If you were inspired by my PC building adventures and decided to take your own stab at piecing together a computer, I hope you don’t mind waiting. Good graphics cards have been nearly impossible to find at decent prices for the past few weeks, and the shortage doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon.
This graphics processing unit (GPU) shortage started in December, when a bitcoin surge led to renewed interest in cryptocurrency mining, the process of generating numbers to claim new blocks in a blockchain, earning digital currency as a result. In order to mine cryptocurrency, you need a beefy rig, so miners are snatching up as many GPUs as possible in order to earn some of that sweet, sweet cyber-money.
For weeks now, high-end GPUs have been out of stock at just about every major retailer. Cards like the GTX 1080, which normally retails for $550, have been going for over $1,000 on third-party marketplaces. Leading graphics card maker NVIDIA has even started limiting its online sales, limiting each item to two per customer in an attempt to thwart miners. (When reached by Kotaku, NVIDIA declined to comment further on the shortage.)
Of course, the majority of GPUs are selling through retailers, not NVIDIA’s store, and a glance at your local Best Buy’s racks will reveal a severe shortage of graphics cards these days. Computer part prices do tend to have peaks and valleys—look how pricey RAM is right now!—but as far as I can tell, we’ve never seen a shortage this consistent and extended. It is, by all accounts, an unprecedented drought of GPUs.