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A Filipino Perspective on the GPU Crypto Mining Fiasco

GPU-pocalypse Due to Crypto

Never mind how more expensive video games may get later on due to the current situation regarding graphics cards. Prices have gone as high as twice the MSRP and are keeping consumers from building their dream rigs. Imagine finally being able to save up enough to build your own rig after working so hard in that call center job or whatever else you have. Your household is in order, and you just want to be able to play games after coming home from a hard day’s work. However, you either can’t or have to settle with an inferior GPU because you can’t get a better one.

Here in the Philippines, it gets even more expensive as tariffs and the higher exchange rate brought on by the decline of the Peso at the early days of the Duterte administration make high-end graphics cards even more out of reach for ordinary Filipino consumers.

As of this writing, the global markets have been chaotic. It may signal the coming of yet another economic recession, almost exactly ten years after the last major one. That makes things even worse as there seems to be no end in sight yet with this GPU-pocalypse, even with the crypto crash that may see a surplus of used graphics cards in the second-hand market.

Recent Personal Experience in Shopping for a GPU

As of this writing, I helped a friend out in putting together a whole new gaming rig in the previous week. I had recommended an AMD Radeon RX 570 for his purposes before. Unfortunately, it seemed like every shop we went to in Gilmore was fresh out of AMD cards and they only had Nvidia cards available. It was easy to determine that miners were to blame for this short supply.

He got an Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti instead (4GB VRAM), which I thought wasn’t too bad at all for 1080p gaming. He just wanted to play Overwatch with it anyway, so it shouldn’t be too bad at all. However, if market conditions were like in late 2015 when I bought my Nvidia GTX 970 for PhP 15,000 (I bought it to play Fallout 4, funny enough), then he could have gotten a much better card.

It’s somewhat funny to think this GPU-pocalypse is how younger people are being introduced to the Law of Supply and Demand in the real world. As soon as there’s stock of high-end video cards, especially from AMD, miners snatch them up by the truckload. Of course, manufacturers and retailers wouldn’t refuse that since it’s good business.

Why GPUs?

The gist of it is when Bitcoin first came about in 2009, the handful who were in the know were able to mine with just laptops. CPUs were enough to do the job during the old days, but they became less viable as difficulty went up. The longer the blockchain gets as more transactions are made, the more difficult it is to process—most likely the main flaw of public blockchain.

It was then figured out that graphics processing units were more efficient as they consumed less  power for the amount of work needed for mining. Crypto miners run their power bills through the roof, so efficiency is always a factor. Once everyone has caught on to that, they started hoarding video cards for mining. Another benefit is they can then sell those cards after some time to recoup expenses.

Nowadays, Bitcoin’s difficulty has gone so high that GPUs aren’t viable for mining it anymore. Therefore, the current GPU mining craze is mostly for alternative cryptocurrency, or altcoins. Ethereum, Monero, Litecoin, Dogecoin (Yes, that’s what it’s called), and Ripple are some of the more well-known altcoins out there.

From what I’ve heard, much of the GPUs bought lately were most likely for mining Ethereum, whose platform has tremendous potential in other applications as well. Of course, there will be a time when GPUs won’t be enough to mine most of the major altcoins out there. That’s when GPUs will be picked up for trendy cryptos that will come and go. Right now, it looks to be Ripple.

Other Cases of Hardware Price Hikes

The one I can remember off the top of my head is the price increase on RAM back in 2013 when a major Chinese factory burned down. Earlier that year, I bought an 8GB stick of DDR3 Corsair Vengeance Low Profile RAM (which I had to have replaced because the first one had errors and was crashing my PC constantly). I bought that for around PhP 2,000 or so, if I remember correctly—quite cheap compared to 8GB sticks these days.

The problem is RAM is still quite expensive to this day, twice what it used to be. An 8GB stick of DDR4 at 2400MHz these days will cost you PhP 4,500, which just a little bit under a 3TB mechanical hard drive. That’s the main reason why I didn’t go Skylake when I upgraded my rig back in early 2016, instead buying an Intel i7 4790K that I still use now because I didn’t want to switch from the DDR3 RAM I still had to DDR4.

Watch out for hard drives also possibly facing a similar situation due to the quiet emergence of Burstcoin, which uses free disk space instead of processors for mining. It’s purported to be a “green” cryptocurrency, but that may just mean more people will just hoard hard drives for things other than data servers and network-attached storage (something I’ll be doing later this year).

Conclusion

Things may take a turn once Nvidia and AMD start working on the idea to actually cater to cryptocurrency miners. Whether it’s for the better or worse, I’m not entirely sure. If they’re able to come up with products specifically for cryptocurrency mining, then maybe that’ll bring down the demand for gaming graphics cards and normalize prices again.

The biggest fear here is that even when crypto miners taper down on hoarding GPUs, prices won’t go back down and the inflated prices may become the new normal. Then again, I’m not an expert on the PC hardware market—that would be something you should go to B2G for.

Even with the recent cryptocurrency crash, they’re still better off than where they were at the beginning of last year. There may be a whole slew of new investors and miners who were just waiting for things to crash before buying in themselves to ride the wave to the next possible boom.

Meanwhile, the best you can hope for is for prices to somehow go down and maybe buy a bundled PC with a GPU already included if you really want a cheaper option at the moment.

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Have something to say? Do you agree or am I off-base? Did I miss a crucial detail or get something wrong? Please leave whatever reactions, questions, or suggestions you may have on the comment section below.

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The Dreaded Video Game Price Hike

Video Game Price

There has been talk lately about how video games may actually be underpriced these days, as unbelievable as that may sound since AAA games are quite expensive already. However, pundits are making their cases as to why the video game industry is now at its current state of having microtransactions and other predatory forms of monetization being shoved down consumers’ throats, as well as horrible working conditions for the rank and file in the industry. I’m no insider, but I’d like to try making better sense of the whole video game price debacle.

As a gamer who mostly relies on Steam sales and sites like Humble Bundle, Indiegala, and Fanatical (formerly known as Bundle Stars) to get cheap games—not to mention has around 600 games in his Steam library—I don’t get AAA games when they come out. For instance, as of this writing, I wish to get Dragon Ball FighterZ, but it just came out and is still at full price (PhP 2,400). Unfortunately, I don’t have what some would call “fuck you money”.

The Case for Price Increase

What’s presented in that video is how there’s a case for increasing the base price for AAA games and what companies do to get more out of each purchase, not how you should be shamed for not spending more to support the industry. It seems like plenty of people out there like to misconstrue it as a call to loosen wallets instead of informing the public of why AAA publishers are doing what they’ve been doing.

It talks about the reasoning behind the $60 video game price tag, why it may no longer be enough, what AAA companies do to make up for the widening gap, and what it may mean to the market in the long term. What many got out of it is if there is a way for companies to keep costs down, they should so we don’t have to keep being bled dry.

This video shows how “keeping costs down” may be harder than you think. There’s so much that goes into the making of a AAA video game that there should be no wonder why $60 may not be enough for these companies. When big publishers say having sold a million copies of a AAA title, it may not be because they just want more money, but because they’re really stretching things thin.

On the other hand, I’m not a certified public accountant and I still would want my games to be cheaper anyway. Even if I do get a hold of their financial statements, I wouldn’t be able to put two and two together even if I had taken four units of accounting more than a decade ago. However, I’m just saying since there have been so much tomfoolery being pulled off by big companies with getting around the base video game price to make more money, I can’t believe it’s just as innocent as games costing too much to make.

Refuting the Call for Shelling Out More Money

I’ve talked about Jim Sterling and his weekly YouTube show The Jimquisition before.

Jim Sterling toots the same horn because it’s worth tooting over and over again. However, it can be said here that he sidesteps the issue a bit and hits the business malpractices as always. Comments are less directed towards what may be done inside the industry itself other than how executives should either stop being greedy assholes or take themselves out entirely on their own accord if they still have a shred of dignity in them, if they ever had any.

He does remind people that the real audience are shareholders who keep those companies afloat. It’s more about hitting quarterly goals instead of uplifting the medium and pushing the envelope. It’s understandable why they do it, but Jim harps on the malice behind the practices that dehumanizes those who hand over their cash for whatever is being offered.

This episode of The Jimquisition was put out before the second Extra Credits video on what goes into making video games. Perhaps he wasn’t just responding to the first Extra Credits video and is just talking more about the points put out by the Gamasutra article. Whatever the case may be, while the points put out here are valid, it doesn’t address the question of what can be done to make game development less expensive that much.

(I wrote this before the video below was put out.)

With this more recent episode of The Jimquisition, Jim Sterling explicitly states beforehand how he’s directly responding to Extra Credits’ videos. There’s a dialogue going on in video form between these two YouTube channels regarding this subject, and it’s good that Jim prefaced it by saying he’s directing his comments at the situation at large and not the Extra Credits crew.

This is one of the better episodes of The Jimquisition in recent memory as it hits its marks and then some. Jim isn’t attacking the games industry per se, but the corporate culture that is dominating it. This is more to do with how these AAA companies run their operations, and that then affects how their games are made.

You can also say that last point was quite the burn, calling on AAA games executives to put up or shut up. Satoru Iwata paved the way, and he’s now challenging the Wall Street-walking big shots of the games industry to do the same. People tend to cringe when they hear “austerity” these days, but perhaps that may be a good thing for the sake of not having to increase video game price.

Of course, this is still not without points of contention worth picking out. What Jim Sterling is saying here is you should be fine if the executives tighten their belts and make games that don’t need to have the latest and greatest in graphics fidelity, and he’s half right. He may be right with how it’s not simply the audience’s fault for expecting that from games as it’s the AAA companies that continue feed that need.

By just following the money instead of paving the way themselves since they’re the ones making the games, they simply create a problem for themselves that they must then patch on top with more questionable decision-making, just like how some companies tend to support their online multiplayer games. The discussion in r/Games on this video is a read worth getting into if you’re actually interested in this subject.

Something (Probably) Worse is Happening Now

If you can’t even buy the thing you need to play the games on, you know you’re in big trouble. Video game price may not be as big of a deal when compared to gaming hardware price.

The price of graphics cards are a major concern at the moment. Never mind the price of games if you can’t even afford the hardware they’re supposed to run on. This is mostly due to cryptocurrency mining, with the recent rise and even more recent fall of Bitcoin to blame for the attention.

Mind you, no one who wants to actually profit from mining would ever mine specifically Bitcoin with GPUs anymore. Bitcoin mining is done mostly with ASICs rigs these days—barebones rigs with specialized processing units designed specifically for jobs like mining Bitcoins.

GPU mining is now mostly for altcoins like Litecoin, Ethereum, Monero, and so on. As more mining is done on those cryptocurrencies, the difficulty goes up exponentially. That would then mean even more GPUs are needed to keep operations profitable.

I’ll talk more about this deeply worrying phenomenon in a separate blog post. In the meantime, all we can really do is cross our fingers and hope the situation on all fronts get better and prices finally go down. It’s not to say it can directly impact video game price, but you can never know in a fickle industry like this.

Got Feedback?

Have something to say? Do you agree or am I off-base? Did I miss a crucial detail or get something wrong? Please leave whatever reactions, questions, or suggestions you may have on the comment section below.

You may also like/follow and leave a message on either Facebook or Twitter. Please subscribe to the YouTube channel as well for more content. Thank you for dropping by.

The Decade Rule — Limits of Staying True to an Original

The Decade Rule

What I wish to talk about here is not a new trend, but definitely a recurring one. As of this writing, the divisiveness of Star Wars: The Last Jedi is still harped on every now and then in memes and flame threads. It’s the sequel of a sequel, and other sequels and sequels of sequels have been subject to similar heat, especially if they come out a decade or more after the original. Never mind what they did to Luke Skywalker, they turned Michael Corleone into a mental patient in The Godfather Part III and the story is a complete crock of shit in Diablo III. (more…)

The Buck Stops Here: Loot Boxes and Predatory Practices

Star Wars Battlefront II

Pardon me while this blog post is a couple of weeks late, it’s still better than never. The controversy with EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II and its loot boxes made the rounds in gaming news, even culminating in governments condemning the game and loot boxes in general as gambling. While loot boxes had become the norm in games, especially free-to-play games with not that much room for monetization, publishers had been slowly but surely pushing it as far as it’ll go until the dam breaks. (more…)

On the “Coherence” of Marvel’s The Punisher

Marvel's The Punisher: Lewis Wilson

This article on The Verge about how Marvel’s The Punisher on Netflix is a mess with how it tackles gun violence in America caught my eye. Since this blog is full of cobwebs and I recently got rejected by a client for my freelance work, I’ve written something here in response, partially to remind myself that I can still write. Also, I have been watching the show. I like it, and I think I’ve seen more of it than the author of that article. (more…)

Schrodinger’s Keylogger in Chinese Mechanical Keyboard

MantisTek GK2 Mechanical Keyboard

There was this recent news of a model of mechanical keyboards made in China that turned out to have keyloggers illicitly installed in it. Of course, this is scandalous on a potentially global scale due to Chinese products becoming more ubiquitous in the tech space. It’s easy enough to assume that whatever comes out of that place is full of cooties that will make your computer cry out in pain whenever you plug it in. (more…)

Giant Robot Duel — Expected Nothing, Still Let Down

Giant Robot Duel

So, it sort of actually happened for real well over a week ago. The Giant Robot Duel that had been two years in the making finally came to pass, and it was pretty much how I expected it to be when I wrote about it here in the blog. I still watched it, much like Mayweather vs. McGregor—a circus you can’t really take your eyes away from. The only difference here is that there was something interesting enough with MayMac, while GRD was only good for memes that will die quick deaths. (more…)

Bathos, Sincerity, and Viewing Precaution

Doctor Strange donning the Cloak of Levitation

There’s this thing with Marvel movies I couldn’t put my finger on until now. I had previously reviewed Doctor Strange and thought that while it was good, it wasn’t the best and was even generic in tone. It seems that there’s something about the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s signature style of storytelling that combines seriousness with levity, which worked for a good while. However, something recently came up that may put a damper on its current and upcoming films, including Spider-Man: Homecoming. (more…)

Pacquiao vs. Khan Preview — A Flash of Lightning

Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan

With apparent confirmation of the deal for a fight between Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan in the United Arab Emirates, which can happen as soon as April of this year, I thought the whole thing was interesting and had started writing notes about the match-up while the news was still just rumors in the periphery. What particularly intrigues me with Pacquiao vs. Khan is their similarities and differences coming in as it’s not the usual young vs. old match-up like Michael Moorer vs. George Foreman. (more…)

Roy Jones Jr. vs. Bobby Gunn and Other Dumpster Fires

Bobby Gunn

A week ago, I saw my Facebook news feed filled with posts about this boxing match I didn’t hear about. Roy Jones Jr., who is pushing 50, fought someone I’ve heard of in recent times—Bobby Gunn. He has been running around as the “sanctioned” modern-day bare-knuckle boxing champion with a supposedly flawless record. As always, I raised a proverbial eyebrow at this since “bare-knuckle boxing” has been tossed around as a tough guy thing since forever. (more…)

Denuvo and the Apparent Hubris of Anti-Piracy

Denuvo on Resident Evil 7 Cracked

With the seemingly lightning-fast recent cracking of Resident Evil 7, taking only 5 days since release, I thought a bit about Denuvo and the whole thing about DRM protection. Cracking groups have always been there to break the DRM of game releases, with names like RELOADED, RAZOR1911, 3DM, and CPY being familiar to those who have no qualms about pirating games, whether it’s to try them out or to be a complete freeloader. Whichever side you’re on in the discussion, perhaps we can all agree that this whole thing with Denuvo is pretty interesting. (more…)

My Thoughts on Game Reviews

Video Games logo

After taking ye olde sweet time to get another video uploaded after the This is the Police review while still having a mental block, I used said mental block as inspiration for a non-review video. What came from it is a commentary of sorts on the thing I should be doing more of on the channel and blog, which are game reviews. (more…)