Would you spend $1,000 on a case or a sticker for your iPhone? What if that iPhone belonged to your video game character?
Sounds like an incredibly stupid question, right? But it turns out that there are tonnes of people who are ready to purchase similar “products” – not of a virtual iPhone case, though. How do we decide which in-game items are worth buying with real money and which aren’t?
Let’s turn to logic and common sense. If you’re truly into a particular game and you spend hours every week playing it, then it’s totally justifiable to want to spend a few bucks on a new sword or a gun upgrade to increase the power of your character. It’s not a secret that many games use in-game purchases as a primary source of monetisation. For most mobile games, it’s the only way to make a good profit.
Appearance of new in-game items
It’s not just weapons or character upgrades that people spend their money on, though. There’s another type of in-game item: their function is strictly cosmetic and they don’t influence the character in any way – well, besides how they look. The most successful game in this field is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) – a bestseller from Valve Corporation. Its in-game items are called skins, and they are the virtual goodies players are obsessed with.
CS:GO started customising its weapons using skins. They don’t enhance the firepower of a weapon in any way, but only change the design. Some users are ready to spend tens of thousands of dollars for a rare design of their gun or knife. Skins are typically received when playing CS:GO, but you can also buy them at Steam Community Market, which is also owned by Valve. Most of them are cheap, and this business doesn’t seem to be very successful, but keep in mind that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has millions of monthly active players. The profit from their trade is quite high considering that Valve takes the 15% cut from every CS:GO related purchase. The fact that you can’t withdraw the money from Steam Market but only use them for buying something on the platform makes the final revenue even bigger.
Evolution of skin trading industry
This limitation started the whole new industry of skin trading. Independent platforms pay real money for skins by lowering their price. Most of them serve as a place for trade listings. Others, like skins.cash, buy CS:GO items instantly by offering various payment methods and currencies. There are even online casinos that use skins as chips. Somehow, the thing that was first brought into the game as a strictly cosmetic piece in 2013 became an online currency in 2017.
So, the question remains: is it okay to pay real money for a virtual item which brings nothing but an aesthetic pleasure? The brain says no, but the heart – after all, you’ll see some beautiful AK-47s – may beg to differ.