Epic, Steam, and the role of skin-betting in game (platform) economies

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In this article, we discuss how and why virtual items known as “skins” travel beyond games and into wider online ecosystems where they become tokens in gambling games. We argue that betting with skins purchased on the Steam platform contributes to the wider platform economy. We do this on the basis of a comparative analysis of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Fortnite: Battle Royale as well as the two platforms on which these games exist. First, we discuss the notion of platform economies in relation to the two cases in question and how this positions the consumer as “prosumer” and “micro-entrepreneur.” Second, we introduce our analytical framework related to game economies and skins as commodities and currencies. On the basis of this, we compare the ways skins are acquired in the two games and the degree to which they extend exist beyond the game. We argue that Epic retains a “skin-monopoly,” within the game, whereas Steam features a free “skin market” that transgresses the platform and turns the “prosumer” into a “micro-entrepreneur” and the “modder” into a “speculator.”




Thorhauge, A. M., & Nielsen, R. K. L. (2021). Epic, Steam, and the role of skin-betting in game (platform) economies. Journal of Consumer Culture, 21(1), 52–67. https://doi.org/10.1177/1469540521993929

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