Cryptocurrency miners bought 3 million GPUs in 2017

The cryptocurrency gold rush has caused a shortage, much to the chagrin of everyone else.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Cryptocurrency miners snapped up an estimated three million graphics processing units (GPUs) in 2017 to power up their mining rigs.

According to JPR research, sales of GPUs to cryptocurrency miners last year reached $776 million.

Overall GPU shipments decreased by 1.5 percent in Q4 2017, and 4.8 percent year-on-year.

The research agency claims that AMD has managed to increase its discrete graphics card market share by 8.1 percent, largely due to the firm's GPU lineup being the best suited for complex calculations. Nvidia's 2017 share slid by 6 percent and Intel decreased by 2 percent.

The GPU and add-in board (AIB) market is experiencing disruption due to interest in cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other virtual coins are mined when computers solve complex equations and while Bitcoin's rarity in the wild makes mining alone not financially viable -- leading to the creation of so-called mining pools -- mining, in general, has increased in popularity.

However, to set up a successful rig, you need powerful hardware able to support these activities. GPUs were never designed for mining, but they are the closest and most affordable option out there.

Samsung is producing mining GPU chips, but in the meantime, AMD, Nvidia, and Intel are picking up the sales.

In 2017, AMD was the primary benefactor of mining-related sales, according to JPR, and while mining is driving demand, there is a shortage -- which has, in turn, disrupted other core markets, such as Nvidia's gamer following.

Nvidia has asked retailers -- somehow -- to "put gamers first" when it comes to GPU sales, potentially by preventing bulk buying, as mining rigs require more than one or two cards. As the shortage ramps up prices, in the short term, all the mining movement will do is potentially damage Nvidia's core gaming business and force gamers to look elsewhere.

See also: Cryptocurrency mining GPU demand hampers scientific research

"Gaming has been and will continue to be the primary driver for GPU sales, augmented by the demand from cryptocurrency miners.," said Dr. Jon Peddie, President of Jon Peddie research. "We expect demand to slacken from the miners as margins drop in response increasingly utilities costs and supply and demand forces that drive up AIB prices."

It is not just gamers, however, that are attempting to ride out the hardware shortage. Academic institutions and researchers are finding it increasingly difficult to source and purchase GPUs required for projects.

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