How a gaming sticker increased in value faster than bitcoin
Digital assets are all anyone talks about at the moment, with NFTs and cryptocurrency the new gold rush. But few realize that some games can offer an interesting and burgeoning market place for online trading opportunities. As part of The Drum's Gaming Advertising Deep Dive, Jake Stangroom, creative content executive at Honcho, looks at how an in-game sticker increased 165x more than bitcoin in value.
There’s one thing that most modern video-games have in common: you can spend your hard earned cash on virtual aesthetics to make your character, guns and cars look way cooler. And there’s one thing that unites most gamers, including myself: we love making our characters, guns, and cars look way cooler.
Gamers are willing to spend so much money on these aesthetic improvements, called ‘skins’, that the new business model trend is to make a game free and just sell these virtual items to generate revenue.
In general, games will either sell the skin directly for a fixed price, or more commonly sell loot boxes, which you have to pay to open to be given a random skin, with a low chance of getting a super rare item.
The latest marketing news and insights straight to your inbox.
Get the best of The Drum by choosing from a series of great email briefings, whether that’s daily news, weekly recaps or deep dives into media or creativity.Sign up
Counter Strike Global Offensive (CSGO), the third most popular PC-only, first-person shooter game - a game which prior to 2018 cost $14.99 but is now free to play - uses this exact method to rake in the dollar. However, unlike the majority of games, which offer similar loot box systems, the difference with CSGO is that skins are worth real money and can be sold for cold, hard cash. This is a feature that most mainstream games do not offer, and the reason that there’s a thriving sub-economy with many investment opportunities on this particular title.
Here’s how a CSGO sticker became more valuable than a bitcoin.
What is CSGO’s Titan Holo sticker?
The Titan Holo sticker is considered the holy grail in CSGO, an extremely rare and desirable item that only the mega rich can afford. And an item that, back in 2014, was selling for less than $10 each. But what are stickers, who is Titan and why is this in-game item worth more than a bitcoin?
Firstly, a sticker does exactly what you imagine: it is essentially a small graphic that can be applied to any of your weapon skins to give them an extra pizazz and character. Stickers can come in many different shapes and sizes, textures and colors, which leads some to be more desirable than others, thus more expensive. However, the key feature which has led to these extremely rare and expensive stickers is that, once you apply a sticker to a skin there is no way to get them back. If you want to remove a sticker from your skin the only way is to “scrape” it, which then deletes the sticker.
Back in March 2014, the second ever CSGO ‘major’ event took place. A major is an official tournament run by the developers of the game, essentially the equivalent of the FIFA World Cup in football. However, this major was the first time team stickers were introduced and were distributed in sticker capsules (a form of loot box), which were only available to buy for a very short period during the major. Inside these sticker capsules were eight different team logos (including the esports team ‘Titan’) in either a ‘paper’ form, or a shiny ‘holo’ form. However, the odds of getting a holo were only around one in 10.
How the Titan Holo increased in value
Here we see the perfect storm for a rare item: an item that could only be obtained for a short period during the early days of CSGO where there were only a few hundred-thousand players total. There’s a one in 10 chance of getting a holo sticker and then a further one in eight chance of that sticker being the notorious Titan holo.
During the time of the first major, these capsules were selling for as low as $0.28 each. And for the Titan holos, they were selling for as low as $5.55. Fast forward to 2022 and the most recent sale of a Titan holo was $62,500 with the current cheapest listed for $73,000. This equates to a 1,126,026% increase in only an eight year gap.
To put this in perspective, during this CSGO major in March 2014, bitcoin was worth $520. Jump forward another eight years, and bitcoin’s peak price reached $68,000, meaning the increase in value equates to a measly 12,976.9% in comparison. However, considering bitcoin’s current price of $36,000 (at time of writing), the increase now only equates to a puny 6823.08% rise.
But maybe you want to take the risk of a 1.25% chance of opening one from a capsule? Well, unfortunately, these are no longer the price they used to be either. If you wanted to open one today it would set you back the hefty amount of $13,200. So, for investments this would take the crown at a whopping 4,714,186% increase over an eight year period. Luckily, if you do take the risk and open a capsule, you haven't only got the 1.25% chance of a Titan holo, the other holo stickers are also worth a pretty penny.
While CSGO still offers incredible investment opportunities , this is just a small microcosm of the digital assets market in gaming, the space is ripe for the taking with a bit of trading intelligence. Other examples of games where markets like this exist include Dota 2, Rust, and Fortnite. The opportunity to get in early on a growing market may well be a tasty prospect to those looking to make money in an increasingly digital age.
Content by The Drum Network member:
Honchō has been on a remarkable journey of success and expansion since its creation in 2008. Founded and launched by Chris Ailey as iThinkMedia, the company originally focused on primarily providing SEO services. Its first-ever client was a notable brand of nationwide repute – Mothercare.In the years since, the company has evolved and grown, not just in number but also in terms of the services it offers. In 2019, to better reflect the changing nature of the agency, it was rebranded as Honchō; a bold new name for a brave new future.Find out more