The newest graphics cards from the gaming processor designer Nvidia will be artificially constrained in their ability to mine cryptocurrencies, the company has announced, as it desperately tries to manage a year-long inability to satisfy demand.
The RTX 3060, a high-powered PC peripheral designed to let gamers get the best performance from their machines, will ship with software that makes it half as effective at mining the cryptocurrency Ethereum as it could be.
“We designed GeForce GPUs for gamers, and gamers are clamouring for more,” said Nvidia’s Matt Wuebbling, the global head of GeForce marketing. “Yet Nvidia GPUs are programmable. And users are constantly discovering new applications for them, from weather simulation and gene sequencing to deep learning and robotics. Mining cryptocurrency is one of them.”
To make up for the limitations, Nvidia is also launching a separate product line, marketed as cryptocurrency mining processors, which lack video output. Useless for gamers, they could lower the cost of entry for cryptocurrency miners.
The company’s struggle highlights the pressure the cryptocurrency sector is imposing on other parts of the economy. Cryptocurrency mining requires ready access to extremely fast processors and cheap electricity. Processor designers such as Nvidia have struggled to keep up with demand from gamers alone during the pandemic, and extra pressure from cryptocurrency miners has led to long-term sales shortages and rocketing prices on eBay.
Electricity markets have also suffered from the soaring price of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Earlier this year, Iran blamed bitcoin miners for rolling blackouts, with the government saying the low cost of electricity, which can cost just 5% of the UK price, had acted as an incentive to huge numbers of miners to set up in Iran. One mine alone was using 175MW of electricity, the government said.