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Nvidia Pleads With Retailers To Put Gamers First In Cryptocurrency Mining Pricing War

by Imran Khan on Jan 23, 2018 at 08:00 PM

For a lot of people, the new year brings the opportunity to build a new PC from separate parts, taking advantage of usual sale prices after the holiday season. This year, however, people looking for graphics cards are being met with either sold out signs or massively inflated prices, which Nvidia is none too happy about.

The reason for this is that graphics cards, such as Nvidia's GTX 1080 or AMD's RX 780, are being popularly used by cryptocurrency miners as what is basically the engine that drives the mining apparatus. The computational power in GPUs is well-suited to the task of mining for cryptocurrency, leading to miners buying multiple cards at high prices under the assumption that it's simply the cost of doing business. After all, if you're using them to make money, you need to spend some, too.

This problem has grown exponentially in the last month as the price of Bitcoin has fluctuated, going as high as $19,000 per individual bitcoin. This has lead to a gold rush among miners and a headache among people looking to buy GPUs for gaming.

According to PCPartsPicker, the prices for GPUs have skyrocketed in the last couple of months. In June 2017, an Nvidia GTX 1060 averaged about $285. Today, the average cost is around $460 for the exact same card a year and a half after release. In a vacuum, higher prices and multiple purchases from customers buying lots of cards to creating mining rigs is a good thing for them, especially at an inflated price for older cards that might have trouble selling past their prime in different circumstances.

Nvidia, however, has different priorities than merely the top dollar for the card itself. The company is asking retailers to, however they can, prioritize selling to gamers instead of cryptocurrency miners.

“Gamers come first for Nvidia,” said Boris Böhles, Nvidia's German region PR manager in an interview with the German website 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.”

It is unclear exactly what retailers can do to curb miners from monopolizing GPU sales. Retailers have tried imposing limits on the number of GPUs customers can buy at once, but Google is filled with results of cryptocurrency mining message boards figuring out ways to circumvent the limits. Even then, the wait period usually maxes out at 48 hours, so miners generally just waited. All this assumes that retailers are even eager to end this boom.

For Nvidia's part, while their GPUs flying off shelves is an immediate good thing, the long term desire to integrate the Nvidia brand into their home is not being met. A miner who hooks up eight cards to a mining rig does not use the GeForce experience to tailor their game, they do not buy G-Sync monitors to prevent vertical tearing, they do not stream using Nvidia tools. 

It is a problem without an easy solution, one that will inevitably frustrate some group or another. The only other thing for sure is that prices probably won't return to normal for at least a while yet.