Nvidia Corp. on Thursday introducing a specialized product for mining cryptocurrency while throttling mining capabilities in their lower-priced gaming cards, an attempt to avoid a replay of difficulties caused by demand from crypto miners in recent years.
Nvidia NVDA, -3.82% and rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. AMD, -4.70% have struggled to produce enough graphics-processing units, or GPUs, to satisfy demand from bloggers as well as server customers and others amid a global chip shortage. In a blog post, Nvidia announced Thursday that its RTX 3060 gaming graphics processing unit will use software to halve performance of the card if cryptocurrency mining is detected, with mining of the cryptocurrency ethereum ETHUSD, -21.52% singled out. Nvidia confirmed that the throttling will only apply to its 3060 card due out on Feb. 25.
“Ethereum has the highest global mining yield for any GPU-mineable coin at the moment, and thus is likely the main demand driver for GPUs in mining,” an Nvidia spokesman told MarketWatch in emailed comments.
“Other algorithms do not contribute significantly to GPU demand and this cannot change quickly due to network effects within a given cryptocurrency,” the spokesman said. “The rate limiter applies to anything that uses Dagger Hashimoto or Ethash-like algorithms.”
The move is to ensure the card gets into the hands of gamers, which have been clamoring over cards that are in short supply, and potentially avoid a repeat of issues caused by demand from crypto miners in the past. Back in late 2018, Nvidia was left with a glut of gaming card inventory after cryptocurrency prices plunged, drying up interest in mining and creating a “crypto hangover” that damaged the company’s financials for nearly an entire year.
To that end, the company said it was releasing a dedicated mining chip, the Nvidia Cryptocurrency Mining Processor, which offers GPU performance but not the graphics features used in gaming. Lower performance models of the chip, the 30HX and 40HX models, will be available in the first quarter, while higher performance models, the 50HX and the 90HX, will be available in the second quarter, Nvidia said. According to the company, the 90HX offers about three times the ethereum-mining performance than the 30HX
Nvidia did not list a price for its CMP, while its budget-priced 3060 card, which was announced in January, nominally lists at $329. An Nvidia spokesperson told MarketWatch the company is not announcing pricing for the CMP at this time and that the first models will roll out in March.
Recently, bitcoin BTCUSD, -16.19% prices cleared $50,000 for the first time, while ethereum prices have surged past $1,900 to record highs. Even cryptocurrencies like dogecoin, initially created as a joke, have surged more than 900% in price this year.
In 2018, ethereum prices crashed from a high of more than $1,300 in January to a low of less than $85 by December that year. Similarly, bitcoin started 2018 at more than $10,000 and ended the year below $3,700.
Nvidia shares were down about 1% along with the rest of the chip sector Thursday; the PHLX Semiconductor Index SOX, -3.77% was down 1.2%