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Skin – an item that can be used to change the appearance of a player’s avatar[1] within a game.  Skins can change the color of an avatar, the avatar’s clothing, the avatar’s items such as weapons and vehicles, and/or the avatar’s appearance.  In most cases, a skin does not effect a player’s in-game performance.  Skins may be awarded to players at no cost for completing specific in-game goals or milestones; skins may also be purchased.

Skins are sometimes distributed as part of Downloadable Content (DLC)[2], and as pre-order incentives for newly-released games.  Skins may also be distributed via Loot Boxes[3].

Skins began to appear in video games as early as 2001 in the game Sonic Adventure 2 (Sega Corp.), where players could download free Christmas themed costumes[4].  In 2006, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Bethesda Softworks/2K Games/Ubisoft) introduced what may be the first ‘paid’ skin, an armor for a horse priced at USD 1.99 on PC and USD 2.50 on the Xbox 360[5].  The term “microtransaction” began being used around this time to refer to paid DLC such as purchasable skins[6]

Today, skins appear in many of the most popular games.  As one example, the release of Spider-Man 2 (Sony Interactive Ent.) in October 2023 was accompanied by over 75 different Spider-Man suits, including several that could only be obtained by pre-ordering the game[7].

The game Fortnite has used skins extensively as a monetization strategy[8]Fortnite is a free-to-play game, but offers players a large number of skins in each ‘Season’ of the game.  In some cases, the skins offered are limited release, and players who obtain such skins gain status within the game by wearing them.  The publisher of Fortnite (Epic Games, Inc.) has partnered with various persons and entities to create skins within the game of famous movie and television characters, comic book characters, musicians and athletes. 


Fortnite was first released in 2017[9] and since that time has gone through approximately twenty-two (22) ‘Seasons,’ each with their own set of unique skins for player avatars, weapons and vehicles[10]. Skin Gambling/Skin Wagering is the process of placing a wager on the outcome of a game where the prize for winning is a skin or skins, and where the skin or skins can be traded or exchanged within an online marketplace for real currency or virtual currency. 

Skin Gambling first became popular in the games Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and Team Fortress 2, with players being able to sell skins on the Steam Marketplace for real currency in amounts upwards of USD 100.00 per skin[11].

[1] An “avatar” is a graphical representation of a user within a game.  See

[2] See definition for “Downloadable Content (DLC),” Esports Legal News Wiki.

[3] See definition for “Loot Boxes,” Esports Legal News Wiki.


[4] “Video Games Skins: A Brief History,” MEDIUM, Felix N., May 9, 2022 (

[5] Id.; see also “Horse armor was mocked, but it launched a billion-dollar cosmetic industry,” Polygon, I. Hernandez, Oct. 13, 2022 (

[6] Id.

[7] “All Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 Suits,” IGN, S. Heaney et al., Nov. 24, 2023 (

[8] See Fortnite game page (


[9] See

[10] See

[11]“The hidden world of Steam trading,” Polygon, M. Bowman, May 22, 2014 (; “How $400 virtual knives saved Counter-Strike,” PC Gamer, E. Lahti, Sept. 17, 2015


  • Darius C. Gambino

    Darius Gambino has over 20 years of experience helping clients protect their intellectual property in the United States and abroad. Clients in industries ranging from technology and manufacturing to consumer goods and professional services rely on Darius to represent them in high stakes patent, trademark and copyright litigation. Darius also assists clients with managing global patent and trademark portfolios, and counsels clients on enforcement strategies. He also represents clients in connection with intellectual property licensing, trade secret disputes, and corporate diligence investigations. Image “Lawyers with Game” logo Darius is the creator and host of the firm’s “Lawyers With Game” video series on YouTube, where he and others from the firm’s Video Gaming and Esports Group discuss current legal issues in the gaming and esports industries. Show less Darius’ patent practice focuses mainly on the electrical and mechanical engineering disciplines. He has worked in various fields including computer software and hardware, consumer goods, medical devices, semiconductor manufacturing, telecommunications, sensors, computer memories and conditional access technologies. Before earning his law degree, Darius was a patent examiner for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Darius is a frequent speaker, and has written extensively, on the topics of design patents and trade dress. Darius is the author of “Trade Dress: Evolution, Strategy and Practice” (2015) from LexisNexis. View all posts

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