Skip to main content

Fortnite’s Skull Trooper mania shows how Epic makes big money selling skins

Fortnite’s Skull Trooper mania shows how Epic makes big money selling skins


Everybody’s special now

Share this story

If you’ve logged on to Fortnite over the last 24 hours, you’ve probably noticed that lobbies are overflowing with players who are wearing the same spooky costume. Veteran players know this as the Skull Trooper skin, a rare cosmetic that previously granted a high social status for Fortnite fans who donned it. Now, though, players are questioning whether or not the Skull Trooper skin is even special anymore.

Over the last year, Fortnite players have built mythologies around its skins, with each costume implying something specific about its owner. A suit that makes players look like John Wick, for example, is the infamous calling card of the bone-headed players with a lust for killing. Eventually, many players buy a skin because they want to communicate something about themselves to the larger fan base. The concept of rarity adds an additional dimension here: some skins have only been available during specific seasons, events, or holidays, or perhaps are simply not sold very often through the in-game store. The in-game economy, combined with player-dictated status, means that a lot of Fortnite’s culture revolves around skins. Even if you don’t want a skin, you likely have an opinion on the types of players who would wear any given costume.

Skull Trooper made its debut in Fortnite in November 2017, only to never appear in the shop again — until yesterday. During that time, the Halloweeny skin had gained a reputation and became one of the most coveted skins in the whole game. If you wore it, you were likely a badass, or so fans believed. So when Skull Trooper became purchasable again, nearly everyone wanted it. It didn’t matter that this time around, Skull Trooper was slightly more expensive: 1,500 v-bucks, or around $15 dollars, compared to the 1,200 v-buck cost of 2017.

Arguably, the increased price was meant to account for the bells and whistles that Epic Games added to the skin. The skin comes with a set of challenges that grant you a back-bling cosmetic, but more curiously, it can also be customized to glow in special colors — but only if you owned the skin before yesterday. Likely, the added customization option is Epic Games’ way of trying to preserve the sense of elite status for the skin. In practice, however, players are reporting that their lobbies have become nothing but Skull Troopers. Anecdotally, Fortnite fans at The Verge have also noticed this phenomenon in action.

If you’re curious about what this looks like in action, here’s a screenshot from a recent game by YouTuber Kiwiz:

Image: Kiwiz

Bringing back Skull Trooper has had repercussions: some players are miffed that their skin has become too common, thereby stripping it of its unique aura. Having a special color doesn’t erase the fact that nearly everyone can look a lot like you now if they have the money for it. Players who have built an identity around being “OGs” of Fortnite — Skull Trooper was introduced before the game properly exploded — feel like Epic has ruined the experience for them. Others just don’t want to wear something that’s too popular.

Reddit user u/TheFrogSplash

Whatever your opinion on the Skull Trooper is, one thing is for certain: if this many players are buying it, Fortnite’s developers likely made a fortune yesterday. (While we don’t have any specific numbers, try this conservative thought experiment on for size: if only 1 percent of Fortnite’s 78 million players bought Skull Trooper yesterday, that comes out to over 11 million dollars in sales.) In Fortnite, the in-game culture is an asset for Epic Games. The more players build something up and the longer the developer holds out on selling something, the more fans will want it, regardless of how good it actually is. Many rare skins aren’t even noteworthy, design-wise, compared to some of the elaborate skins that are being released now.

Skull Trooper may not be as special anymore, but that doesn’t matter: soon, another skin will take its place.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 24 Striking out

External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.

Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.

The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.

Andrew WebsterSep 24
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.

A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.

External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.

External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.