By Matt Gryzmala, Guest Writer
Thinking about building that new rig that you’ve been dreaming of? The kind of PC that will bring your gaming experience to unthinkable new heights, and effortlessly showcases its stunning power and unrelenting endurance? If you are, then you are not so different from gamer, Chelsea Mees. Like many of us, she is a gamer who is seeking to get the most powerful components for her new build, while not pipe-bombing her bank account. She has gathered together almost all of the pieces to the puzzle…except one.
September 8 was the day she decided to purchase that final piece; the graphics processing unit, or GPU for short. To her surprise, the card that she had previously quoted eight months prior had a price tag that increased by nearly 40 percent. “I have been waiting months for this. I finally reached the home stretch and now it looks like I’m going to have to wait, or settle for less, and I just don’t understand why,” said Mees. I think that I may have discovered the answer.
The booming PC gaming hardware industry is suffering from a new parasitic menace that has emerged from the far reaches of the Internet to wreak havoc on pricing and availability of graphics cards. Hruska’s article on extremetech.com explains that this menace is none other than the new cryptocurrency, Ethereum. If you have not yet heard about Ethereum, it is a new form of online currency, much like Bitcoin. There is a process called “mining” that allows users to farm cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrency mining is an extremely stressful computational task that requires massive amounts of time and processing power. According to Rosic’s article in the Huffington Post, the makers of cryptocurrencies cannot handle the processing requirements of making every transaction execute seamlessly and fast. Miners are there to help the Ethereum issuer process all the “blocks” in the transactions occurring using their currency. As a reward for all the miner’s processing work, they are compensated with Ethereum itself. Essentially, these miners create a program that will help process Ethereum transactions which greatly benefits the creator of said currency, and in turn, they miners get paid for it.
The only way that the miners can make any money mining Ethereum is to build a rig specifically designed to process Ethereum transactions. To do all that processing, the computers need to have enormous amounts of processing power. Now, down to the meat and potatoes. These rigs that the miners use require GPUs. A lot of GPUs. Computer companies like ASUS have actually released motherboards for mining with a whopping 13 slots for GPUs as reported by Sexton in his article he wrote for tomshardware.com. Now let’s do the math. That is 13 GPUs for every mining rig. Now multiply that by tens of thousands of miners using these special rigs. Therein lays the answer that Chelsea may or may not have wanted to hear. With this many high end GPUs being bought up in massive quantities for these wretched mining rigs, gamers are left with the scraps, and brother those scraps are expensive. With demand for high end GPUs being driven into the stratosphere by cryptocurrency miners, the price of these GPUs increased drastically.
“Actually now would be the best time to buy a card before they go back up again, which is sad because it’s still much higher than normal. They are right around 400 to 450 bucks for a good one at the moment. But I was seeing the same cards going for well over 550 dollars no more than a few weeks ago, and we think they might shoot back up again soon,” said PC building expert Brandon Tyra, a Build-Your-Own-PC representative at Micro Center. It’s tough to tell whether this “gold rush” for Ethereum is going to end soon, or if it is just getting started. For Chelsea’s sake and the sake of the rest of the PC gaming community, let us hope this trend goes south quick so we can all build our dream gaming rigs for a fair and true price.
Hruska, J. (2017 June 22). Cryptocurrency Craze Sends GPU Prices Skyrocketing – Again. Retrieved from https://www.extremetech.com/computing/251379-cryptocurrency-craze-sends-gpu-prices-skyrocketing
Rosic, A. (2017 March 1). Ethereum Mining 101: Your Complete Guide. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ethereum-mining-101-your-complete-guide_us_58b6e1eee4b02f3f81e44e9f
Sexton, M. J. (2017 August 26). The Ethereum Effect: Graphics Card Price Watch (Updated). Retrieved from http://www.tomshardware.com/news/ethereum-effect-graphics-card-prices,34928.html