We've recently complained about video card prices skyrocketing due to recent discoveries that AMD GPUs are particularly good at mining Litecoin, a cryptocurrency similar to BitCoin. When this discovery was made, we saw photos floating around the internet of entire stacks of 7970s, R9 290s, and other cards, all purchased with the intention of mining these coins.
LTC's value over the last day has plummeted.
This, in tow of the normal holiday season madness, resulted in nearly all current AMD GPUs selling out across the web, all the way down to the 7850. Prices doubled as a result, allowing retailers to reap the demand for a short time -- we've seen 2GB 7850s for $180 on Newegg, where they were just $90 a week or two ago. If you've been wondering why video cards are so expensive right now, this is why.
At the same time, most of nVidia's low-end hardware sold-out as AMD lost the ability to meet demand. The 650 Ti Boost 2GB cards went from fully in-stock to completely gone within a matter of days, leaving budget system builders with the 7790 and mid-range builders with the GTX 660.
The good news is that 2GB 7850s are now back on the shelves, but their prices have remained ludicrously high; at $180, the cards are the same price as the R9 270 was when it launched -- a card that is significantly more powerful with 35% more compute power.
Perhaps better news -- at least, for the gamers who just want affordable gaming video cards -- is that China's largest exchange recently blocked BitCoin (BTC), which halved its market value in a few hours. Litecoin (LTC), the one that caused AMD cards to fly off shelves, has followed in-step with BTC. If the currencies don't stabilize or begin to climb again soon, especially LTC, I suspect that those investing in machines for coin mining will be scared away from new card upgrades for now.
We will certainly be seeing used AMD cards flooding the market by 2014 as coin miners move to more cost-efficient ASICs, so if you don't mind a used-and-abused GPU, keep your eyes on eBay for a little while. In the meantime, wait around and see if prices normalize within the next 2-3 weeks; retailers will undoubtedly have a much lower demand now that the LTC craze has deflated a little bit.
- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.