28th October 2020 – 8:38pm
Since the release of Valorant, a question arises: are the skins too expensive? The prices of the skins are indeed very high when compared to the prices of other Riot Games' games. Questioned by PC Gamer on this subject, Riot Oniram, Lead Artist, and Riot SWAGGERNAU7, Senior Revenue Strategy Manager, answer no, without batting an eye.
To give an idea, the Elderflame pack alone costs a hundred euros for four skins (each sold at €25 each). These are the most expensive skins to date, but still a colossal sum compared to what you can see in most free-to-play games.
These prices are however fully assumed on the side of Riot Games.
We set a precedent in Valorant that the type of content that we make isn't meant to be 'cheap,' is the term we throw around," premium content art lead Sean Marino told me. "We don't want players to look at something and say, 'This feels cheap to me.'
Part of what we take a look at for all our skins, and this is sort of a Riot-wide approach, is that we want there to feel like there's a level of effort and care put into skins, or any cosmetic content that people engage with, that makes it feel worthwhile. We don't want anything to feel throwaway.Riot Oniram
As an example, Riot SWAGGERNAU7 mentions the Nebula Skins which look like windows open to space.
Whatever we choose to make, we're thinking about the end experience that a player is going to get using it," producer Preeti Khanolkar added. "Taking a static image of a galaxy and putting it on a gun is one way to do that, but the feeling of flying through space and that kind of freedom that comes with it, that fantasy, is really what we wanted to achieve with that Nebula skin.Riot SWAGGERNAU7
According to them, the price of bundles makes people react, but it's only an eye-grabber. The displayed prices of the packs represent the sum of all the skins, but players are usually only interested in one or two skins. This is something Riot Games has observed when releasing packs on League of Legends. Only fans of a particular theme purchase all packs.
According to Riot, the fact that the skins are only available temporarily also justifies the pricing. This is because the store is subject to a very limited rotation of skins available for purchase. It's not enough to pay to have a skin, you have to be there at the right time. Since weapon skins rarely come back for sale in the random selection, owning a skin released when Valorant launches, for example, gives it additional symbolic value.
This is undeniable and you can see it in other games. Earbuds in Team Fortress 2 which were purchasable only when the game launched on Apple. These headphones have long become the highest monetary unit in the community, despite its genuine interest in gaming. To stay in Riot Games' games, the skin Black Alistar of League of Legends is admittedly of questionable quality regarding current Riot standards, but owning it immediately tells other gamers that you are an old hand. It's a kind of social marker, like most cosmetic items (in video games just as in real life).
Store rotation is also a way to keep players engaged and push them to reconnect to Valorant. It creates a rendezvous for players eager to see what's on sale. Randomness is a very powerful tool in getting players to buy. It creates a sense of urgency that makes you want to buy without thinking, before the skin is gone.
On the other hand, even if we talk a lot about expensive bundles, Riot Games mainly focuses on the Battle Pass. This is the most purchased product in the Valorant store, partly because it provides the best price-quality (or quantity) ratio. This is why a lot of effort is invested in providing a variety or rewards, both in terms of items and themes.
We're looking for a diverse thematic experience in the battle pass. You'll notice that there's three thematics in there that are very different. That's something that premium content tries really hard to do, so the battle pass is appealing to as many people as possible.Riot Marino
Riot also makes sure to offer skins for most weapons, at different levels in each Battle Pass. If a player has not been able to invest enough to reach level 45 and receive their Vandal skin, they will be able to get another Vandal skin in the next Battle Pass at level 25. A rotation is made so that players who have little time to invest in Valorant can still get a skin for each weapon in each pass. The goal of Riot Games is that, ultimately, players who purchase the Battle Pass every month have at least one skin for each weapon.
The Valorant Store and the Battle Pass are therefore two opposing ways of purchasing content. The store allows players to obtain a specific skin, but for a very limited time, by investing their money. The Battle Pass allows you to get many Riot-decided skins common to all players by investing your time.
Valorant developers, on the other hand, don't want lootboxes in Valorant. If the store rotation is random, it's out of the question to charge players without them knowing what they're spending their money on. But according to Riot, the downside of knowing what you pay for, is paying more than most other games.
Obviously, they're not ready to change their prices. If they're that confident about it, it's probably that there are enough players willing to pay to prove them right. The joys of supply and demand, then.