Nvidia has spoken out against the high prices and stock shortages of its most popular and powerful graphics cards, caused by the spiralling popularity of cryptocurrency mining. The gold rush caused by Bitcoin’s recent price spike and the growing interest in Ethereum.
Boris Böhles, PR manager for Nvidia in Germany said to ComputerBase that “Gamers come first for Nvidia. 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.”
However, it’s not quite so clear what those arrangements should be. UK PC retailer Overclockers, for instance, told us they were limiting orders to one card per customer and "putting our focus on building gaming PC’s and ensuring new gamers can still get a full gaming PC at a competitive price." Which is a good start but the market is still overheated.
Other retailers we talked to are also limiting customers to purchasing just a single card in one transaction, but that doesn’t seem to helping that much, with many charging at least RRP for cards and still finding it hard to get hold of stock to meet demand. Obtaining stock is near impossible we were told and prices are never likely to return to the kind of deals the market saw when the cards launched last year.
The immediate reaction is that Nvidia should just make more cards. However, chip yields for high-end GPUs are often an issue and ramping up production to satisfy the miners could be risky. The cryptocurrency boom is hardly likely to disappear overnight, but a change in currency values could radically change demand for cards – gamers are a far more predictable bunch when it comes to upgrading their cards.
From Nvidia’s point of view they are selling lots of cards of course. It might be possible to lock the cards in the firmware somehow in order for them to only perform the task they were originally intended for, but such a heavy-handed approach would be hard to implement without effectively removing the freedoms of users to use their cards as they please – for SETI@home for instance. There are many out there who are both gaming and mining – especially if they’re not the ones paying the bills.