The term Skin Gambling itself might just come out really wrong, disturbing and creepy to a non-gamer and it sounds like something out of a horror movie. But does it really mean people gamble their own skins and flesh for their thirst for money? Well, fortunately it doesn’t mean that and let’s hope that the gruesome and the unreal act of gambling your skin doesn’t happen anywhere in the world. So exactly, what is skin gambling and where is it found? Before answering that, let’s get familiar with what are “skins” in the digital/gaming world.
Skins are in-game items
A skin is simply a graphical or an audio application in the game mainly designed to add aesthetic values to the in-game characters or the gameplay. Most of the time they don’t directly affect the gameplay or buff your character’s stats in any form but adds a little diversity to the game. These skins come in different forms in different games. For example, in CS:GO skins comes as weapon cosmetics, victory audios and graffities while Dota 2 and League of Legends offers character cosmetics and item cosmetics as well. The concept sounds pretty harmless and innocent so how does it get entangled with the notorious word, “gambling”?
What is Skin Gambling?
Skins can mainly be seen in multiplayer video games and it has become an essential feature in almost all free to play multiplayer games. Basically, skin gambling is the exchanging of in-game cosmetics either won by a player or purchased. Players have gone to the extent of exchanging them for real life currency or in-game currency as the game developers have made some skins very rare, meaning they drop from a cosmetic crate/chest/pack very rarely. This act of exchanging skins has been therefore sometime now and it also has helped to bring the gaming community together in a sort of way.
When did it start?
The history of in-game skins goes way back to the 2000s. Many late 2000s single player games also included skins for weapons and characters, which were bought on the game’s launcher or client. For example, early Assassin’s Creed games featured exclusive skins and content which were only available to buy as DLCs. Later popular multiplayer games like League of Legends also featured in-game cosmetics to add diversity and aesthetics to the game but gambling or exchanging still couldn’t be done on these games. The gambling scene mainly started when Counter-Strike: Global Offensive introduced Arms Deal update to the game in August 2013.
This update introduced the previously mentioned cosmetic items named “skins” to the game for the first time. Skins for weapons and characters were available for purchase on the Steam client and were even dropped for free. Apart from that, exclusive limited-time souvenir skins were also introduced alongside the competitive/esports scene of the game which players could earn by watch those games. Rarer and rarer skins were added to the game and the values of these skins were also growing by the day. Developers mentioned that the introduction of skins were to encourage more players to play and join the game by providing them free items for playing the game and then trade them with the community on the Steam Marketplace. This turned out to be a great success increasing the player count significantly in the following years after its release.
Finally, rarity of the skins made the rarer skins highly sought after by some players and this led for skins to become a virtual currency in the market. The game later introduced weapon cases which were only could be opened by spending $2.49 on a key in the in-game store, which also affected the skin gambling scene directly. Players would either get a skin worth more or less than $2.49, making the system a bit similar to gambling. This made cases a part of the virtual currency system too. Later on with the uncontrollably growing marketplace, third-party sites were introduced to carry out the transactions as the Steam Marketplace only allowed sales up to $400 and as that money could not be withdrawn as in real life currencies. However, the new third-party websites allowed players to trade in higher values with banking/payment services such as PayPal or using cryptocurrencies.
Valve, through these in-game microtransactions of cosmetics have generated a massive revenue of multibillions. And at this time, skin trading sites were done in open without serious interferences. But later in 2015, Valve had to face 2 different lawsuits with evidence emerging the unethical practices surrounding gambling and this ultimately led most of the websites associated with trading to completely shut down. Since then, skin trading/gambling is considered as and secretive operation/business.
Even though the word skin gambling is directly associated with CS:GO, other games also have been practicing similar skin trading habits of their own. For example, Dota 2 also uses similar in-game character cosmetic clothing and weapon replacements as virtual currency. The skins which Dota 2 has are sometimes far more rare than skins in CS:GO, Dota 2’s gambling situation hasn’t been as controversial or grand as the CS:GO’s scene.
Similarly, the Steam based battle royale game, H1Z1 also shares a fast growing and a huge share in the world of skin gambling. Just like Dota 2 and CS:GO, H1Z1 also practices similar ethically questionable practices with its skin dropping system making it more into gambling. So as a result, H1Z1 also has a plenty of marketplaces/trading sites to exchange and sell goods for both fiat and crypto currencies.
Rust is another famous game on Steam which also features skins in the game. You can either buy character skins and other items on the in-game store or wait for free items to drop. The specialty of this game from the rest is that the free drop rate of this game is extremely low, making skins a virtual currency in its own way. So, similar to the other games, Rust also has plenty of sites that offer virtual marketplaces to trade/sell or buy skins.
Betting and gambling with skins
As the recognition for the esports scene of the games, Dota 2 and CS:GO grew with the increasing viewership and the increasing number of tournaments and events, betting/gambling also became a thing as players wanted to wager on their favorite teams and earn a little themselves. As like in any other sport, esports also became a part of the online gambling/betting scene. However, cash gambling on sports, including esports betting, has serious policies and regulations which makes them prohibited in most of the countries around the world. Though it’s been neutralized to some extent, cash gambling is still a little frowned upon.
Since in-game skins have become a valuable method of exchange and a currency in a way, they were then used to gamble with instead of real cash. This helped most sites and players/fans to evade the legal concern regarding gambling. Players were able to bet one or more skins from their Steam inventory, which are moved to the gambling site and they can win the skins back again along with skins from other players upon winning the bets. This added value to their digital currency method, which can be later sold for a reasonable price on skin trading sites. Later on more gambling methods were also introduced like jackpots where players pool in their skins and one win them all. Following are some sites that features skin gambling services mentioned in this article.