Over the weekend, Fortnite's Reflex skin became available for purchase from the in-game store for the first time. For $15, anyone can look like a super-cop adorned in this season's best tactical turquoise.
But Reflex isn't a new skin. It's been around since late last year as part of the Nvidia Fortnite bundle. Purchase any eligible GPU and you get access to the Reflex skin, back bling, pick axe, and glider, with the added kick of 2,000 V-Bucks play around with.
Many players perceived the promotion as being like the Samsung Galaxy or more recent Samsung IKONIK promotions, where anyone that purchases an eligible phone receives a unique skin not obtainable anywhere else. And so money was spent.
The GPUs (the GeForce GTX 1070 Ti, 1070, 1060, 1050 Ti, and 1050) aren't exactly cheap, and because the skin aftermarket on Ebay is already overloaded with cosmetics tied to events and promotions, some people bought multiple cards in an attempt to get a kickback from all that artificial scarcity. Buy the cards, sell the skin codes, sell the cards: profit.
Big time streamers and casual players gave in to the pull. The thread below the recent announcement tweet of the skin's availability in the store is an emotional roller coaster, with regretful buyers bemoaning the ambiguous nature of the Reflex promotion while weathering a barrage of incredulous surprise that anyone would spend so much money on such a forgettable cosmetic set.
One of the biggest Fortnite streamers, Dakotaz, claims to have bought seven bundles, likely for giveaways on his channel. Whether he bought those skins on the aftermarket or bundled with GPUs, I'm not sure (I've asked). One bundle buyer didn't make the jump to a 2070 so they could qualify for the code, while another dozen also claim to have bought a card just for the skin. Across the board, a lot of money was spent on the allure of standing out in a match.
No one should buy a new graphics card just to look like a tropical cop, but I can still understand the temptation and confusion. The language around these promotions is ambiguous. In every instance I could find of the word "exclusive" in Nvidia Fortnite Bundle promos, what specifically is exclusive is never clearly outlined. Epic's own page announcing the promotion doesn't clarify the bundle's exclusivity one way or the other, only stating it's "available for a limited time." Uh oh, better get it while it lasts.
A tweet from the Nvidia GeForce account claims the bundle is exclusive, which gives the impression of scarcity, but ultimately only applies to the bundle as a whole and not the individual items within.
It's easy to lay the blame on players who don't read the terms and conditions, but there's nothing in them that explicitly states the nature of the promotional skins, either. We're told the offer is available until May 22, 2019 and that the redemption period ends on June 22, but that's it. To make the correct decision, prospective purchasers would have had to check the fine print and then conclude that the lack of specifics meant that the skin would be available for individual purchase later, unlike other promotions that do feature exclusive items.
In the realm of digital cosmetics, scarcity doesn't exist. It's why Fortnite's in-game shop rotates through cosmetics on a timer and never lets on when items will be made available again. By doing so, Epic creates tension, a fear of missing out.
Limited-time promotions create the same anxiety, and in Fortnite, where specific skins garner unique reputations among regular players over time, getting in on a rare skin with a baked-in character is pretty appealing. Soccer skins with black shields are try-hards, anyone playing as the lizard ninja since Season 8 is probably 12 years old, and fish people like myself tend to be as clumsy as we look. I'm not surprised so many people jumped the gun and skipped the fine print. Player expression is huge in Fortnite.
With cosmetic digital items at the fore of most videogame monetization schemes, I expect them to be treated like an investment, a reflection of the money and time spent on them. If Epic is going to pull the rug out from under skin-hunters like this, then the language detailing the possibility of a rug-pulling should be much, much clearer.