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Stock weapon "skins" are also color coded with dark brown in the in-game inventory. Some stock weapons have market pages like the AK-47 for example, but they are not tradable or marketable so this color is rarely used for anything other than arbitrary sorting.
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Excluding knife skins, weapon skins are organized by collections. The contents of a single case outside of the rare special items are considered to be part of a single collection. For non-case items, they are in collections based on a theme. This can be based on map, like the 2021 Vertigo Collection, or through an external theme such as the Gods and Monsters Collection.
The collection the randomly dropped weapon skins are in are not dependent on what map the player was playing. For example, playing on Train will not guarantee the player a skin from the Train Collection.
While other titles such as Call of Duty offer similar gameplay, one distinctive feature has helped fuel Counter-Strike's growth: collectible items in the game called "skins." Although they don't improve anyone's chances of winning, the skins cover weapons in distinctive patterns that make players more identifiable when they stream on services like Twitch. Users can buy, sell and trade the skins, and those used by pros become hotly demanded. Some can fetch thousands of dollars in online marketplaces.
Valve controls the skins market. Every few months, it releases an update to Counter-Strike with new designs. It decides how many of each skin get produced and pockets a 15 percent fee every time one gets bought or sold on its official marketplace, called Steam. Valve even offers stock tickers that monitor the skins' constantly shifting values.
But Valve also leaves a door open into the programming of its virtual world, one that allows skins to move out of Steam and into a murky constellation of gambling websites, where they're used as currency. Some $5 billion was wagered in skins in 2016, according to research by the firms Eilers & Krejcik Gaming and Narus Advisors. While about 40 percent of them are bet on esports matches and tournaments, says Chris Grove, who authored a study for the companies, roughly $3 billion worth flows to a darker corner of the internet -- one populated by fly-by-night websites that accept skins for casino-style gaming. Here, the games are simple, the action is fast and new sites open as soon as others close. Plenty of adults visit these sites, but with virtually no age restrictions, kids are also able to gamble their skins -- often bought with a parent's credit card -- on slots, dice, coin flips or roulette spins. At least one site even has pro sports betting.
In August of 2013, Elijah decided to check out a newer version of CS:GO called "The Arms Deal Update." The weapons in the game stayed the same -- AK-47s, knives and the like. But now players could buy new decorative covers for them, known as skins.
The idea wasn't original; Valve had similar items in an earlier game, Team Fortress 2. But the way these skins were won was new and exciting. Thousands of skin variations now exist. During the course of play, gamers can get access to locked cases with as many as two dozen skins inside. To open the locked case, though, a player has to purchase a $2.49 key from Steam that triggers a slot machine that spins to determine which skin the player gets to keep. It's easy to come away with a common one that might be valued at a few cents, but some are so rare they can fetch thousands of dollars.
Valve doesn't technically sell its skins for cash. Instead, every dollar deposited to a player's account gets converted to Steam credits, which can then be traded on the site for skins, other games or ancillary products. Once dollars become credits, the company does not convert them back.
While Steam's open API allows users to do positive things -- many suggest new skins or maps or avatars -- it also leaves the door open for mischief. Outside sites can cross Valve's bridge to insert "bots," or automated programs, which allow gamers to transfer their skins from their Steam accounts to the other sites. There, they could be cashed out for real money. OPSkins, for instance, is an eBay-like peer-to-peer platform where users can freely buy and sell to one another. Those websites also do away with the $400 limit on trades that Valve imposes on Steam. With the open door in place, the skins market outside of Steam is free to set whatever prices it wants.
The skin trade meant a river of new revenue for Valve, which profited from game sales and the fees it collected, not to mention new visitors to Steam. But it also created opportunities for entrepreneurs who were imagining other uses for skins -- namely, betting.
In early 2014, Elijah saw $100 worth of skins sitting in the Steam account of a classmate and asked, "Dang, where'd you get that?" His friend told him about CSGO Lounge, a site that posted odds on professional Counter-Strike matches and accepted skins as bets. "You'd watch the games on Twitch and it made it really fun because you had money on the line, and your friends would bet on teams too," Elijah says.
Since he already had a Steam account tied to his father's credit card, it was simple enough for Elijah to open a CSGO Lounge account and transfer his skins into it. If he lost his bets, he could buy more skins on Steam and move them back to the gambling site. And since Elijah kept his wagers small -- five bucks of skins here, 10 bucks there -- his father, Grady, shrugged when he started seeing a few minor charges from a company called Steam on his Visa bill.
Grove, the Eilers and Narus researcher and editor of LegalSportsReport.com, had been focused on covering the daily fantasy sports boom and was paying only cursory attention to esports. Figuring he should catch up, he created a program to track the number of skins being bet on tournaments and tabulated their values over a few days.
What Grove hadn't yet grasped, though he soon would, was how much of that money had already moved past sites like CSGO Lounge, where gamblers were betting skins on the outcome of Counter-Strike matches and tournaments, to websites that offered far more addictive games.
- Grady Ballard, father of a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against valveA new world opened up to Elijah, and with it a greater desire for skins. In early 2015, after he turned 14, he set his sights on two knife skins that he saw a professional player use on Twitch -- a Karambit Doppler and an M9 Bayonet Doppler. They cost a combined $900, but he didn't have enough money in his Steam account. So he sold his iPad on eBay for $200 and added some money he made working at his grandmother's Hebrew school. He billed the remaining cost of the skins to his father's credit card.
Elijah expected that "all my friends would see I had those skins and be like, 'Wow, dude, you're cool.'" But they quickly got bored. When the rush of owning the skins wore off, Elijah found himself on CSGO Jackpot, betting them away. He put $10 bets on coin flips and doubled down each time he lost. "I lost 10 times in a row and lost it all," he says.
No extensive research has been done into skins gambling, much less how many of those who are hooked on it are minors. But Counter-Strike's popularity with kids undoubtedly puts many of them at risk. Timothy Wayne Fong, the co-director of gambling studies at UCLA, says that skins are a highly effective tool for hooking those predisposed to addiction: "These are available and affordable, and they're part of a highly rewarding activity."
At one point, Brenda called PayPal because it kept trying to bill their bank for the same charge, causing multiple overdraft fees. Brenda says that when she explained that her son was trying to buy skins, the customer service rep was sympathetic, saying: All the kids are doing it.
The sites that Elijah frequented all had relatively small pots. He could afford to visit others only as a spectator. One of them was CSGO Lotto, a high-stakes skins casino where two of his favorite YouTubers, Martin and Cassell, were rolling in the spring of 2016.
Cassell streamed himself playing a coin flip game called Duel. In one instance, he bet skins worth $957 and murmured "Please ..." as a virtual coin spun. When it came up his way, he leaped out of his seat and gave a double middle finger to his computer screen in apparent glee.
Martin seemed even more audacious. He streamed himself throwing three skins worth a total of $4,444 into a pot, then waited on edge as 10 bars of a slot machine swirled. When four of the bars turned his way, he ran into another room, screaming, "Oh my god. Woooo, hooo, hooo, hooo! Woooo!" Emboldened, he threw two more skins into the next pot, making it worth $8,826. Despite an odds counter that showed him with an 18.84 percent chance of winning, the slots came up his way again. His reaction was earsplitting.
A native of India in his 30s, he posts on YouTube under the name HonorTheCall, but he was inconsequential compared with Cassell or Martin. He had barely 1,500 followers. But he'd been tracking a rash of recent reports -- including a widely read one on Bloomberg.com -- that detailed the growth of skins gambling as well as scandals involving celebrity gamers who'd promoted sites without acknowledging secret payments.
Martin was in his Orlando home when he filmed a video response. It began with the admission, "Tom and I were in LA, at a rooftop pool at a hotel, and we were just kinda enjoying our afternoon, swimming around, eating good food," when they started talking about skins gambling. "We really liked those sites," he went on, but he said he felt that certain "improvements" could be made. Calling himself "the type of person who always looks for a problem and wants to solve it," he decided to launch one of his own.
Martin denied rigging bets in his favor. He even pointed his hand-held camera at his pet Labrador and said, "I swear to God, on Cooper's life." But inexplicably, a minute later he conceded that he used his own skins on only 70 percent of his bets; the rest were skins belonging to the site, which had been raking in gains from customers' losses. 041b061a72