During the past few years PC gaming has hit record levels of growth as gamers have been allured by a matured market, low cost of entry, and VR babes. However, that's quickly changing with the arrival of a $600+ billion cryptocurrency market.
As we covered in a recent feature, the recent cryptocurrency boom is creating a nightmare for PC gamers. Mining ZCash and other trending coins has become profitable enough that investing in hardware is well worth it for anyone interested in making money. Consequently, graphics cards are being bought up by the dozens, leaving retailer shelves empty and prospective customers wanting to jump off a cliff.
It's affecting more than just high-end hardware, too. Most of Nvidia's product line, from the GTX 1060 to GTX 1080 Ti, has been hit by the explosion of demand. AMD fans can't hide, either, since the RX 570 and RX 580 are favorites of crypto miners.
The 1080 Ti's MSRP of $699 appears cheap compared to its current going price.
Compounding the fact that graphics cards are being sold for up to 200% MSRP are the rising prices of memory. A couple years ago you could easily find a couple of entry level 4GB DDR4 sticks for under $50. Today, you'd be fortunate to pay under $80.
Memory prices are trending upwards quickly.
To put it in simplest terms, PC hardware is extremely unaffordable right now, to a point where even the most devout PC gamers are recommending that newcomers either wait things out or spend their money on a pre-built PC, which so far haven't been affected by these inflated prices.
Scalpers are earning Lamborghini money by reselling graphics cards.
Here's the thing: consoles are moving in the opposite direction. Both the PS4 and Xbox One can be purchased for under $199 when on sale, and no matter which you go with there's a healthy library of games at this stage in the generation. Meanwhile, Nintendo just had one of its best years in history thanks to a killer software library.
The most surprising thing about all this is how quickly things changed. Yes, memory has been trending upward for roughly a year, but these absurd graphics card prices are a recent phenomenon that came along with the crypto surge last month.
So, for my first time in many years, I'm recommending friends to stay away from buying a gaming PC... for now. There's no telling how long the circumstances will last, but for the time being upgrading your PC to play VRChat isn't a good option.