When announcing a free-to-play game, it’s important to make clear what your game is and how it will play. Nearly as important is communicating effectively about how your cash shop will work — and doing it quickly, so that interested players don’t assume the worst and their stories spread before you can establish your own narrative.
(Side note: Virtually every company that says “We’re still figuring it out” already knows the broad details of its cash shop. They’re just delaying what will probably be an unpopular announcement, justifying the delay because they haven’t figured out every price for every single item.)
Valorant was announced just three days ago, and Riot Games is already, thankfully, talking (to Polygon) about how monetization will work. On the surface, it seems good: weapon skins and sprays, which have no effect on gameplay, can be purchased directly or earned through the battle pass. The weapon skins will be upgradable, one of a “couple of different progression systems” the game will have, according to Executive Producer Anna Donlon.
Interestingly, there won’t be character skins, at least initially. Donlon explained that was the case because all characters have the same hitbox and are meant to be instantly recognizable. They might be added later, if “there’s absolutely nothing to impact the gameplay.” As someone who’s played a lot of Overwatch, with its multitude of skins that, in my opinion, don’t hamper my ability to identify characters, I’m a little disappointed in this decision.
What I’m not disappointed by, however, is Riot’s decision to exclude purchasable loot boxes from Valorant. “All for-pay skins will be direct purchase,” Polygon states, likely paraphrasing Donlon. That’s good, and possibly legally compliant, news. It’s a decision that every in-development game should probably lean toward, to “future-proof” it against the possibility of future regulation, whether from external or internal factors.