It used to be fairly cheap and easy to get into PC gaming, especially in late 2016. Performance for your dollar was at an all-time high and all was right in the gaming hardware market. As we reported 8 months ago, the rise of value in various cryptocurrencies caused a run on consumer gaming GPUs that left retailers empty-handed and gamers frustrated. As some of the crypto-hype died down, the retail channel was replenished with GPUs in each price segment (at least for NVIDIA cards). As we sit in the middle of January 2018, any gains made in GPU availability or price stability have gone out the window again.
Just when you thought it was safe to dip your toes back in the water, the cryptocurrency market experienced price spikes in December and just recently in January. Predictably, the promise of riches has driven prospectors to buy up all available GPU stock just like they did at the end of last spring. Because the squeeze from crypto speculators wasn’t enough, the months-long DRAM price hike is also driving up GPU prices.
As anyone who has recently priced out a new PC can tell you, RAM got expensive. A 16GB DDR4 kit that would have set you back $80 in January of 2017 now costs $200. As most of the world’s new smartphones started transitioning to DDR4, the available supply for it began to dry up and prices increased accordingly. The top memory producers claim they are working at capacity to meet the demand, but some suspect price fixing shenanigans. It would not be the first time it happened.
Crypto speculation, stock shortages, and soaring memory costs have combined to inflate the prices of GPUs to levels above what we saw in the middle of last year in some cases. At the time of this writing, internet PC parts retailer NewEgg had one NVIDIA GTX 1080 card left in stock, a PNY blower card, for $599. This represents a markup of $100 on that particular model. If you want or need a GTX 1080, this is the only game in town. The rest of the 1080s are shown as out of stock or have been delisted entirely. Pricing and availability for the midrange GTX 1070 is just as bad. There are no GTX 1070 cards available on NewEgg at this time. The same goes for the enthusiast GTX 1080 Ti.
As expected, the story for AMD GPUs is no different. NewEgg has 3 Polaris-powered RX 580 cards left in stock and each of them is carrying a $100 premium over MSRP. Even mentioning AMD’s high-end RX Vega cards seems like a waste of time as the cards have been notoriously unavailable since launch last August.
There seems to be no end in sight to the GPU madness or the memory price spikes that exacerbate the problem. This is just about the worst time a person could choose to build a new PC, and not just because the new CPU you buy comes preloaded with massive security flaws. There has never been a better time to be a PC gamer. 2017 was filled to the brim with awesome and just about anything that wasn’t a Nintendo Switch exclusive was best experience on a PC. It’s too bad that current conditions have made getting into the game so costly and frustrating.