It’s been a rough few years for… well, for everyone, really. But as a side effect of that, it’s also been rough for PC gamers hunting for graphics cards. Between an explosion in GPU-powered cryptocurrency, a worldwide shortage of crucial semiconductors, and secondary market scalpers looking to profit from both (to say nothing of a boom in PC gaming during the pandemic), it’s been almost two years since you could reliably buy mid-range and high-end graphics cards at reasonable prices. But all things pass, and it looks like the worst of the GPU shortage is over.
The turning point appears to be a catastrophic drop in cryptocurrency values. To boil down a complex topic, the bubble of speculative investing in Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptographic tokens has finally burst. After soaring to a value of nearly $70,000 USD in November of last year, Bitcoin has crashed to less than a third of that, with related cryptocurrencies taking similar precipitous drops. The reasons are complex, and compounded by several additional factors like investors losing faith even in cryptocurrency exchanges. But suffice it to say, the long winter of crypto is upon us, and gamers are all bundled up for a snow day.
Between the value crashing like a rich teenager’s first Ferrari and the power and computing cost of actually “mining” cryptocurrency continuing to increase, mining simply doesn’t make economical sense for most people anymore. So everyone from huge “industrial” miners to the hobbyists who threw together a rig with a handful of GPUs isn’t looking to buy new hardware, and indeed, might be looking to sell the graphics cards they have on the cheap.
What was once a double-whammy of market forces keeping GPUs out of the hands of gamers has more or less completely reversed. While chip and labor shortages are still in play, the collapse of demands for new cards and a glut of used cards on the secondary market is bringing prices back to their pre-pandemic levels. In some cases we’re even seeing discounts on high-end, high-margin hardware.
If you feel like waiting even more, there are some pretty compelling reasons to do so. New generations of graphics are expected from Nvidia and AMD later this year if all goes well. Plus there’s a new player in the market for the first time in decades: Intel is bringing its discrete desktop GPUs worldwide in the second half of 2022. And there’s a pretty huge shift in compatibility coming with the introduction of PCIe 5.
But frugal, patient PC builders can always find a reason to wait. For the first time in forever, we have a good reason to buy and build now. If you’ve been waiting for a year or more to find a fair price or even a deal on a graphics card, go ahead and pull the trigger, before someone decides that we need to mine NFTs in space or something.
Michael is a former graphic designer who's been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.