The How’s and Why’s of Skin Pricing

Champion skins are one of the only things Riot can sell to us for “real” money. This is a pretty indisputable fact. Though saving up the IP to buy every champion, rune and rune page is an incredibly daunting and borderline impossible task, it can be done. Buying Pool Party Leona? That takes cash.

And since it takes real cash, it comes under closer scrutiny from the community as a whole. Sure, Riot Blitzcrank may have a few new textures or a small animation change… but is he really worth that 975 RP? Should I have to shell out that extra 375 RP for Pool Party Graves just because he’s got splash animations?

The short answer, of course, is yes: but not for the reasons you might think. Let’s talk briefly about the reasons why riot has to charge the amount that they do for skins and, when it comes down to it, why players should be a little more willing to cut them a break.

1. Skins are not a normal good

I mean this on two levels. First, skins are not like non-digital goods and services. They aren’t something that can be “fixed”, “upgraded”, “replaced”, or “used up”, all at an expense to the consumer. Second, they do not act like “normal goods” in a marketplace. That is to say (for anyone who may not know) that the demand for skins has very little to do with income. Most league players have a set amount of money they are willing to spend on the game (or on games in general) and most shifts in their economic prosperity will not do much to shift how many skins they consume.

2. Skins are only ever sold once

If you buy an apple, and you eat it, you have to buy another apple. If you buy a car you will eventually have to make repairs, replace parts, or even trade-in for something new. If you buy a skin… you have a skin. And that’s it. Riot has made all the money it can by selling that skin to you for your entire lifetime. It’s a pretty good deal considering champions are updated graphically all the time, and that you don’t even have to pay for the champions themselves. In short, buying a skin is a one-time transaction. The only way Riot can make more money off of you as a gamer is to put more skins out for you to buy: and that’s rough.

3. Riot needs to make money somewhere

All this boils down to one particularly ugly fact: Riot is a business. And Riot needs to operate in such a way that it not only survives, but it thrives. As the company continues to grow its monetary needs will expand, not contract. It needs a constant stream of sales alongside its sponsors, advertisements and other cash flow areas to maintain that growth.

In the end, it’s completely understandable that people would love to pay less for more. It’s the American dream. But expecting Riot to be able to run what is likely the most popular competitive video game on a small pittance is just wrong. So if you fancy yourself a supporter of League of Legends both as a game and as a spectator sport, perhaps it’s time to accept the fact that it needs to see in dollar signs.

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Some Other Zack

Some Other Zack has a passion for League, a penchant for economic and social theory, and a passable grasp of the written word. He brings all of this together to provide a unique angle on Riot and how they function.

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