Game talk

Buying Dota 2 skins: Definitive guide

Skins are cosmetics items for heroes in Dota 2. Here is how to buy them, the right way.

Skins in Dota 2 are purely cosmetic items that add zero impact to your hero’s skills, stats, or any other aspect. They merely change the appearance of your hero.

All heroes have skins designed by a great community of artists that uses the Steam Workshop to upload their meshes. Each skin (or more commonly, a set) goes through a rigorous process of voting and approval before it can materialize inside Dota 2 or be available for purchase on the Steam Market.

Let’s see how you buy these skins.

Buying from within Dota 2

juggernaut dota 2 set
The most convenient way is to buy directly from the Heroes tab. But buying from the Steam market can help you save.

Dota 2 makes it very easy to purchase a set or a specific item for your hero. These are the windows that allow you to purchase these:

  • Go to the Heroes tab and select the hero you want to purchase a set for. Here, you’ll find a carousel of different items sorted by their popularity or what Steam considers to be the most relevant for your location. You can click on the little arrows to navigate this carousel.
  • Go to the Store tab and click on the Browse section just below the primary tabs. On the left sidebar, you’ll see a selection of different categories according to which you can sort the available items. Choose Heroes from this list and then click the drop-down button. Here, you can pick the hero of your choice from a screen similar to the game’s hero-picking screen. Once done, you’ll be able to see all the items available for purchase for that hero.
  • Also, when you’ve entered a game and picked your hero, you will be able to see available items just below your hero that can be directly purchased.

Buying from outside Dota 2 but inside Steam

Outside of Dota 2, you can make multiple purchases and even save some money. You’ll need to use Steam’s Market feature for that.

This is a method that I consider to be more effective and community-friendly. It also helps you save money. In fact, you can bid for a slightly lower amount than the current going price of the set, and someone sooner or later will sell it at that price.

Of course, this depends on the supply and demand. Sometimes your trade/bid will go through quickly, while sometimes there might be no takers. If there are no takers, adjust your price to make it closer to the current going price, or just buy at the current going price (which has no delays).

  1. Open Steam
  2. From the menu, hover on Community and click on Market
  3. From the right hand side filter, choose Dota 2
  4. Click on “Advanced options” to better filter what you are looking for (by rarity, hero, etc.)

For example, let’s say you want ability effects. You will add the hero’s name and tick Immortal. All Immortal sets for that hero will be displayed with their prices. Scroll a bit and you are bound to get better prices, not to mention the ability to bid at your own preferred price.

riki diretide set dota 2
Some sets are event-specific, like this Riki set came during Diretide. If you can wait, you will find all event-specific sets dumped on the market after a good deal of time has passed since the event’s end – often for remarkably lower than what they would’ve cost during the event.

Buying from external sources

There are tons of websites out there that sell Dota 2 skins (often along with other games, most popularly CS: GO). They provide various benefits and features such as heavy discounts, seasonal sales, item selling, grouped buying, and so on.

Some websites come and go while others are here to stay. Also, being scammed by websites is something that’s not considered rare in the Dota 2 community.

I’m not the one to pass judgment about which sources are 100% safe and which websites are merely a scam. I encourage you to do your own research (read Google search) and post your concerns in the Steam Community if you want to go down this road for purchasing your hero skins.

Why do people buy skins?

tusk dota 2 set
Skins or sets allow players to add personality to their character, thus breaking away from the “default” look.

It’s surprising but a lot of people actually wonder why people spend so much money on buying skins for their Dota 2 hero. There have been multiple discussions about this throughout the internet. Some were articulated while some others were not ideally communicative, except if your idea of proper communication is trash-talking.

I’ll try to explain why people spend money on Dota 2 skins (or skins for any other game, in my opinion). Though I’d like to tell you that it’s not as simple as I might make it sound.

  1. It’s not about showing off your money or your item/costume/weapon/effects. More often than not, people buy sets for heroes that they love or heroes that they play. And it gives them a sort of self-comfort to see their hero wearing something they purchased.
  2. At the same time, many people purchase skins because they’re bored of seeing the default model of their favorite hero time and again. A set refreshes the appearance.
  3. Because a lot of us frequently see elaborate hero sets used by other players, we start to believe that these sets and skins are important and … “nice”. It’s a simple feeling. If given a chance, we’d spend our own bucks to get the same items.
  4. A lot of people want to design sets for their favorite heroes. And if there’s nobody to support that intent and nobody to buy those sets, it would be pretty sad. In fact, I know many players who otherwise don’t shell a single buck but when it comes to supporting the community’s best work or their friends’ work, they never hesitate.
  5. Many of those who spend a huge amount of money on Dota 2 items also look at it as a means of investment. I’m not saying that they’re going to keep the items for a year and sell them. But yeah, there is some sort of profit, which is usually triggered by a direct sale to another person with similar interests or someone who’s “collecting” when a particular item has become obsolete or unavailable. The most interesting cases have been post-TI sellouts. After a TI, it’s normal for a hero, skin, or combination to become wildly popular. And if you have a rare item that’s not very well-stocked everywhere else, you can make a huge profit on it, or so I hear.
  6. And lastly, a lot of people do buy to show off. But still, they purchase sets for heroes that they play. It helps differentiate them and somehow, they might feel superior.

What role does Steam or Valve play?

If you think about it, Steam is a place to buy things. It has a solid marketing front. So, it’s only natural that Steam pushes in-game sales. Only here, Steam doesn’t have direct control over Dota 2’s inventory.

No seasonal releases, treasures, new heroes, or new cosmetic sets are advertised directly on Steam. They’re all advertised in-game.

Valve makes The International possible, all the while promoting Dota 2 everywhere else. And it’s only fair that they receive compensation for that.

The primary method to obtain the money to finance the tournaments is the Battle Pass. It’s a simple investment for most of the Dota 2 players but adds up in quite a shocking manner (TI9 had a total prize pool of $34,330,068. When the prize pool was still somewhere around $30 million, Forbes noted that it will officially make it the largest prize pool at a single esports event ever.

So, sets and skins are not really that important as a source of income.

Yet, Valve receives a cut from all the sales made through the community (the artists get a larger cut). And the sellers are typically paid in Steam’s own currency, which has to be used in Steam, therefore providing support. If a seller opts for a third-party payment like PayPal, let’s not forget that they’re still helping move the items and fuel the competition in the market, which is passively helping Steam.

In the end

dota 2 pa arcana
The “Arcana” rarity sets are the ultimate sets. When they launch they cause quite the discussion. Only one Arcana set can exist for a hero. At the time of writing, a total of 20 heroes have Arcana. Pictures is Phantom Assassin’s.

There are two kinds of buyers. Those who purchase $10-$50 sets every once in a while but don’t spend all that much overall are probably only looking for refreshment or want to support Valve or the artists. And those who spend big bucks, like thousands of dollars on couriers, are either lucky to have a lot of money to spare or are investing in some way (and most probably, it’s a combination of both).

This is a world full of collections. Nobody has ever maintained that a collection can only be physical, tangible. If you prefer, you can create your virtual collection. It’s not as time-resistant as art, of course, as a game can die out. But Dota 2 is here to stay for a while.

And you might as well enjoy it!

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By Santiago Vargas

Santiago is a humble gamer from Peru who brings in the much needed breathing space amid all the hardware talk here at Spearblade. We liked his blog so much that we had to onboard him. You'll find Santiago publishing game-related articles.

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