Ethereum merge actually happened – and just in time to spare the Nvidia RTX 4090

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The long anticipated “merge” event for the Ethereum blockchain is finally happening, and it’s a great day for any gamers out there looking to get the next-gen Nvidia Lovelace graphics cards (such as the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090) that we’re anticipating in the next few weeks.

Ethereum is the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin, and it has been an especially troublesome one for PC gamers. The cryptocoin is mined using something known as “proof-of-work”, which requires a computer to solve an intractable mathematical problem in order to generate a token.

That problem gets exponentially harder as time goes on by design, requiring ever more powerful computers to solve the problem. The solution that Ethereum miners came up with was taking the best graphics cards on the market over the past two years and using them in mining operations large and small.

Demand for Nvidia Ampere graphics cards especially was always going to be high after they launched in late 2020, but actually finding one in stock has been nearly impossible over the past two years as scalpers used bots to buy up stock to resell at inflated prices. 

Cryptominers, who were in this for the Ethereum, were apparently ok with buying up these graphics cards at inflated prices, which just fueled the graphics card shortage. Even the best cheap graphics cards weren’t spared, as five and six year old cards disappeared off store shelves to drive a cryptobubble.

All of this, meanwhile, has been turning math into carbon emissions at a frightening rate, and cryptomining now uses as much energy as a small industrialized country in Europe. This has prompted Ethereum’s move to Proof-of-Stake, which uses a different system for validating blockchain transactions that doesn’t require burning through algorithms for years on end.

That is the so-called merge that happened on September 15, and Ethereum is now off the Proof-of-Work model. Former Ethereum miners who dumped tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars into GPU mining operations are now looking for other proof-of-work coins to mine instead, including a hard-forking of the Ethereum blockchain into a totally different cryptocurrency called Ethereum Proof of Work, according to Coindesk (opens in new tab), or ETHW.

Meanwhile, Bitcoin – which primarily uses specialized ASICs to mine that cryptocurrency – will still hum along as usual, and has no intention of moving to the new proof-of-stake system.

Analysis: Will the merge save Nvidia’s Lovelace launch?

(Image credit: Nvidia)

The timing for the Ethereum merge couldn’t have come at a better time for PC gamers. In less than a week, we are expecting the announcement of the Nvidia RTX 4090 and possibly the Nvidia RTX 4080 as well, and these cards will still be ripe targets for cryptominers looking to up their hashrates.

But other than Ethereum and Bitcoin, there simply aren’t other coins that are likely to entice large scale miners, and the proof, as it were, has been in falling graphics card prices and increased inventories. If proof of work had a real future, these cards would still be purchased as they were before.

Now, things could change, obviously, and another NFT or decentralized finance project could bloom like tulips on a Dutch shore and drive the next bubble, but with our current economic environment, inflation, and an energy crisis, it’s not likely to happen in the near future. This takes a major buyer off the market for graphics cards for the next generation of graphics cards, so while these cards will sell out immediately, gamers stand a much better chance of getting one this time around.