Why are graphics cards so hard to get a hold of right now?

Javier Medrano, Columnist

Graphics cards can serve a great purpose to us in this pandemic. During these times, we are either stuck with nothing to do or we are forced to adopt a new work environment. That means most of us either playing video games or working from home. 

In the fall of 2020, we were greeted with a whole new set of cards to play with. Graphics cards can be seen as little expansion packs for your computer, taking the load of displaying images off your computer. 

What they excel at is doing a lot of simple tasks at the same time. A decent graphics card can do all the busy work while your main computer processor can focus on more complex operations. This means a stronger graphics card can spit out a better image, making it the perfect tool for video games.

But that isn’t the only thing they are good for. Their ability to crank out tasks can apply to many other applications that require the same operations to be calculated thousands of times. This extends to video editing, 3D rendering, teaching AI and even mining cryptocurrencies. 

It seems like everyone could really benefit from having a nice graphics card in their computer, whether it be for gaming, work or just for enthusiasts. It would make sense to go online and buy one right now.

Except you can’t.

For the past half year, it’s been nearly impossible to get your hands on a graphics card at a reasonable price. Everytime they go on sale, they are sold out before you can click the “Add to Cart” button. That’s how quickly they go out of stock, and it’s been like this ever since Nvidia’s new series of graphics cards dropped. What could be causing this lack of stock?

There could be a few reasons. 


Firstly, there’s currently a global pandemic. At the time of the announcement of these new cards, many of us were still stuck at home and producing computer parts from home isn’t something we can do at the moment. So, production of these components are down since people are trying to work less.

Secondly, even though less people are working, a lot of them are also choosing to work from home. This can lead to more people needing powerful computers to get their work done. This would mean an increase in demand met with a decrease in supply. In fact, that’s exactly what Nvidia’s CFO said in an article by PCMag.

Even though production has been slowly ramping up again, they still can’t meet the demands of the market. According to an article by Kotaku, this problem is extending to the previously mentioned video game consoles, phones, TVs and even cars. This shortage can’t be easily fixed, these rare parts are hard to produce. You simply can’t solve the issue by opening up a few more factories.

But those can’t be the only reasons as to why these things are so scarce. I mean, it’s not like Nvidia is currently scrounging for money right now. Yahoo Finance reports that Nvidia expects the first quarter sales of 2021 to exceed their forecast of 5.3 billion dollars. Clearly someone is buying these cards, but who is it? 


Well let me introduce you to the wonderful world of scalping. No, not the horrific act of removing one’s scalp, but the equally despicable act of buying up the stock of a product to intentionally inflate their market price. 

If you own enough of a product and you’re the only one who has it, you’re able to decide the price of that product. And if people decide that your prices are “reasonable” enough, they’ll buy from you. 

That’s the free market for you. 

There has been a new wave of post market sellers buying up the stock with the intention of selling them back to the consumer base at incredibly inflated prices, serving as an unnecessary middleman.

How exactly are they getting so many cards? Usually when new products are released with the expectation they’ll be in high demand, many physical stores impose a customer limit to prevent people in front of the line from buying the whole store. But with the lovely pandemic going on, many stores have shifted to online storefronts to sell their products and with new technology comes new problems.

Scalpers have figured out a way to make robots so smart that they are trick the website into believing their real individuals. Scalpers have been buying thousands of these bots to ensure they get a hold of a lot of products. 

These bots are so fast that they can add an item to a cart, fill out all the necessary information, and click check out before you could even refresh the page. Most online stores don’t have lines, it’s a free-for-all once the product goes on sale. 

Surely, that has to be it right? Right? Wrong. In addition to all of these reasons, there is one more we need to talk about. 


I’m going to be honest. I’m not going to attempt to explain how cryptocurrencies function and what they exactly mean, mostly because I barely understand it myself. However, there is one thing that is important to know. This somehow ties into graphics cards.

See, there’s a thing called cryptomining, and it’s not exactly done with a pickaxe. It’s an incredibly complex process where people are rewarded money in the form of cryptocurrencies for solving complex functions. It requires a lot of power and processing power, specifically for completing thousands of tasks over and over again.

Sounds familiar yet? Yep, graphics cards do this job incredibly well and the thing with cryptominers is, they are on the more technical savvy side of the consumer base. Not only do they use bots to buy up tons of cards, but they set them up in these things called mining rigs.

They are basically shelfs of graphics cards all being run at the same time to mine cryptocurrencies. This process draws a ton of power and puts these cards through the ringer. These aren’t for resell, cryptominers pretty much suck all use they can out of these.

What we’re up against

So to recap, if you want to get your hands on a graphics card at the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price, you have to compete against scalpers, robots, cryptobroes and a deadly virus. Now this isn’t an issue that money can’t solve of course.

You could always buy a scalped card for nearly double the amount or buy a prebuilt computer that comes with the card you want for about five grand. But a lot of us can’t do that right. We are still suffering from this pandemic, and some of us have to choose between paying the rent or having something to eat.

It’s worse if you need a card to work, but you can’t work without a card. You’re stuck in this Catch-22 situation where you can’t do one without the other. And it looks like this year isn’t going to be much better.

I suppose the best thing to do is to hope that at least one of these problems could be solved soon. It would really help all of us to try to get back to normal living by the end of the year, not having to worry about viruses or robots. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed.