By now most gamers have heard and are well versed in the story of cryptocurrency and the impact that it has had on the supply and demand of graphics processing units (GPU), and even complete off the shelf retail gaming computers (Alienware, MSI, etc.) While there are those who state with crystal ball-like certainty (much the same as I am with the title of this post) that it is dying off and to be patient, there are others who see no end in sight to what has happened in the market in just the past year.
Full disclosure: I am not in the market for either a new gaming rig or a new GPU, I am happy with my current setup and my wife is happy with my old gaming rig as it is more than what is needed for her to watch YouTube and Netflix on. My angle in writing this is what the lay of the land would look like if, for some reason I had to be in the market: It does not look very good at all. Bottomline is that actually I would not be able to purchase the same exact gaming rig I bought a year ago today given what crypto has done to the market.
Last March I purchased an MSI Aegis 3 VR capable gaming rig that featured an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 8 GB GDDR5X video card. I couldn’t care less about virtual reality, I do not have the hardware (headset) and have no desire to wear a television screen on my head just for the pleasure of buying the games I love a second time to “experience” them in VR. I bought the machine because it has killer gaming specs and was selling for a reasonable (non-sale) $1,599.99 price point (USD).
That same machine is now selling for $4,645.35 and is completely out of stock. The video card alone is now going for an average retail price of $1,019.99 (which is 2/3rd of what I paid for the entire gaming rig just 11 months ago). One manufacturer is even selling the card at $1,399.76. This is pretty much all thanks to what has happened to cryptocurrency in the last year.
So-called “miners” are buying these GPU’s (and even entire systems just for the GPU), and it has caused prices to soar. This has caused a backlash against the manufacturers, even though in most circumstances it is the retailers that are setting the price. Many people who just want to game (and not mine crypto) cannot afford the machines that are required to play today’s games. This has effectively stopped the gaming community from keeping pace with the titles that are being released.
This is an unfortunate slippery-slope that can lead to video game development simply ceasing to exist. Why spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make that next triple-A title when almost no one can afford to upgrade their now-potato computer because GPU’s cost more today than entire gaming rigs cost just a year ago.
One solution would be for manufacturers to produce X number of units that are reserved for confirmed video gamers. Yes, that would totally suck, but the day may be coming where you would have to apply to purchase a video card at the base MSRP. This would require that the middleman (Best Buy, Newegg, etc.) be cut completely out of the equation. Short of this or cryptocurrency completely crashing (which is quite possible but does not appear to be on the horizon at the moment), there would be no way that the average gamer can save up to purchase a machine capable of playing the games that are currently in development.
Something has to be done, and damn it, it may be time for the Federal Government to get involved.