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The inner workings of the CS:GO marketplace, according to Valve

Bronwen Grimes, technical artist on CS:GO, talked today about the road to discovering exactly what skins players wanted, and how they differed from Valve's original thoughts on the matter.
When Valve was planning the content for the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive marketplace, the team had various ideas about what players would like to spend money on. As it turns out, many of those ideas were completely wrong, and it wasn't until the marketplace launched that Valve saw what its players wanted from custom-content. Bronwen Grimes, technical artist on CS:GO, talked at length today at GDC about the road to discovering exactly what sorts of items and skins players wanted, and how they differed from Valve's original thoughts on the matter. "We decided CS:GO would be the first game where you could buy every item on the marketplace," she noted. "Figuring out the value of items was important, as we didn't know what customers wanted to consume." The general goals the team set out were to make it easy to create lots of content in a short space of time, create a wide variety of content, and make it easy for the community to get involved as well. "We needed to keep these goals in mind while deciding which angles to focus on," Grimes noted. That's why the team realized early on that character skins wouldn't work, since it was a lot of work for customization that a player would rarely see -- it's a first-person game, after all. Introducing tons of new weapons was off the table too, since this could unbalance the game and ward players away. Plus, players tend to stick to a small handful of weapons that they like, so new weapons wouldn't be all that popular. Weapon skins, however, seemed like a great idea -- players could see their weapons, other players could see them, and skins were easy enough to make in bulk. That's when the team began looking at real-world guns, and how people customized those. But here was the thing -- Valve though that cool camouflage and military skins would be the way forward, but after launching these on the marketplace, they weren't gaining as much traffic as more bright and colorful weapons. "People make hideous guns," noted Grimes. "So what do people actually want? We're the only service provider, and our taste might not match with our customers."
"People make hideous guns. So what do people actually want? We're the only service provider, and our taste might not match with our customers."
She added, "It turns out that our community values finishes that look like paint guns over military camouflages. People are aspiring to a sport, rather than war." There were plenty of other really interesting lessons to be found from the marketplace too, such as how the history of a Counter Strike weapon can play a big part in the price it sells at. The P250 pistol, for example, is used way more than the deagle in CS:GO -- yet, because it was such an important weapon in previous Counter-Strike games, deagles on average sell for far higher than P250s on the marketplace. Also, skins don't matter as much as the weapon itself when it comes to price. AKs, M4s and AWPs sell for for higher than any other weapon, no matter the skin, simply because those are the go-to weapons for most players (although I'm personally a P90 sorta guy myself.) Another interesting point to consider: Weapons cases usually contain more common weapons than rare weapons, but when you receive a weapon via a straight-up weapon drop, there's a higher chance it'll be up the top of the rarity scale. This means that it's actually possible that a weapon which is supposed to be rare might become more common than weapons below it on the rarity scale, causing its price to drop, and meaning "more common" weapons actually become more valuable in the long run. Gamasutra investigated the underbelly of the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive marketplace earlier this year, finding the gunrunners of the CS scene.

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