Skins available in tactical FPS titles like Valorant and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are essentially cosmetics that can replace the existing weapon models with decorative designs.
Valve introduced in-game cosmetic trading with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive through its Arms Deal upgrade in 2013. Riot Games announced their in-game store for Valorant during its open beta run by featuring a small sample of weapon skins and other cosmetics.
Weapon skins in both games are purely cosmetic, with no impact on the gameplay, as stated by the developers of both games. The ever-increasing popularity of eSports around the world has led to the continuous influx of money into video game cosmetics. This article features a comparative analysis of the cosmetic market for two of the world's leading tactical FPS esports titles.
Weapon skins in Valorant and CS: GO - Market analysis, how to obtain, value and more
The most common accessory among Valorant players is weapon skins, followed by ornaments called gun buddies, which can be attached to weapon models. Items in Valorant are untradeable.
Valorant has an in-game store that players can use to purchase skins. Multiple weapon skins are collectively released in the form of a bundle. Players who purchase the bundle will receive a melee weapon and other cosmetics for free.
The newly dropped bundle will be available in the store's "Featured" section for two weeks, after which the bundle gets dispersed into individual weapons that have to be purchased through the store's "Offers" section. "Offers" features four unowned weapon skins, with a random set of offers every 24 hours.
One of Valorant's most appealing features is the Night Market, which brings an exclusive set of 6 different weapon skins for a limited time to the player's screen once every 1-2 months.
The night market is popular for its unexpected arrival and the discounts it offers for the listed skins. Exclusive and Ultra tier skins, however, will not be featured.
How to obtain
Valorant has a few different ways to obtain weapon skins. However, the only way to get them for free is by completing the player contracts for each agent. Upon finishing Tier 10 of any agent contract, players can avail the corresponding pistol skin free of cost.
Players can also avail a few different weapon skins by purchasing the game's Battle Pass. Players can complete different tiers of the Battle Pass by earning XP, thereby unlocking weapon skins and other cosmetics.
Items in the Featured and Offers section of the store can be purchased using Valorant Points.
To make in-game purchases on Valorant, players initially have to buy Valorant Points (VP), which can be purchased through PayPal, pre-purchased gift codes, or debit/credit cards, among other means.
VP is an in-game currency that can purchase weapon cosmetics and unlock Tiers of Agent Contracts and Battle Pass. To upgrade a weapon skin and unlock its variants, players must use Radianite Points (RP).
RP can be expensive to purchase and can only be bought with Valorant Points. With the cost of 20 RP amounting to 1600 VP, upgrading a weapon seems more costly than buying one. However, Valorant rewards players with free RP upon completing certain missions. Players who purchase a Battle Pass can also avail RP by completing mission Tiers.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Counter-Strike has innumerable variations for each skin, classified by their wear rating. The wear of weapon skins is calculated by a numerical value called "float", which determines the cost of skins. Websites like FloatDB provide players with nuanced information regarding float values.
In-game purchases on CS: GO are redirected to the Steam Community Market, Valve's trading platform that allows users to buy or sell in-game cosmetics that can be applied to weapons, agent models or serve other purposes pertaining to the game.
Valve levies a 15% tax from every transaction made on the community market, with a maximum transaction limit of $1800. Once added to Steam's wallet, the money cannot be refunded and can only be used to purchase games or make in-game purchases.
The inconvenience caused by Steam's financial restrictions and the exorbitant cost of skins led to the formation of several third-party websites that help CS: GO players trade skins. Players can link their Steam inventory using Steam's application programming interface (API) on these websites.
These alternate websites accept payment through cryptocurrency, in addition to traditional methods. Even though the steam market fetches a higher amount while selling skins, most other websites charge significantly lower taxes with options to withdraw their trade earnings.
How to obtain
CS: GO players are bound to receive in-game drops every week in the form of weapon skins, graffiti, or weapon cases. While skins can replace existing weapon models, cases must be unlocked by purchasing a case key in-game for $2.5.
Since an update in March 2018, players have had a 7-day cooldown before trading any newly-purchased skin. This doesn't apply to trading the skin on the steam market. However, selling skins on alternate websites requires the items to be traded out of the player's inventory, which will be on hold for seven days from the time of purchase.
Due to financial restrictions on the Community Market, expensive skins have to be acquired from alternate trading websites that use Steam's API.
CS: GO has a very volatile skin market with constantly fluctuating prices. Sticking to the principles of a trade market, the value of skins adjusts with demand. Due to the market's nature, skins are also a form of investment for CS: GO players. Most items are guaranteed to reel in profits over the duration of time.
Specific items like the iBuyPower (Holo) and Titan (Holo) stickers from the 2014 Katowice sticker collection are incredibly scarce and are high in demand. These stickers, which cost players $0.5 - $1 in 2014, amount to over $40000 in 2021.
Similarly, CS: GO has had a plethora of weapon cosmetics since its inception that has skyrocketed in value and contributed to Valve's multi-million dollar market.
Comparative analysis of Valorant and CS: GO with respect to their cosmetic markets
Valorant and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are two of the world's leading tactical First Person Shooter games, both in terms of popularity as well as sustainability. With such a diverse player base spread across all continents, skins have become a facet of gaming that connects the entire community.
Introducing skin trading in Counter-Strike was a revolutionary change for the gaming community. However, Steam's open API made it convenient for external websites to access items from steam inventories to promote eSports betting.
When compared to CSGO, the highlight of Valorant is their exclusivity of skins. Valorant players have no alternate source to purchase their skins and wait for luck to favor them with a good "Offers" section. This has players yearning every day for a glimpse of their favorite skin in the store.
As a decorative element for players and viewers in gaming, the price ceiling for CS: GO skins are very high, with the volatility element making it a laborious task for beginners to engage in the market. Valorant's market, on the other hand, has a simple formula that works in favor of both the game and its community.