Valorant skins can be expensive and costly. The latest “Ion” bundle will cost you $70, which is the price of a PlayStation 5 game. These bundles rotate every fourteen or so days, meaning a hardcore Valorant enthusiast would spend around ~140 USD (575 Malaysian Ringgit) a month just collecting skins. That is not murah yal. Countless people have brought this issue up on social media, but Riot is not showing signs of lowering their prices. It immediately made me think about a current, more real problem within our society, Malaysian housing. So, how does one relate Valorant Skins and Cosmetics to the very damaging property overhang issue in Malaysia?
Comparing Valorant Skins to Malaysia Housing Overhang Is a Bit of a Stretch… right?
So let’s start with the Valorant Skins themselves. Not only are they very expensive to buy, they’re also very expensive to upgrade. That’s right, money doesn’t stop moving when you purchase a skin, it stops when you fully upgrade it.
For example, I love the green floral design of the Oni Phantom, but I can’t just buy it. I need to wait for it to appear in rotation (which is another story entirely), and even after spending 2,175 Valorant Points to purchase the Oni Phantom, I have to shell out Radianite to fully upgrade the skin, and then only I can purchase the floral variant. The entire process is extremely costly, and up to today I still beat myself up about it. Tak murah, yal.
The endline is; the pricing is absurd. Not many people are willing to spend money on a free game, let alone pay a whopping 70 USD/575 MYR on it. By pricing their skin bundles this high a price, they’re essentially locking out a good majority of potential customers.
Some of Us are having a WHALE of a time
So, who exactly is justifying Riot charging these insane prices? Who in their right mind spends this amount of money on cosmetics? Well for one, Twitch streamers and competitive players. Their earnings rotate around making the best of the game and flaunting these skins in their high-level gameplay streams and highlights VODs plays an inevitable part in that. Youtubers such as Flights, Ploo, OfflineTV also essentially market the skins for free with their gameplay videos to hundreds of thousands of viewers. Though it’s merely a showcase, exposure of a product is more effective advertising than you’d think.
I doubt every single high-earning streamer is sponsored with skins; I’m sure plenty of them are paying a pretty penny to add flair to their gameplay streams. That being said, out of the thousands of viewers their skill/skin-centric streams reach out to, I’m sure a viable percentage of them would be influenced to make a purchase.
Ocean life is sacred. The notion that whales are an endangered species is highly exaggerated and simply untrue. You have a hard time finding them in the ocean because they simply shifted habitats. The gaming scene is notorious for housing whales, which are big money spenders that will spend large amounts of money on a game. These are the category of people that contribute to the sales of high-end Valorant skin bundles, and their upgrades. Whales aren’t exclusive to Valorant; Genshin Impact, Epic 7, PUBG Mobile, Free Fire and many more are home to the species of fat wallets.
Property Overhang in Johor, and Malaysia in General
So now we can relate the Valorant skin issues to the property overhang problem in Malaysia. It may be unbeknownst to the younger audiences, but a lot of houses are left unsold, particularly in Johor, with no signs of the conditions improving anytime soon.
So, what is the reason over 30,000 units of housing worth upwards of 18-billion ringgit remains unsold in Johor? Well, the answer is straightforward; the pricing is not accessible, nor fair, to the common Malaysian. With houses costing 4.4x the median household income, housing is seriously unaffordable for most. This leaves the property and housing market up to the manipulation of those that can afford it, mainly the higher end of the M40s and the T20s.
Additionally, the government is looking to decrease the minimum requirement value of property from RM1,000,000 to RM600,000 so that it is just nice for foreign investors to purchase and invest in. This makes it more competitive for Malaysians to purchase homes, and is reflected by the 40% of homes remaining unsold in the first half of 2020. Are you starting to see the relatability?
Like 7,100 VP Skin Bundles, Malaysian Property is by default locked out to the mass consumer
After a few talks with real estate agents selling property in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur, I’ve came to these numbers. Do bear in mind that these are rough estimates. Apartments that are small but have strategic locations for ease of commute will cost a minimum of 450,000 Ringgit starting 2021. Pushing down payment aside, taking out a home loan would require the tenant to pay ~1,500 ringgit a month for the next 25 years. Considering that the median income of B40s is just RM 3,166 (with some of us making considerably less, cough, me, cough cough), a monthly commitment of 1,500 MYR is a steep price to pay.
*B40 is the category identifying the lowest earning 40% of Malaysians
Sure, the government and politicians are saying that they are working on things, but currently, the situation is in a bad spot, and perfect for us to compare to the trivial matter of in-game cosmetics. Take a look at the comparison sheet below:
|Valorant equivalent||property equivalent|
|Valorant Skins||Malaysian Housing|
|7,100 VP bundles||Housing B40’s cannot afford|
|Twitch Streamers||Malaysian Celebrities|
Is it a stretch? Maybe, but I’ve worked too long on this to ditch it now.
In The End…
But in the end, is this actually a problem? Skins are just that, skins. Cosmetics that have no affect on gameplay or performance; none of the microtransactions in the game are pay-to-win.
According to Riot, these skins are meant to be out of reach of the mass audience, and the entire point of these bundled skins are meant to have some level of exclusivity to them. In an interview with PC Gamer, Valorant producer Preeti Khanolkar defended the pricing, saying:
“We want there to feel like there’s a level of effort and care put into skins, or any cosmetic content that people engage with, that makes it feel worthwhile. We don’t want anything to feel throwaway.”Preeti Khanolkar
which makes sense, considering the amount of detail and unique, varying VFX each skin brings. There is definitely a noticeable amount of work and care put into each design. While the cost may be ridiculous, the amount of effort put into the skins, and in Valorant as a whole, makes it a fair price to consider.
Valorant Skins – 1 , Property in Malaysia – None
So, that’s the tea ‘o ping kurang manis; people are still buying Valorant skin bundles at an alarming rate. If you think about it, Riot wouldn’t keep charging $70 for bundles if no one were buying them. Additionally, given the current frequency these skins are being pushed out, you’d have to assume that the talented team working on them is getting paid proportionately. There’s no two ways about it, the expensive Valorant Skin bundles are making Riot money. When it comes to live service online games, making money is very important, especially factoring in the costs of maintaining expensive, dedicated 128-tick online servers. Riot wouldn’t be pushing for a business model that doesn’t make them profit.
Additionally, Riot did not make it impossible for everyone to support the game, as the more affordable Battlepass is also available. In addition to that, Valorant has plenty of skins that go for under $10 (~40ish MYR), providing an option for lower spenders that want to add just a little more flair to their gameplay.
I don’t really think you could say the same for Malaysian property, because in the end, there’s still 40% unsold homes, with declining buyers from the usual “foreign investors” from Hong Kong and Singapore.
In the end, Valorant’s “Skin Issues” aren’t that deep. It can create a classist perspective within the community, but in the end, it’s just a game. Relating it to Malaysian property is obviously hyperbole, because that’s a REAL problem.
But hey, it’s not like there are politicians slacking off reading a gaming article in the midst of a PANDEMIC right?