Graphics card shortage: Why PC gamers don’t like cryptocurrencies right now


PC gaming platforms such as Steam are experiencing a user boom. Surprise hits like »Valheim« and blockbusters like »Cyberpunk 2077« ensure that PCs overtake next-gen consoles like the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X for some video players. However, anyone who wants to assemble a powerful gaming PC has had a problem for months:  The  market for high-performance graphics cards has been swept clean.

Top models, which are often built into gaming PCs in order to display high resolutions and high frame rates on the monitor, are out of stock at almost all retailers. ©

 The  manufacturer’s recommended retail prices seem like a joke. ©

 The  real asking prices have been rising for months. For an Nvidia RTX 3070, more than 1000 euros are now being charged on Ebay instead of the recommended 500 euros. ©

 The  AMD Radeon RX 6800 is on the manufacturer’s price list for just under 600 euros, but is offered and bought for more than 1200 euros.


 The re are several reasons for the deficiency. On the one hand, the corona pandemic in China has led to bottlenecks in the production of graphics cards, on the other hand, manufacturers are suffering from the same shortage of microchips as the car industry. However, the biggest problem seems to be the gold rush mood with cryptocurrencies, which requires a lot of computing power to calculate. Computing power that modern graphics cards offer in abundance.

Graphics cards instead of supercomputers

In principle, crypto currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are generated with the help of complicated mathematical calculations, the so-called mining. Those who take part in this process with computing power can be rewarded with shares in the virtual currencies. With a normal PC, however, you are not equipped enough for this nowadays.

For a long time, supercomputers were used to mine Bitcoin, for example, as the calculation of digital currencies is also called, says IT expert Arndt Bode in an interview with SPIEGEL. “In the meantime, because of the high computing power of the graphics chips, it works better with graphics cards like those found in home computers,” says the former IT professor at the Technical University of Munich.

PC gamers vs. crypto miners

Since mining is about entering a lot of data into tables at the same time, graphics cards are ideal for calculating digital currencies, says Bode. “Graphics cards are much better suited than main processors because of the high degree of parallelism.” However, you can’t do much with a single graphics card, which is why there are so-called mining pools in which many graphics cards are operated together. “That creates a high demand on the market.”


 The  result is an extremely tense relationship between manufacturers and players. ©

 The  graphics card supplier Zotac felt this on Tuesday, who drew the pent-up anger of many PC gamers with a tweet. Zotac had shown several graphics cards in it and labeled them “hungry for coins” – and thus aggressively advertised the mining of crypto currencies with the help of graphics cards. After violent criticism from players erupted, the company deleted the post. Zotac did not respond to a request from SPIEGEL.

Software brake is supposed to prevent mining


 The  manufacturer Nvidia, which specializes in graphics chips, now wants to appease gamers with protective measures for new models. ©

 The  company announced in a blog post on Thursday that the Geforce series graphics cards were developed for gamers. Users who instead use these cards to mine the kyrpto currency Ethereum want to slow down with a software update.

This software is intended to recognize when a graphics card is used for mining and reduce its performance by half for typical calculations. ©

 The  cards are said to be unattractive for crypto miners. Whether this software brake can actually relax the market situation is questionable, because it only works with Geforce cards of the RTX 3060 type, which are due to come onto the market next week. All other Geforce cards that are currently on the market cannot be stopped with it.

According to Arndt Bode, Nvidia is doing the right thing with this measure. “For manufacturers, players are the more important customers who generate permanent sales.” On the other hand, mining cryptocurrencies is a trend that “probably won’t last forever” because the costs of doing so will rise and the work will eventually no longer be lucrative.

For the time being, however, Nvidia does not want to lose the crypto miners as customers and is planning a number of so-called “Cryptocurrency Mining Processors” (CMP). ©

 The y should only be suitable for the hash value calculations that are important in crypto mining and, according to the manufacturer, therefore “do not affect the availability of Geforce graphics cards for gamers”. Among other things, the peak voltage of these CMP cards is to be reduced in order to save energy when mining. In addition, they will not have a connection for a screen.


 The  tense situation on the graphics card market is likely to continue for a while. In an interview, AMD boss Lisa Su said in January that the shortage will continue until at least the middle of the year.
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