In-game purchases; How Riot Games is testing out how far they can go

In-game purchases are certainly not uncommon these days. Many games, which present themselves as free-to-play have several options or features to be unlocked by paying money. In some games, these features are additional storylines or other things that add up to the base game. However, in other games, you only pay for a visual upgrade while not actually getting a new or unknown feature. The most well-known example of this is the free-to-play game League of Legends.

What can one buy in League of Legends?

When League of Legends (LoL), a computer game developed by Riot Games, got released in 2009 it was, and still is, presented as a free game. The game can only be played online, with, and against other human players. The players fight each other in teams of five battling with ‘champions’ (characters) they pick before the game starts. All champions are unique and can be unlocked with in-game currency. Those champions have, next to their basic design, skins, which are visual updates/changes. Their design (and sometimes attacks) will look different than before, apart from this, there is no actual use for skins. Even though skins thus do not make the champion stronger, seeing that Riot Games made 1,75 billion dollar in 2020, a lot of people seem to buy them anyways.

Examples of Skins

For this, I will only focus on one champion in particular, namely Lux.

Lux uses the power of light to fight her enemies. Her four attacks consist of throwing a ball of light, throwing her staff as a shield to her allies, throwing an area of light on the ground, shooting a giant laser (these are simplified descriptions).

Her original design looks like a normal young girl. The colors of her attacks in her base form can best be described as ‘yellow’. Now let’s take a look at her cheapest skin. This Sorcerer Lux skin only makes her appearance look different, while all her attacks still look the same. This skin costs around 5 euros. When switching our view to the third featured skin, which costs 10 euros, more additional features can be seen. Her design, which is heavily inspired by the popular series Sailor Moon, really visually changes Lux. In this skin, all her attacks are also pink colored and have star effects.

Lux Original Design
Star Guardian Lux
Sorcerer Lux

Lastly, let’s take a look at the skin that, until a year ago, was her most expensive one. It costs 20 euros and features 10 different in-game forms of Lux (based on elements like fire, water, etc). All 10 forms come with unique animations and designs. While battling the enemy, one can change between the different forms.

Elementalist Lux

What is Riot Games doing?

Last year, Riot Games introduced the new concept of Prestige Skins. Such a skin is a special limited edition version of an existing skin.

Battle Academia Lux
Battle Academia Lux Prestige Edition

As can be seen, the two skins don’t differ that much. The Prestige Edition (PE) is basically a golden version of the original skin. Her clothing is slightly changed and recolored and her attacks animations have golden glitters around them. The normal skin can be bought for 10 euros. This stands in strong contrast with the PE skin. This skin was only available during an event and thus could be obtained without paying money. However, this is only in theory. To acquire the necessities to unlock this skin, one has to play almost non-stop during the event (which takes about two weeks). Luckily, the needed items can also be bought. This roughly costs around 80-100 euros.

This insane difference in cost between two skins that are almost the same feels slightly unfair. Still, as someone who only plays Lux, there was one little voice telling me in my head that I had to get this skin. It was sparkly, it was gold, it was pretty but most importantly it was limited. By making a special skin limited, players are being encouraged to buy it, no matter the cost, as they might regret not getting it later. Honestly, I think they could have doubled the cost and people still would have bought it, lured out by it being limited.

And yes, I eventually did get the skin as well