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We all love building powerful rigs for various purposes, primarily for gaming. It feels great to actually get new components, hold them in your hands, as you assemble your new rig together, piece by piece. Especially a new GPU, or CPU. Personally, I always feel thrilled to hold a new GPU in my hands, when I buy one. Assembling your own rig, feels even great, since it is a hard task (don’t go with the people on social media and online forums saying it’s “easy”, because it isn’t – one wrong move and it’s a few hundred dollars down the drain), but very rewarding when done right.

Assembling a gaming rig with your own hands is extremely rewarding.

But what happens when you can’t buy that shining new 1080 or Vega 64 to complete a new build? When all retailers put out a “Out of Stock” signboard outside their store doors? Or when online retailers put up the “Out of stock” on their websites? Feels like a nightmare, isn’t it? That’s basically what’s happening in the world today.

So, what happened?

It’s difficult to explain where it exactly began, but as far as people know and care, it started with the development of the blockchain. An isolated grid of numbers. Huge alphanumeric strings. Nope, this isn’t science fiction, it’s real life. And with the blockchain, came a currency called cryptocurrency, which basically was the “reward” if you crack open the exact string. So what exactly is this blockchain?

The blockchain is a large, continuously growing list of records, which are encrypted using cryptography. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp (basically the time of creation of the block), and a certain amount of data. In cryptocurrency, you basically search out blocks in a blockchain, and try to crack them open by finding the hash code associated with the block. And when you crack open the block, you are rewarded in cryptocurrency, the currency of the blockchain, also hailed as the digital currency of the new era. Cracking those codes sounds easy? It isn’t. NSA may have TRANSLTR, which cracks open codes by the seconds, but the public doesn’t have access to that sort of million dollar technology. What do they do? They pool their resources to try and collectively have a go at finding the hash code that unlocks the block. When they find the code, the cryptocurrency is divided among the people who are in the pool as their rewards.

How is cryptocurrency associated with graphics cards?

That’s the click, that’s where it all starts going haywire. When you don’t a powerful machine like TRANSLTR, you build a machine that’s one millionth the power of TRANSLTR, and expect it to crack open the codes along with thousand other people who are trying to do the same thing. This process, is called “mining” – as in, you’re “mining” for data on the blockchain. Mining with CPUs used to be a thing earlier, but the various security risks meant that it was not going to last long. Also, economically, they were not very good, since they were highly specific in usage, besides the huge amount of electricity used when you keep the computer online for mining. This led to the development of GPU mining architectures, and ultimately led to a big boom in 2016, when everyone wanted a part of the action, and the big money, since the cryptocurrency that came as a result of mining had quite some value in terms of real world cash. Very soon, people increased their investment, buying GPUs solely for mining.

A dedicated GPU mining rig featuring multiple GPUs.

The craze became so mainstream and so popular, that soon the demand for GPUs started soaring so high that retailers started having problems dealing with the demand. This resulted in GPUs selling out faster than freshly made cakes at a bakery. Hence the “Out of stock” on the various retailers, both online as well as offline.

How bad is the issue?

When the demand soared, and production didn’t increase, prices soared as well. This meant that there were fewer GPUs on the market available for customers (and mind it, retailers don’t care if they are buying GPUs for mining or for gaming). With more people getting into mining and investing in cryptocurrency every day, the demand for GPUs increases every day. That means opportunistic retailers as well as shady individuals looking to make a quick buck by robbing people investing in their hobby are having a field day, increasing prices beyond measure.

RX 580, one of the first GPU’s to “disappear” from the market.

This has evoked responses widely, as many gamers continue to vent their frustration on online forums and social media over the increased prices and the lack of stocks on popular retailers.

Haven’t the companies done anything yet?

Production problems in the Chinese factories continue to be an issue, since the New Year celebrations mean that many of them will be working half day. That means a whole lot less production, which in turn affects the gamers throughout the world. No attempt has been made to make up the gap in production, which makes the deficit more acute.

NVIDIA has already issued a public statement, which asks retailers to follow certain guidelines in these troubled times. Since these are not binding on the retailers to obey (and NVIDIA can’t do anything to enforce them), NVIDIA have launched a store on their site to deploy the graphics card of choice to the people. This also comes with a guarantee of free worldwide shipping. NVIDIA has exclusively stated that the primary reason of supporting gamers over miners is that gamers have a greater brand loyalty and make better returning customers. (For more details about NVIDIA’s statement, please click here)

The NVIDIA online store at the time of launch. GPUs were out of stock within minutes.

AMD however, decided to maintain silence despite the current imbalance between supply and demand of GPUs in the gaming market. While it is common knowledge that AMD has historically been behind NVIDIA in terms of market share, and that their GPUs are better for mining, but nobody expected a right-about-turn when the gaming market went haywire due to the short supply of GPUs. This was also seen by the fact that AMD tried to promote their lower-end cards when the market crisis started. (Read about that here)

What can we do to get a graphics card now?

There are few options other than actually waiting till a major fall in the cryptocurrencies occur. The values of cryptocurrencies are extremely unstable, and with mining becoming a worldwide phenomenon, governments are also looking to regulate the use and trading in cryptocurrency, which does not bode entirely well for miners and for traders. India itself has taken a vow to regulate the flow of cryptocurrencies in its economic budget. What maybe the biggest blow to cryptocurrencies are the possible regulations (and in the extreme case, a blanket ban, which has a very little chance of happening, seeing the large number of places cryptocurrency has made a mark as a form of currency) by China, if it materializes as expected.

There are few other things to do, other than look out for heavy discounts, if any. Micro Center has been recently seen offering GPUs at the MSRP to customers provided they get all the parts for their build from them, which is quite a good deal in this troubled times. However, the only problem for Indians would be shipping, and a lack of warranty, which means that if anything goes wrong, you’re pretty much on your own. The other option includes buying prebuilt rigs, which have witnessed quite an increase in popularity since the crisis first began. XRIG, a company dedicated to modding of cabinets and production of rigs with custom themes, have announced their prebuilt called the XRIG X1, which has three options depending on the budget of the customer – the XRIG X1 01 for starter rigs, X1 02 for enthusiast builds, and X1 03 for hardcore builds. The pricing is definitely good, and much better than actually assembling a PC from parts separately purchased in these troubled times.

XRIG’s prebuilt rigs are a godsend in these troubled times.

If you want an NVIDIA GPU, buying directly from their store always works, but shipping issues come into play (besides a hefty amount of customs that you would need to pay), besides the fact that you might have difficulties in getting an RMA if the product turned out to be defective. Moreover, their store is out of stock most of the time, so actually clicking the “Notify Me” and entering your email works if you’re that desperate to secure a GPU for your build.

That’s it?

Yup, now you know why the prices of GPUs have been increasing like crazy. There are secondary reasons as well, like the increase of price of memory required for the production of GPU thanks to an increase in demand in the industry. However, the primary reason is the mining crisis, which might run for goodness knows how long. Until then, pre-built rigs are the way to go, besides a whole lot of waiting and watching – expecting a drop in cryptocurrency values, when used GPUs flood the market and there is a sudden drop in prices besides GPUs being in stock across all online stores and offline retailers.

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