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Gamers Rejoice! Ethereum Reminds GPU Miners the End Is Near

Ethereum
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The Merge, which will end Ethereum mining with GPUs, is taking important steps to becoming a reality with the formal opening of a new testnet designed to work out the kinks in the upcoming mining-less approach. That means gamers eventually won't have to compete with Ethereum miners for graphics cards. 

This news comes on the tail end of a pretty good year for Ethereum miners: Coinbase data (opens in new tab) shows the cryptocurrency's price rising from about $731 on January 1 to approximately $3,940 at the time of writing. In addition, the rise of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) pushed the Ethereum hashrate to record numbers. And the switch to a proof-of-stake model, which doesn't rely on miners to preserve the integrity of the blockchain, was delayed from the end of 2021 to some time in the first half of 2022.

But that switch—known most commonly as The Merge—is still coming. The Ethereum Foundation reminded miners of that inevitability Monday by introducing the Kintsugi testnet so developers could "familiarize themselves with Ethereum in a post-merge context." The opportunity for miners to maximize their profits ahead of The Merge or identify whichever cryptocurrency they're going to devote their compute power to afterward was left unsaid.

"The Kintsugi testnet provides the community an opportunity to experiment with post-merge Ethereum and begin to identify any issues," the foundation said in its announcement. "Once feedback has been incorporated into the client software [sic] and the specifications, a final series of testnets will be launched. In parallel, testing efforts will continue ramping up. After this, existing long-lived testnets will run through The Merge. Once these have upgraded and are stable, next up is Ethereum mainnet's transition to proof of stake 🎊." (Emoji theirs.)

Kintsugi has a dedicated landing page for testers; more information about using this public testnet can be found in the documentation. Ethereum developer Tim Beiko (who CoinDesk named one of the most influential people in crypto for 2021) offered a detailed breakdown of how Ethereum itself will operate after The Merge in an October blog post

"At a high-level, at The Merge, clients will switch from following PoW to following PoS to determine Ethereum's latest valid block," Beiko said. "Aside from that, most of the clients' functionality, and, more importantly, the EVM, its state, and how it executes transactions, will stay the same. [...] Post-merge, the current Eth1 and Eth2 clients respectively become the execution and consensus layers (or engines) of Ethereum. This means that node operators of either Eth1 or the Beacon Chain clients will need to run the 'other half' of the stack to have a fully validating node."

The rest of the blog post breaks down changes to Beacon Nodes, the Engine API, and the Execution Engine that will follow The Merge. (It's also punctuated with diagrams explaining the new architecture, but apparently they have been minted as NFTs, and we'd hate to suggest that NFT images can somehow be used by someone who doesn't own them.) Kintsugi is supposed to bring the Ethereum network one step closer to implementing this architecture.

The Ethereum Foundation has shared "various tasks to work through to make the Merge ready for Mainnet release" in "The Merge Mainnet Readiness Checklist" repository on GitHub. Of course, there's still plenty of work to do, so miners don't have to panic just yet. But it seems the day enthusiasts no longer have to compete with Ethereum miners for graphics cards is just a little closer.

Nathaniel Mott
Nathaniel Mott

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.

  • husker
    I'm just a casual observer, but if you remove the energy hog of Proof Of Work (POW) and replace it with a more efficient Proof Of State (POS) technology, it raises 2 big questions in my mind:
    Would hackers still have to spend the incredible amount of energy required (e.g. 51% of the network) to hack the blockchain?
    Would the "perceived" value of the crypto-coin remain as high if the amount of effort (energy) required to add to the blockchain goes down? No huge energy requirement = no huge perceived value.
    My thoughts may be the equivalent of thinking like a 3 year old, but taking a step back and looking at the big picture isn't a bad idea.
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    So they'll change to other mineable currencies, nothing will change, nothing short of the G7 banning all mineable cryptocurrencies will change it.
    Reply
  • jonathan1683
    They can move to other coins, but other coins don't have the value ETH does and there will be a displacement of a petahash of power turned over to less valuable coins which will, in turn, make them less profitable to mine. All in all, it's a very good step I think to help ease the demand. Anything could happen though.
    Reply
  • hotaru.hino
    And even if you remove GPU mining anyway, video cards are still hot commodity items and it won't remove the fact that scalpers will buy them all up the moment they can to turn it around for a profit. This has been a problem well before crypto was on most people's radar.
    Reply
  • daworstplaya
    jonathan1683 said:
    They can move to other coins, but other coins don't have the value ETH does and there will be a displacement of a petahash of power turned over to less valuable coins which will, in turn, make them less profitable to mine. All in all, it's a very good step I think to help ease the demand. Anything could happen though.

    Unless the "currency" they switch to mine using GPUs goes up in value BECAUSE they switched to it. Which would then make mining that new currency using GPUs profitable. Basically this entire ponzi scheme is based on hype and whatever the hype train moves to next is the one that has value. Nothing short of banning Cryto currencies will end this nightmare for gamers, IMHO.
    Reply
  • escksu
    No, it doesnt work. There are already alt coins for mining. No doubt they aren't as profitable as eth. However, can still earn money.... Don't forget that eth was a new kid back then as well. Unless its losing money, pple will just mine another coin.

    New coins are emerging all the time and once eth is no longer available for mining, pple will mine something else. Then simply just push up the value is its profitable....
    Reply
  • DavidC1
    This article makes little sense.

    The real reason for the supply chain is due to the endless lockdowns and the stupid mandates, because the whole world is turning authoritarian. The laying off of people plays a huge part as well.

    Mining contributes to it but it's just an adder. It might slow down the increase but the trend is going to be higher and higher prices all across the board. So if you are upset about gaming GPUs being too expensive, what do you feel about higher food and gas prices?
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    husker said:
    I'm just a casual observer, but if you remove the energy hog of Proof Of Work (POW) and replace it with a more efficient Proof Of State (POS) technology, it raises 2 big questions in my mind:
    Would hackers still have to spend the incredible amount of energy required (e.g. 51% of the network) to hack the blockchain?
    Hash rate is irrelevant in ETC 2.0: you stake ('bond') 32 ETC to become an ETC underwriter. Basically, you are putting down a ~100k$ ETC bond saying that you will faithfully execute legitimate ETC transactions under penalty of having your bond forfeit if you get caught using your stake to authenticate fake transactions.

    Put another way, you pay 32 ETC to get a root certificate that enables you to sign transactions and earn transaction fees instead of using massive GPU-power. The more signing certificates you own, the more transaction fees you can earn since it increase the likelihood that transaction processing s will get assigned to one of your stakes.

    In principle, unless you own a massive number of stakes, ETC 2.0 can run on a single cellphone.
    Reply
  • felicityc
    DavidC1 said:
    This article makes little sense.

    The real reason for the supply chain is due to the endless lockdowns and the stupid mandates, because the whole world is turning authoritarian. The laying off of people plays a huge part as well.

    Mining contributes to it but it's just an adder. It might slow down the increase but the trend is going to be higher and higher prices all across the board. So if you are upset about gaming GPUs being too expensive, what do you feel about higher food and gas prices?

    No it doesn't (edit: just realized this intro sentence makes no sense, so more like, No that's not the main reason, lol). However, the article is wrong it will stop all mining, of course.

    The reason mining contributes so heavily into the price of GPUs is the ease at which a profit can be generated by the 30 series. If you look at prices in both 2017 and last year, you can see specifically how this works. The SAME arguments and same complaints were used in the parabolic rise in prices in 2017. The 1080 and 1080ti were groundbreaking in terms of increasing hashrate.

    The 20 series was garbage, and didn't really improve much in that sense. (check both crypto and nvidia stock at 1080 release and 30 series release; it really didnt take long. at 20 series release, you can see a big down drop in both. it was disappointing in the extreme)

    The 30 series is incredible. It's really a marvel of engineering, as much as we are accustomed to such things. A single 3080 (FHR) has the hashrate of several 1080s.

    I tried mining casually last year (can't do it here much, electricity scales in cost) and I was making around $8 per day (possibly more had I ran it 24 hours, but undervolted) doing nothing. At that point, my 3080 was a low end model that cost me like $800 after shipping and tax, so... I would have made my money back in literally only 3 months. It is an investment -> profit thing. The sanctions and supply issues/semiconductor shortages also have a part, but the LACK of a crash in btc, unlike in 2017, has continued to see the used market being increasingly abused my miners. If you even check hardwareswap you can see people buying them up in the dozens, basically.

    Have 100 GPUs and the electricity/setup to operate them? $8000 to get $80 a day. Add in electricity costs (which, btw, some places DO NOT have, a lot of places in china previously subsidized it, and in america some places do not), and maybe you can subtract 25% or 30% from the overall profit. (This was all last NOVEMBER, 2020, btw. Before crypto started its current cycle. no idea how it would go now, but mining pools tend to work in certain ways anyway)

    So at a 3-4x price premium, that 'making investment back in 3 months' becomes 'making investment back in 1 year or longer'. With how ETH/BTC/etc operates in terms of price action, the risk of this increases. Because of how volatile crypto is, the possibility your investment will be worthless soon is very high. However, because of the lack of a real crash (60k -> 35k -> 60k is not a crash, just a large swing), the OVERALL volatility of crypto lowers. It appears much more appealing to continue to grow ones hashrate potential. Thus, GPU prices increase both to scarcity and this possibility.

    It's basic market theory idk. It's pretty obvious to me.

    "the world is becoming increasingly authoritarian"

    Sorry but as long as capitalism exists it will always be this way, veiled under a thin cloak of lobbyist democracy. Your anger is misdirected.

    hotaru.hino said:
    And even if you remove GPU mining anyway, video cards are still hot commodity items and it won't remove the fact that scalpers will buy them all up the moment they can to turn it around for a profit. This has been a problem well before crypto was on most people's radar.

    Most gamers refuse to buy at these prices. Demand is very low among gamers. If you remove the incentive of profit from miners by the purchase of these cards, demand will plummet because the investment is not worthwhile. Prices will drop because there is some supply, but the supply is taken by those looking NOT to scalp, but to invest.

    EVGA just released a bunch on queue. I got one. Checked ebay/hardwareswap etc, lots of people flipping those for easy money, because it is. Those go not to gamers, because hardly anyone wants to drop $1800 or $1600 on a 3080 unless you can afford it anyway, but someone considering them an investment and not a consumer product WILL in fact spend that money if they believe the risk is worthwhile.
    Reply
  • hannibal
    Because demand is low. they can reduce production of GPUs... Wait, Nvidia already did reduce production so here we are!
    Yeah... gamers will not rejoice for years. There is article in Toms hardware that TSMC predict that it can not full demand until at the end of 2024. So maybe 2025 we get cheaper gpus or MSRP is already high enough aka low end $500+, middle range $1500 that we can buy GPU at MSRP...
    Reply