Computing giant Asus claims that demand from cryptominers for consumer graphics cards is “disappearing”, though it anticipates that shipments of its desktop PCs will fall by 10%, with motherboard and graphics card shipments dropping 10-15% over the previous quarter.
As reported by The Register, Asus co-CEO S.Y. Hsu said during the company’s Q1 earnings call that the fall in demand was likely caused by the crypto industry’s intent to move away from GPU-based mining for Ethereum, the world’s second most popular cryptocurrency behind Bitcoin.
“Because the demand for cryptocurrency mining on GPU shipments has been slowly coming down, the demand for graphics cards across the market is normalizing,” he said.
The lack of interest from miners likely has very little to do with the current crypto market crash (The price of Ethereum fell to $1,770 this week, down from $4,600 back in November 2021), though this could also provide some benefits for the PC gaming and building community.
Existing mining farms might look to sell off their existing hardware to recover some cash, so we could expect an influx of cheap, used graphics cards to flood the market, though these are typically a risky buy given how intensely they run while mining.
Still, even without used GPUs flooding sites like eBay or Facebook marketplace we can expect PC gamers to encounter less competition from cryptominers in the coming months, which should make it easier to snag that GeForce RTX 3080 you might be eyeing up.
Graphics cards have returned to the shelves
Mining Ethereum using commercial cards is no longer as viable as it was now that the cryptocurrency has started to move to proof-of-stake, from the previous proof-of-work method previously used by Bitcoin.
In simple terms, proof-of-work is a validation method where computers compete against each other to be the first to solve complex puzzles, which left it open to miners using warehouses full of consumer graphics cards to solve those puzzles. The winner gets to update the blockchain with the latest verified transactions and is rewarded with some crypto as payment.
Proof-of-stake instead uses validators to find a block based on the number of tokens they hold, which removes the need for those ‘puzzles’ to be solved, so while it was previously profitable to mine Ethereum it will soon be inefficient to do so.
Huge improvements have already been seen across the global GPU market in recent months, with stock readily available on the shelves and often around MSRP. This is a far cry from last year when people had to queue around several blocks if they wanted to try and purchase a card from a brick-and-mortar store.
With the market stabilizing, we could see a flood of used GPUs and the anticipation for next-gen Nvidia Lovelace and AMD RDNA3 graphics cards bring prices down even further, so while you might find cards like the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 are still more expensive than they should be, they’re becoming more affordable with each passing month.
Analysis: we’re not completely out of the woods yet
Many of the best graphics cards were nearly impossible to find available to buy over the last two years because of the global chip shortage, a broader supply chain crisis at ports around the world and demand for consumer tech putting even more pressure on the availability of semiconductors needed by AMD and Nvidia for their products.
Cryptominers certainly didn’t make up the biggest issue, but they did cause competition over what little stock was available, with some buying up the available stock in bulk using bot software. In the end, Team Green put measures in place to make its consumer graphics cards less desirable to those hoping to use them to mine currencies such as Ethereum.
The biggest risk here is that there are still other currencies available that use a proof-of-work system, and while these don’t share the same value as ETH did last year, it only takes one of these to rocket in value for mining to become viable again.
Earlier this week we saw the LHR (low hashrate) versions of Nvidia’s RTX 30 series graphics cards have finally been completely unlocked by a mining software called Nicehash, restoring each card’s respective mining capabilities so hopefully Team Green keeps the upcoming Lovelace generation of GeForce cards updated with the limiter as a deterrent.
For now though, many of the previous issues that resulted in the great GPU drought have been solved, with improvements to production and supply reducing the need to fight for a small pool of available stock. If you’re wanting to nab yourself a graphics card at its intended retail price (or in some cases, lower) then now certainly looks like a good time to do so, before the next generation of GPUs sees a surge in demand once more.