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Riot says the League of Legends skin price backlash is “justified”

Following the backlash against League of Legends' $430 Ahri skin, I asked Riot to explain how rarity pricing is going to work going forward.

A pretty woman with long white hair and fox ears sits on a throne holding a crown, tails swooshing behind her, wearing a black tight-fitting outfit with gold trims

League of Legends‘ new Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-hyeok Ahri skin has reignited discussion around the MOBA’s ‘rarity’ market, a term coined by former executive producer Jeremy ‘Brightmoon’ Lee following last year’s backlash against the Dark Cosmic Erasure Jhin chroma. During a roundtable at Riot HQ in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, I asked game director Pu ‘PuPuLasers’ Liu about Riot’s future plans for rarer skins, and whether or not we’ll see more of them going forward.

When I state that some players were “a bit upset” over the $300 Ahri skin (the signature bundle costs $430, but in order to get Immortalized Legend Ahri you need to get the mid-tier bundle), Liu responds that the League of Legends team is aware that “people were very upset about it, not just a little.”

“I also think it’s kind of justified,” he continues, noting that the MOBA is a “14-year-old product” and players are “used to everything living under a certain price point.”

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“We have to own [these rare skins]. These kind of products are designed for a very small percentage of our players to be able to purchase and flex. In terms of what role [they’re] going to play in our portfolio of skin products moving forward, it will continue [to be] a very small minority – I think last year we probably released over 130 or 140 skins, of which less than a handful were priced at that point. I would expect it to continue to be a minority rather than a majority.

“That being said, it’s very important that we share with our players the situation that League of Legends is in,” he continues. “It’s a game that’s competitively orientated; we only sell cosmetics, we don’t want anything that even infringes upon pay-to-win or pay-for-power. As a consequence of that, the vast majority of our players play League, watch esports, enjoy all the content, cinematics, and music for $0.

“The majority of our revenue comes from a small, single digit percentage of players; it’s just the reality that the hobbyist deep spenders are a disproportionate amount of business viability.”

A pretty woman with long white hair and fox ears sits on a throne holding a crown, tails swooshing behind her, wearing a black tight-fitting outfit with gold trims

“What we really thought about is, on the morality side, there are players that are willing to spend $200 a month on their hobbies – God knows how much I’ve spend on Warhammer figures,” he tells me. “But it’s really important that we capture that willingness and that ability to spend [for people who can afford it]. What would look bad for us is if a lot of people that didn’t have a history of spending on League all of a sudden buy the Signature bundle – we’d be like, ‘oh God, what’ve we done?’

“But if it’s like, ‘oh, these people historically have spent money on skins,’ this is now giving them a new avenue the esports ecosystem with a 30% revenue share, and that’s top-line growth, not a profit. We’d rather venture into that space [instead of] trying to get the people who are currently spending $0 – whether that’s because they’re a student or they don’t have the ability to do so.

“We believe there’s such a thing as having too high a percentage of your players spending on a free-to-play game,” he concludes. “That means your free-to-play experience relative to your paid experience is not good enough.”

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League of Legends’ Faker-inspired Hall of Legends event beings on Wednesday, June 12 at 11am PST / 2pm EST / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST. If you’re happy to splash the cash, you’ll be able to pick up Immortalized Legend Ahri, as well as the all-new event pass.

In the meantime, though, it’s worth checking out our LoL tier list; some champs are just built different, after all. Or, if you’re looking for some new skins but can’t quite afford to drop $300, we have a rundown of the current League of Legends Mythic shop – and it’s one of the best ones yet.

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