Valve title Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a popular multiplayer first-person shooter with anywhere between 200 and 500+ thousand users playing the game at any point in time. Skilled CS:GO players are able to compete in million dollar tournaments that are streamed live, a growing trend in online tournament style games. It can be argued that much of the success of CS:GO is due to the ability to acquire, buy, sell and gamble skins.
Skins are alternative versions of weapons that are purely cosmetic, with no functional difference unless their colours or textures give an advantage or disadvantage during gameplay; they can be acquired within the game, obtained through promotions, traded with other players, or purchased using real money. Skins are classified by their rarity (quality) indicating their value; as much as $400USD on the Steam Marketplace (or above using a third-party website). Players have also been able to sell their skins for real money, gamble using real money to obtain these skins, as well as using the skins themselves as gambling currency; the latter of which has lead to several legal cases involving underage gambling. Bloomberg reports that the gambling of skins will generate, this year alone, approximately $7.4 billion (USD), 12 times the revenue generated by established online betting agencies.
Initially Valve encouraged the open trading of skins, using market places to buy and sell skins using real money, and were accused of allowing these unaffiliated gambling agencies to proliferate and in turn, Valve profiting from the resulting sale of skins. Given the ongoing legal battles and negative media exposure, Valve have now announced they will crack down upon websites that use Steam, Valve’s gaming portal, to carrying out gambling activities.
And just how are Valve planning to do this?
“We’d like to clarify that we have no business relationships with any of these sites. We are going to start sending notices to these sites requesting they cease operations through Steam.” – Valve spokesman Erik Johnson.
While Valve is taking a very conservative and cautious approach in this, Twitch, a live streaming gaming service, have publicly announced they will not allow the streaming of CS:GO gambling activities as a consequence, and could signal the beginning of the end of large scale skin betting activities. These announcements, however gentle they may seem, will certainly have repercussions on the value of skins players currently own. In response to this, Johnson is quoted saying “Users should probably consider this information as they manage their in-game item inventory and trade activity.”