Computer processor producer AMD released a new graphics card (GPU) earlier this week, and within 5 minutes the product was sold out on every major online marketplace. Supplies of the AMD Vega 56 were already expected to be tight due to manufacturing issues, but the near-immediate sellout left gamers seething at cryptocurrency miners for gobbling up the limited supply.
The cryptocurrency markets have seen an unprecedented bull run in 2017, and increasing prices and media attention have caused demand for mining hardware to soar. Some cryptocurrencies, like ethereum, are–at present–mined most effectively using GPUs. Because the process is so competitive, miners need the latest technology to remain profitable. In the past, ethereum miners even resorted to leasing Boeing 747s to ship their processors so they could get a leg up in the hashpower race.
The present surge in demand has often left PC gamers unable to obtain the latest GPUs without paying far over market value. And they are absolutely furious. The Vega 56, for instance, is difficult to find for less than $100 over MSRP. Some retailers have attempted to give gamers access to the Vega 56 by creating hardware/software bundles that would not appeal to miners, but the end result is that gamers still pay more than they would like.
Raja Koduri, senior vice president and chief architect of the AMD Radeon Technologies Group, posted a Twitter thread weighing in on the controversy, stating that “we live in interesting times”:
we live in interesting times, where the gamer doesn't want the miners to buy and miners don't want the gamers to buy GPUs
— Raja Koduri (@Rajaontheedge) August 29, 2017
To make matters worse for gamers, this is not an isolated event. Earlier this year, a demand from ethereum miners caused AMD’s Radeon RX 580 and RX 570 GPUs to sell out at all major retailers.
Although AMD has publicly stated that the gaming market is their priority, the company has begun catering to the cryptocurrency mining industry, offering dedicated drivers for mining rigs and committing to developing stripped-down graphics cards for miners. Both AMD and Nvidia–the other major GPU producer–have seen their stock prices soar due to the cryptocurrency mining resurgence.
Unfortunately for gamers, there does not appear to be an end in sight for this saga. Unless the crypto markets crash, manufacturers decide to ramp up production, or new technology makes GPU miners obsolete, the shortage will continue for the near future.
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