PC gamers have been suffering under the weight of the GPU shortage for the last year, but there’s some hope on the horizon. China has effectively banned cryptocurrency, and whether or not you think that’s good for Bitcoin, it’s great for GPU prices. Chinese authorities have just shut down dozens of crypto mining operations in what used to be the heartland of China’s crypto craze, and video card prices are beginning to respond.
It would be wrong to blame everything on cryptocurrency, but that is undeniably the primary reason you can’t get an Nvidia RTX 3080 for less than $2,000. There was also the pandemic, which increased gaming, and thus, demand for GPUs. The semiconductor shortage has constrained supply, too. Still, cryptocurrency has had such an impact that Nvidia has blocked mining at the driver level of new cards. It has also started making “CMP” cards with no video outputs specifically for mining.
China recently began a crackdown on cryptocurrency in the country, which circumvents the government’s strict monetary controls. It has blocked crypto trading websites and told banks to conduct any transactions with digital money such as Bitcoin and Etherium. While it’s not illegal for people to hold crypto (yet), the Chinese government has strongly suggested that everyone look for investments elsewhere.
China’s Sichuan province has been one of the most popular for crypto mining operations, thanks to the availability of cheap hydroelectric power. However, the authorities would prefer people didn’t use that power to run rack after rack of GPUs. The government told local electricity providers to investigate any clients who might be running mining operations and shut them down. News reports claim that 26 large operations in Sichuan province have closed in the last few days.
The value of GPUs has been dropping in China as a result. For example, the RTX 3080 has gone from 13,499 yuan ($2,090) to 4,699 yuan ($730). You’ll still pay a lot more than that in the US, but the lower prices should filter down to us as hardware makes it to retailers rather than being snapped up by miners. Meanwhile, the price of cryptocurrencies is in freefall. Bitcoin has fallen by about 25 percent, and Etherium is down even more. That’s not great if you’re heavily invested in these digital currencies, but it’s a positive change for those who just want to buy a GPU.