Getting a new GPU is almost impossible right now, with prices skyrocketing as supply continues to lag demand. Nvidia has already announced some steps to separate cryptocurrency applications into a new product category, and it’s even got a new gaming GPU that blocks high-speed crypto mining. During the company’s recent earnings call, Nvidia CFO Colette Kress hinted that more gaming GPU restrictions could be coming.
In the unfortunate event your GPU dies, you’ll be dismayed to learn the only way to get a halfway decent replacement is to pay a reseller at least 50 percent over MSRP. The demand for GPUs is particularly high right now thanks to the COVID pandemic that’s kept everyone inside for a year, as well as the surging price of cryptocurrency. The global semiconductor shortage isn’t helping, either.
Nvidia’s first real stab at addressing the out-of-control pricing was to nerf its latest RTX 3060 GPU. This card has an artificially decreased Etherium hash rate, making it less interesting to crypto miners. Nvidia hopes this will increase supply for gamers who just want to frag some noobs. It’s also planning to release a line of cryptomining processors (CMPs) that are only good for mining (they don’t even have video outputs).
In discussing the shortage, Kress noted that Nvidia has limited hash rates on GPUs “starting with the 3060.” That strongly implies future GPUs will come with similar restrictions, and the company did go out of its way recently to stress that it would not nerf any existing video cards. Nvidia’s desire to keep the gaming and mining markets separate supports the idea future cards will have mining limits, as stressed by CEO Jensen Huang. “I think proof of work is going to be around for a bit,” he said, referring to the workloads that miners run to unlock new digital money. “We developed CMP for this very reason.”
It plans to ship approximately 15 million CMP cards for industrial miners in the first quarter of the year. That might help get GPUs back on store shelves for gamers, but the trend of splitting mining and gaming might not appeal to everyone. Hopefully, Nvidia leaves at least some product lines alone — if you’re spending big on a flagship GPU, it’s reasonable to expect it to be unencumbered by artificial restrictions of any kind.