The term “skin” within video game contexts originates in its practical function to modify a player’s in-game appearance. These can be through modifications to the player’s weapons, equipment, or costumes. Players can switch between standard designs of their in-game items and the “skins” they’ve acquired through gameplay, trading with other players, or making online purchases. For instance, you can buy CS:GO skins here.
Here is the general principle of operation:
- Top-up: Players can top up their balance on the site using real money or items from their inventory. The site values the items and offers the player a certain amount based on their current market rate.
- Selecting items: Players can then select the items they want to buy from the site’s inventory. These can be skins, weapons, keys, and other items.
- Item Exchange: Following the selection and payment of items, an exchange process is initiated by the site through the API (application interface) of a gaming platform like Steam. This facilitates an automatic transfer of items from the site’s account to the user’s account.
As regards pricing, sites can offer economical rates on items for various reasons. They may purchase items at a reduced price from players looking for a quick sale before selling them at a modest markup. Alternatively, they can generate revenue from exchange commissions or by offering additional services such as item upgrades or exchanges for rarer items.
Web APIs and the extension of markets to the wider web
A thorough examination of skin economies must transcend games and platforms, as the economic logic of contemporary platform economies exists in the broader “platform ecosystem,” where users can also sell CS:GO skins. Therefore, a final element must be systematically analyzed: the APIs that enable third-party developers to incorporate particular aspects of both platforms into their games (or on third-party websites).
Simply put, the API is a component of the software development kit (SDK) that permits interaction between diverse software systems, including those developed by third parties. It defines a range of functions or procedures that enable a system to access features or data in another system. This analysis primarily focuses on functions or procedures associated with economic transactions.
Epic’s API is incorporated into the “online services” SDK and enables third-party software developers to create applications directly for the Epic platform. These services consist of a variety of interfaces, such as information about players’ availability, friends, statistics, user data, and more.
Among these interfaces, the Ecom interface is specifically designed for commercial transactions on the platform. Upon closer examination of this API component, it is evident that its scope is confined to the Epic Games store, which is a platform for publishers. Its focus lies mainly in managing content access using digital rights management and facilitating economic transactions between game providers and players.
Thus, although Epic maintains differentiation between players and publishers by encouraging the former to “take the step,” Valve adopts a much more drastic approach by introducing a volatile skin market, inviting players to act as “market speculators.” This development of business models within online gaming provides a crucial setting for the various forms of gambling that enter the industry.