Cryptocurrency mining is driving graphic card prices so high that both manufacturers and retailers are looking at ways to make sure gamers can still get them.
Polygon’s Samit Sarkar notes that originally the problem was only affecting top-end cards, for example the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 now going for almost double its listed retail price. However those are still selling out, leaving less powerful models also getting more expensive.
It’s caused by cryptocurrency mining which, in simplified terms, involves computers racing to verify and record transactions in the currency, with the “winner” being rewarded with further units of the currency. That creates a financial incentive to build powerful computers specifically for such mining, with high-end graphics cards a key tool. That incentive has only grown as the real-world values of some cryptocurrencies has rocketed (albeit with some spectacular volatility.)
Nvidia has publicly stated that “gamers come first” and is said to have contacted retailers to urge them to find ways to make sure people can buy and use graphic cards for their intended purpose.
Meanwhile retailer MicroCenter has increased prices for online buyers who are just getting a graphics card. However, it says in-store shoppers can get a discount (with manager approval) if they are buying the card alongside other components that suggest they are building a maching for gaming rather than mining.
Unconfirmed reports say the discounts can even be available when buying a GPU on its own, simply by telling staff it will be used for gaming. That seems to be a case-by-case basis rather than a blanket policy though.