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TL;DR: The situation with the RTX 3000 graphics cards is dire. Not only are we dealing with their general lack of availability, but there's also the recent tax on Chinese imports pushing prices up. Into this mix is the skyrocketing value of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, creating mode demand. But Nvidia is contemplating a plan that could address the latter issue: Ampere-based cryptomining cards.
Fears that RTX 3000 shortages are set to become even worse arrived a few weeks ago when Bitcoin hit $40,000. Compounding the problems is the 25 percent tax on graphics cards imported from China—mobos and GPUs had been granted exemption from import taxes in September, but that expired without renewal at the end of last year. The situation has led to EVGA, Zotac, and Asus raising their card prices.
While gamers appreciate the RTX 3000 line's ability to offer excellent performance at a lower price, it also makes them appealing to those building mining rigs. It's a situation we've seen before: back in 2017, soaring crypto values saw graphics card prices go through the roof as demand far outweighed supply.
However, Nvidia could have a plan up its sleeve. Speaking at the 19th Annual J.P. Morgan Tech/Auto Forum Conference (via SeekingAlpha), Colette Kress, the company's chief financial officer, said: "If crypto demand begins or if we see a meaningful amount, we can also use that opportunity to restart the CMP product line to address ongoing mining demand."
The P106-100 6G mining card
CMP is a reference to Nvidia's mining-specific GPUs that lack display outputs, which are unnecessary for mining. Introducing them could help get more RTX 3000 products to gamers, but Nvidia says it needs to see evidence of demand from miners first.
"We don't have visibility on how much of the GeForce RTX 30-series end demand comes from mining," said Kress. "So, we don't believe it's a big part of our business today. Gaming demand is very strong, and we think that's larger than our current supply."
We've already seen one crypto rig (above) featuring a massive 78 RTX 3080 cards (via Techarp). Assuming the owner paid $1,199 for each one, the rig would have cost $93,522, but will have paid for itself in around 9 - 10 months.
AMD expects more of its cards to arrive on the company's website this quarter for their MSRP. Nvidia, meanwhile, warns that supply will be "lean" until April.