in the last three months of 2017, taking its total to 14.2%, while Nvidia shrunk by 6% to 18.4%. The other 67.4%, meanwhile, is occupied by Intel. Year-on-year graphics card shipments also fell by 4.8%, not doubt due to ever dwindling stock numbers. Here’s hoping that prices start falling much quicker than Dr Peddie predicts.

20 Comments

  1. dagnamit says:

    I have wondered how much the video card shortage has been from crypto-mining and how much are actually being bought for games.

    PUBG has sold over 30 million copies and games like Fortnite have been just as popular. That’s a lot of people buying games that get significant benefits from having modern hardware. Has there ever been a game, other than PUBG, that has sold as much on the PC that has such high system requirements? Maybe GTA V?

    • HiroTheProtagonist says:

      “But Can It Run Crysis?”

      • Sir_Deimos says:

        The year is 2050 and still nobody can run Crysis at more than 20 FPS.

      • Cederic says:

        You’ve reminded me. I need to dig out my old copy of Geoff Crammond’s Microprose GP3, as that was possibly the pinacle of software 3D gaming.

        As in, it ran like a dog even on top-end machines, but you ran it anyway because it was so so pretty.

        Wonder how a 2018 gaming desktop would cope :)

    • aexia says:

      Fortnite doesn’t require a lot of horse power to run (I doubt PUBG either) though. The graphics card on my desktop is about 3 years old and runs it at max settings. My Macbook pro (~4 years old) runs it at the lowest settings fine too.

  2. SquarePeg says:

    I find it highly suspect that GPU sales could drop while 100% of midrange and higher cards are being sold as fast as they can be made. Add in the huge % jump for AMD plus the decline for Nvidia and it gives the appearance that Nvidia is intentionally constraining supply to drive up already ridiculous prices.

    • Stickman says:

      From what I’ve heard, because of existing deals card manufacturers are not actually charging distributors more – the price hikes are entirely on distributors choosing to raise prices over instantly selling out their stock (and on resellers).

      With demand through the roof, it doesn’t make any sense for them to restrict supply when they’re not profiting from it. Perhaps there was some issues with manufacturing? I think most boards go through the same plants, so if there were throughput problems, that would show up as reduced stock/sales.

  3. Hunchback says:

    Fuck those miners, my GPU died of old age and i had to pay through my ass to get a SIMILAR one. My wife’s GPU is 2x the price we got it LAST year. WTF?!

  4. Someoldguy says:

    I’m intrigued how they think they can spot the difference between shoppers intending to mine and shoppers intending to game. Nobody ticks a box to show intended use. Are any cards being bought individually classed as ‘for gaming’ while any purchases in volume assumed to be for mining? Has somebody got the figures for the growth in generated ‘coin and a reliable formula for calculating the number of GPUs actively involved in generating them?

    • madmax911 says:

      Keep looking 24/7 everywhere possible. You can get lucky. Trust me.

    • HiroTheProtagonist says:

      >Are any cards being bought individually classed as ‘for gaming’ while any purchases in volume assumed to be for mining?

      Pretty much. SLI/Crossfire still aren’t all that effective for gaming, and the few gamers who do purchase multiple cards for gaming will usually buy 2 at most. It’s arguable that the bulk buyers might be scientists building clusters for research calculations or gaming cafe owners looking to kit out their PC fleet (protip: it’s not), but the vast majority of the time the people buying large volumes of GPUs are miners or scalpers looking to profit off prospective miners.

      Hell, most retailers institute purchase limits to avoid miners/scalpers, but those are easy to circumvent.

  5. Psychomorph says:

    There should be a built in reset every 24 hours in a card if it runs hard, so that it becomes an annoyance for miners if it can’t run 99% 24/7. They’d avoid that one and price would normalize.

    Do something that harms them, but not us to fix the problem.

    • Premium User Badge

      ooshp says:

      They’re paying for the cards. What kind of idiot hardware company would do this?

      • TauPhraim says:

        Not to mention that it would be less of a nuisance for miners to simply schedule/script a reboot, than for a gamer to accidentally get a crash while playing.

  6. kalirion says:

    Good thing for Steam Backlogs! My Radeon 4850 can handle Bioshock 2 just fine :)

  7. Raoul Duke says:

    Several things:

    1. How can they possibly know how someone is using a card that they buy?

    2. The implication that because mining is a smaller segment than gaming that somehow this means mining isn’t responsible for current prices displays a pretty shaky grasp of economics. If you have a fairly stable market with limited supply then even a reasonably small but sustained increase in demand can push prices up hugely.

    3. I would like to read more about where exactly these prices are being increased. Wholesalers? Retailers? Manufacturers?

  8. Caiman says:

    Yeah, I really hope my 970 doesn’t die anytime soon, otherwise I’ll be downgrading quite a bit, and probably dusting off the 1650×1080 monitor as well because what’s the point in trying to drive a game at 1440p. At least I can finally get onto playing Fallout 2.

  9. MarkCM says:

    Yeah, #2 was my reaction. Whether or not most cards go to gamers or miners is completely irrelevant. It’s all about demand shocks and price elasticity.

    This was intended to be a response to Raoul Duke, above.

  10. MajorLag says:

    >“Gamers can offset those costs by mining when not gaming…”

    $5 says Dr. Completelywrong here is holding a lot of coins. Or possibly a lot of stock in energy companies.

  11. sk0sH says:

    “Gamers can offset those costs by mining when not gaming, but prices will not drop in the near future,”

    Lmao. Yeah, you know how much you can earn mining with one card, on one computer? Basically nothing. The cost of running your computer 24/7 at high stress isn’t going to offset the cost of anything. It’s just going to burn out your card even faster.

    Please don’t do that…unless you want to buy an overpriced graphics card sooner than you would like.

    Capitalism has this nice feature in it where we, the consumers, ultimately decide price of the cards…and we can force another group of card owners trying to bilk others for obscene amounts of money, to lower their prices.

    No way in hell am I ever buying a card that was previously used to mine. Mining really destroys the lifespan of a card. Once miners realize this, they’re going to want lower prices as well. The fact that gaming is still the number one reason why people buy a new graphics card, means that we can hold out and force them to lower their prices.

    I’ll wait several generations before upgrading if I have to pay more than, say, $400. That’s what I used to pay for top of the line cards, no more, and there hasn’t been inflation in the market anywhere else significant enough to justify $699-$1000+ cards.