CS:GO’s Million Dollar Skin Market

CS:GO’s Million Dollar Skin Market

Written by 

Owen Turner


19th Sep 2020 18:00

CS:GO is a game that has a skin market considered to be for high rollers. Valve generates revenue from cases, keys, and transaction fees once placed on the market. According to Statista, Valve’s most recent revenue announcement was back in 2018, and included a whopping 414 million U.S Dollars. Besides the option to purchase prime for fifteen dollars, the game itself is free to play. Knowing the number of users on ESEA and Faceit, most of Valve’s revenue must come from skins. Most people argue that the only thing keeping CS:GO interesting besides its much-loved esports scene, is its skins.

Now, these skins aren’t the same as buying a twenty dollar gingerbread character in Fortnite. I’m talking about cashing out your 401k to flex on your friends. Knives alone can cost thousands of dollars, leaving a massive hole in your wallet. Some Steam accounts have reportedly been priced at two hundred grand from its Chinese database. But who designs all these skins?  

The original designs were released by Valve, but a fan base of artists quickly grew, and started to show the world their creations. This eventually led to people stealing designs in an attempt to make a name for themselves in the community. Some well-known examples include the M4A4 Griffin, AK-47 Frontside Misty, and even stickers like “Just Trolling” from the season 4 series. On the other hand, a lot of talented artists have been awarded for their work. It’s been reported that Valve has paid out a total of 45 million U.S dollars to these skin designers. That’s a lot of dough. Some skins even catch the eyes of people within online forums. 

CSGO Skins
Click to enlarge

One project in particular titled “Snack Attack”, designed by 2Minds and Sparkwire, has received lots of positive feedback, including four hundred comments, thirteen thousand upvotes, and four hundred awards across Reddit and Steam. Their design features a Glock-18 with a transparent confetti shell, packed with small toys resembling fast-food classics such as hotdogs, hamburgers, fries, and soda. This project is from a well-known illustration group known as 2Minds Studio. 

CSGO Skins
Click to enlarge

Besides the more prominent names in the industry, a new designer who goes by CHET released the "Snoozin' Bunny". This skin was designed for the M4A4 which features a leafy background, mushrooms, and a sleeping bunny. The design is quiet, but has the community wanting more. The post has received one hundred comments, seven thousand upvotes, and sixty-six awards.  

Nowadays, skin designers are making top dollars when it comes to being acquired for the CS:GO market. But it wasn't always like this. According to designer Chris Le, the original paycheck was forty grand, but things have apparently changed. Besides the upfront payment, designers also get a percentage from key sales and market sales. This means you get paid every time someone purchases a key for your skin case, or sells the skin separately on the market. That's exactly five per cent from Steam and ten per cent from CS:GO for every transaction.

Obviously, skin prices vary on the market, which is what makes them so unique compared to what other games have to offer. Due to Valve keeping most of their information on the low, and being quick to make their creators sign NDA contracts, we don't know the exact amount of money they make nowadays. After solving a rough calculation of each revenue stream, you can expect skin designers to make between seventy and one hundred grand each year.

Skins and stickers are pretty common bases for designers, but others focus less on the camo and more on the tool. For example, gloves were originally a plug-in concept back in 2016 introduced by tournament organisers from the StarLadder i-League. These gloves were a bit different. Rather than having brand new camos, they were simple black base gloves with team logos for each competitor.

Another well-known creation that is mostly used for trolling are the graffiti cans. They're not rare, but offer a fun light-hearted feature within the game. Because we all know there's nothing better than spraying a salt shaker next to the bomb before defusing. It takes a certain person to produce a mod that will grab the internet's attention. 

Obviously, it's easy to look at these skin designers and the money they make, but that's a tiny percentage. The steam workshop contains thousands of skins, while a case only contains eighteen designs. The CS:GO community is lucky to have these hard-working content creators that want to bring joy to their fellow teammates on such a successful platform like the Steam market.  

Images via Medium | Steam Workshop | 2Minds Studio | CHET 

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