Morrison smiles

Loot boxes and cosmetics changed the way many companies think about video game pricing, and few companies have taken advantage of the way we think about digital items like Activision Blizzard. The true numbers are carefully guarded, but GameSpot writes that the company made over $4 billion in 2017 on "DLC sales, loot boxes, and in-app purchases on mobile games" alone. We don’t know a game-by-game breakdown, but it shouldn’t be a stretch to guess that "Overwatch" was a huge force behind those numbers.

The Verge called the loot box system in "Overwatch" "the gold standard" by which other shooters will follow. "Overwatch" players have shown, time and time again, that they love their skins and, generally, the rarer the better. Even if it is pure chance (or a massive amount of grinding) that unlocked something, gamers love to show off their shiny new toys.

Today, we’re taking a look at some of those incredibly rare skins — the ones you may have never even been killed by. These skins were tied to special events or came with special purchases; in some cases, they will never be available in any form again. A few of these have since been made available through more conventional means — but some are going to get even more rare as time goes on.

Kerrigan Widowmaker

Overwatch character falling backwards

Blizzard loves their crossover events, and a big one for the company came in March of 2018: the celebration of the 20th anniversary of "StarCraft." Nearly every game on Battle.net was offering some sort of crossover reward, but the "Overwatch" bonus was the cream of the crop. It transformed everyone’s favorite ashen sniper, Widowmaker, into the heroic "StarCraft" sniper, Kerrigan.

Granted, this version of Kerrigan is the one from before she transformed into the vicious Queen of Blades of later plot developments. However, pre-transformation Kerrigan was a near-perfect fit for Widowmaker. Players had about one month to get the skin, and all they had to do was log in to "Overwatch." However, if players didn’t utilize that opportunity, then the door has since remained shut on getting their hands on this now-premium skin.

Weightlifter Zarya

Overwatch flexing bicep

The Olympic Summer Games only come around every four years, so Blizzard decided to mark the 2016 event with a special game mode and a whole slew of unlockable cosmetics. The 2016 games were held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, so the event highlighted Lucio (who hails from the country), but several other "Overwatch" characters got the treatment with sports-themed skins. One of the best is the Russian tank Zarya.

Some of the skins in the 2016 were epic rarities, but Zarya got two variations of a legendary skin for the event. "Champion" was solid, but did not really stand out. "Weightlifter," however, did everything we want out of a skin for the Russian behemoth: the idea matched her personality, the bright red color added a bit of flash to her otherwise stoic presence, and it showed off her massive muscles. Lucio may have been the poster boy for the event, but Zarya took home the gold.

Sprinter Tracer

Overwatch character posing on field

Another legendary skin from the 2016 Olympic Games event, this one belongs to plucky British hero Tracer. Just like Zarya’s Olympic skin, Sprinter Tracer checks all the boxes. Whereas Zarya is a physical beast, Tracer is the quickest and most agile fighter on the field. This makes her an ideal candidate to grab hold of her sprinter’s spikes and grab the gold. With her blink ability, she’d practically be cheating at a sprint.

Not only does this skin fit Tracer’s personality perfectly, but it also adds a little visual flourish that the best cosmetics always have. Pick Sprinter Tracer, and she’ll start sporting a Union Jack flag as a cape, billowing behind her as she darts around the battlefield.

OWL ‘away’ skins

many Overwatch characters posing

When Blizzard kicked off the "Overwatch" League (OWL), they wanted to make a big splash to show that they were serious about their push into esports for their squad shooter. What better way to do it than with hundreds of skins? Each character in the game got two skins for each of the twelve debut teams, a home and an away jersey. Just like with physical sports jerseys, the OWL skins are meant to help distinguish teammates quickly, both in-game and for spectators.

Every team’s home jersey features their colors laid out in a particular pattern, whether it’s black and gold for the Seoul Dynasty or blue and orange for the London Spitfire. However, the away uniforms are a bit different. They are almost entirely white, featuring accents of the official team colors for whichever uniform is picked. Outside of the "Overwatch" League, plain white clothes just don’t flash that much — not usually what gamers want when they are showing off their latest grab from a loot box.

These skins were all initially only available from buying the official "Overwatch" League pass. They have since become available through conventional means.

Florida Mayhem 2018 Baptiste

Florida Mayhem Baptise loading screen

Over the years, "Overwatch" has done an admirable job of incorporating its devoted esports scene within the game itself through the release of team-colored skins for each champion. When teams face off against each other in the OWL, the away team typically uses white/grey skins and the home team gets to use their teams’ main colors. During the 2018 OWL season, the Florida Mayhem were rocking a red and yellow color scheme, which, alongside the team’s "M" logo, made every home skin look sort of like a McDonald’s ad.

Because of this theme, one Redditor theorized, the 2018 Florida Mayhem skins may be among the most rare in the game — because nobody wanted them when they were available. And Baptiste is especially rare within the 2018 OWL skin cycle because he was released half-way through the Inaugural Season in March 2019. Because of this, his League skins were available for half the amount of time the rest of the "Overwatch" roster enjoyed that season.

In 2020, the Florida Mayhem finally changed their beleaguered color scheme to a more fitting Miami-neon palette of pinks and blues. Therefore, the McDonald’s skins of 2018 and 2019 are forever locked away and their rarity will only increase with time.

Pink Mercy

Blond Overwatch character wearing pink outfit

Occasionally, we need a friendly reminder that even giant corporations can do some good. Blizzard demonstrated this with the Pink Mercy skin, which was available only for a limited time and only through purchasing it directly. However, Blizzard promised that 100% of the profits made from sales of the skin would be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF). Furthermore, they promised that there would be a minimum donation of $250,000, even if nary a soul purchased the skin.

Since this is "Overwatch," waaaaaaaay more than the minimum was raised.

When the fundraiser was all said and done, CNET writes that Blizzard donated $12.7 million to the BCRF. Blizzard also sold limited edition shirts for $30 to help bolster their donation, but CNET writes that the vast majority of the donation came from sales of the skin. Not bad for a fundraising campaign that only went on for about two weeks.

Oni Genji

Overwatch character jumping and throwing weapons

Even with the power of Blizzard behind it, "Heroes of the Storm" was never quite able to rise to the levels of its big brothers, "Dota 2" and "League of Legends." Eurogamer writes that Blizzard appeared to throw in the towel on its MOBA in December of 2018, downsizing the development team and canceling several esports events they had planned. The year before, they had attempted to bolster its player count in "HotS" by offering some crossover skins with "Overwatch."

All players had to do was play five games of "Heroes of the Storm," once per week during the duration of the event. Every week, they could unlock some cool swag from other Blizzard games. For week one of the event, players could unlock the "Oni Genji" skin, along with an accompanying spray and icon. This skin gave the cybernetic ninja a demonic mask and slick, holographic belt buckle.

If players buckled in for another week of "HotS" matches, they could also unlock the next skin on our list.

Officer D.Va

Officer D.Va with arms crossed

For week two of the "Heroes of the Storm" crossover event, Blizzard had an offering for one of the game’s most popular characters: MEKA pilot (and Doritos fanatic) D.Va. This one was even trickier to obtain, however. Unlike Oni Genji, which allowed players to simply battle in five matches with the AI, the Officer D.Va skin was asking players to take on five real "HotS" matches against actual players.

Considering MOBAs are known for being very unforgiving with fairly toxic communities, unlocking the Officer D.Va skin was no small task.

Even more strange, Mic writes that the Officer D.Va skin inspired some fan backlash, as some viewed it as a statement about police brutality in the United States. In completely unrelated news, D.Va is Korean; it seems unlikely that her police uniform is any sort of commentary on American culture.

Either way, both of these skins became available through conventional means about a year after the event, which surely perturbed gamers who went through the grind to obtain them. Nerf this, indeed.

Strike Commander Morrison

Strike Commander Morrison holding a gun

If you sprung for the deluxe edition of "Overwatch," dubbed "Overwatch: Origins Edition," then you received a slew of additional content along with the game itself. The big draw came from five exclusive skins, which showcased some of the more central characters to the game’s lore. Each of these skins is pretty impressive, dramatically altering the way these popular characters look.

Tracer, Bastion, Pharah, and Reaper all had skins included in the "Origins Edition," alongside "Strike Commander Morrison," a complete overhaul of Soldier: 76. Bedecked in a blue trench coat and sporting a futuristic eyepiece, Morrison is a throwback to the extensive lore of "Overwatch."

For those not in the know, Morrison was the first official commander of the Overwatch team. After supposedly dying and being buried at Arlington National Cemetery, he resurfaced as the ultimate warrior known as Soldier: 76. It’s kind of a complicated story, but early adopters of "Overwatch" could outfit their characters as some of their lore-based counterparts.

Demon Hunter Sombra

Overwatch character with Demon Hunter skin

Now we’re getting to some of the big timers: the legendary skins that a very small percentage of players have due to their event-limited nature and (generally) high associated cost. Blizzard has made a point to offer special, in-game incentives for their dedicated fans who purchase tickets for BlizzCon. Let’s start with Sombra’s BlizzCon 2018 exclusive skin is a crossover with "Diablo," decking the hacker out as a Demon Hunter. It’s a pretty slick look overall, very similar in flavor to the Kerrigan Widowmaker skin that celebrated the 20th anniversary of "StarCraft."

For those who didn’t want to purchase the 2018 BlizzCon ticket to get this skin, Activision Blizzard luckily made the skin re-available for purchase during October 2019’s play-to-earn Halloween Terror event (per Dexerto). This is the only time that BlizzCon-specific skins have been made re-available for purchase — so far.

BlizzCon Winston

Overwatch's Winston wearing arrmor

If a Mexican hacker cosplaying as a Demon Hunter doesn’t do it for you, then how about a BlizzCon-themed, hyper-intelligent ape? BlizzCon 2017’s exclusive skin offering was for Winston, and it decked him out in a blue BlizzCon armor set to let everyone know you were the ultimate fan. This is where "Overwatch" skins start to roll into the realm of "ridiculous" as far as what you will need to pay if you want to obtain this skin now.

Since the only way to get the BlizzCon 2017 exclusive goodies, including the Winston skin, is through purchasing a ticket for an event that happened in the past, you’re out of luck unless you hit the secondary market to find a ticket with a code that has yet to be used. And these skins demand a high price; a quick search of eBay shows a few for sale at the time of this writing. They’ll just set you back over $200. That’s a lot of money for a virtual outfit for one character in an online game. Surely they don’t get more expensive than that, right?

BlizzCon Bastion

Overwatch character Bastion with bird

Oh, you sweet summer child. You thought $200 for a blue-bedecked monkey was as deep as this rabbit hole goes? Buckle up: rewind a year before that, to BlizzCon 2016, and the world of expensive video game skins gets even crazier.

Let’s just start with it: BlizzCon 2016 tickets came with an exclusive skin for Bastion, and a cursory look through eBay shows that unclaimed codes from this event sell for between $900 and $1000. This code comes with loot for nearly every game on Battle.net, but most people who would pick it up at this point would be doing it for the Bastion skin.

Granted, it’s a pretty awesome skin: a blinged-out Bastion, all reflective and cold. That said, the BlizzCon ticket was $40 before the event, and even Bastion mains can find a better way to spend $900 now, right? Considering how many times Blizzard has reworked the tanky robot, it would be hard to assume things about Bastion at this point.

Noire Widowmaker

Overwatch's Widowmaker holding a weapon

There were five exclusive skins included in "Overwatch: Origins Edition," but there was one more exclusive skin that required an even bigger commitment. The only way to obtain the "Noire Widowmaker" code was by pre-ordering the "Origins Edition." Players who did received a second special code with the game to unlock the unique skin for the world’s best sniper.

The "Noire" skin decks Widowmaker out in a bright red corset and a massive nest of dreadlocks. It’s striking, considering that most of Widowmaker’s looks are fairly subdued. Doesn’t really fit for a sneaky sniper, but definitely fits with the spider motif.

It’s tough to think of it now, but "Overwatch" seemed like a pretty big jump for Blizzard back in the day. A squad-based, first-person shooter from the company best known for action-RPGs like "Diablo," MMOs like "World of Warcraft," and real-time strategies like "StarCraft" was not a surefire hit. Pre-ordering any title is risky, but these facts make the Noire Widowmaker skin one of the rarest roaming the wilds in "Overwatch."

If you encounter it during a game, you’re either playing someone who has had "Overwatch" for a very long time, or someone who shelled out big bucks to get a code after the fact. Either way, it’s someone who is really into Blizzard’s shooter.

Pacific All-Stars Genji

Pacific All-Stars Genji throwing shuriken

In 2018, the Overwatch League (OWL) themed its All-Star event around the elements — fire for the West, and water for the East. Based in that framework, Blizzard produced Pacific All-Stars Genji alongside its companion skin, Atlantic All-Stars Tracer. Genji’s themed look has become a fan favorite for its unique fire-based aesthetics, not to mention its relative scarcity.

Back in 2018, the skin was only attainable by purchasing it with 200 OWL tokens (roughly $10 USD) while the event was going on between August 17-27. OWL tokens are rewarded for just watching the OWL games, so many players who followed along with the OWL in 2018 were easily able to purchase both commemorative skins. In late 2021, Blizzard opened up the skin’s availability through The Vault, again charging 200 OWL tokens for its purchase. So, Pacific All-Stars Genji isn’t the rarest of skins, thanks to its once-repeated availability. Still, it’s a flashy skin that is rarely seen in-game, which has made fans covet it even more.

Raynhardt

Raynhardt victory pose

Blizzard celebrated its 30th anniversary as a company in 2021, the same year that it decided to do its annual BlizzCon entirely online for the first time. BlizzCon tickets are normally juiced up with in-game goodies for Blizzard titles, but the 2021 BlizzCon Online was a free-to-watch event. So, instead of attaching cosmetics and loot boxes to tickets, Blizzard released the Celebration Collection Bundle, which allowed players to purchase the exclusive goods in a tiered system.

The Raynhardt "Overwatch" skin — which reimagines Reinhardt as Jim Raynor, the raspy, rebellious cowboy from "StarCraft" lore — was included as part of the Heroic bundle, which cost a minimum of $40 USD. And while that is a ton of money for a single cosmetic item in one game, the Heroic Bundle and others from BlizzCon Online offered cosmetics and bonuses for every Blizzard title. Still, due to the price of the overall package, not many people are seen sporting this pun-based skin.

Medic Brigitte

Medic Brigitte victory pose

Most rare cosmetics within games come from attending some exclusive event or as a reward for playing during a seasonal event. Medic Brigitte, in contrast to other rare cosmetics, requires players to break out their wallets in a less conventional way. In an attempt to drum up excitement for the release of "Overwatch 2," Blizzard commissioned 150 of Twitch’s biggest streamers — including the likes of xQc, Asmongold, and more — to play "Overwatch 2" while running the Medic Brigitte promotion.

In order to obtain Medic Brigitte the promotion required "Overwatch" players to gift 3 monthly subscriptions on Twitch to one of Blizzard’s sponsored streamers. Once the 3 gifted subscriptions were donated and the "Overwatch" player linked their Twitch and Blizzard accounts, they received the Medic Brigitte skin. A monthly Twitch subscription costs $4.99 USD, so Medic Brigitte cost $15 USD.

However, according to a report from GameRant, Chinese "Overwatch" players didn’t need to pay $15 USD for their Medic Brigitte skins, but simply watch two hours of Midseason Madness. And while some fans were upset by this disparity, the difference most likely came down to the fact that Twitch is banned in China.

Atlantic All-Stars Tracer

Tracer running and gunning

The companion skin to Pacific All-Stars Genji, the Atlantic All-Stars Tracer likewise traces its origins back to the 2018 OWL All-Stars event. It was available for purchase then for 200 OWL tokens, and was made purchasable again in 2021 for the same price. However, the Atlantic All-Stars Tracer skin doesn’t seem to have quite as many fans for it as its Genji companion skin, so seeing an Atlantic All-Stars Tracer in-game rarely ever happens.

Tracer already has one of the best lineups of available skins to choose from in "Overwatch," so players who have Atlantic All-Stars Tracer might not even choose to wear it, making its de facto rarity seem even higher than it probably is in reality. Given its relatively recent re-release, it is unlikely that Atlantic All-Stars Tracer will see the open market again any time soon, so players with this sought-after gem will likely have plenty of time to show off their bling before more people can get their hands on it.

Illidan Genji

Illidan Genji holding shuriken

Blizzard is always down for cross-title marketing for its wide range of titles. For example, the MOBA "Heroes of the Storm," was entirely based on cross-title marketing, because every playable character in the game came from one of the company’s other games. This approach can also be seen in the Illidan Genji and Tyrande Symmetra skins that were granted alongside the purchase of a BlizzCon 2019 ticket.

Illidan Stormrage is an instantly recognizable character within the "World of Warcraft" franchise, famous for being the first Demon Hunter (and for always being an edgy anti-hero). His impact on the franchise can be demonstrated by the "World of Warcraft: Legion" expansion, in which he became one of the main characters and the Demon Hunter class was made playable for the first time.

Illidan’s weapons, the Warglaives of Azzinoth, are also perfectly suited for a Genji skin. This brilliant crossover makes Illidan Genji one of the most sought-after skins, and its elusive nature has only increased over time, since it hasn’t been re-released.

Tyrande Symmetra

Tyrande Symmetra holding tech-orb

The other half of BlizzCon 2019’s "Overwatch" goodies, Tyrande Symmetra is another ultra-rare "Wow" crossover skin that turns heads every time it graces a lobby. Symmetra has always been an off-meta pick in "Overwatch," so even playing alongside a Symmetra at all is relatively rare, let alone a Symmetra wearing one of the most exclusive skins in the game.

In "World of Warcraft" lore, Tyrande Whisperwind holds some of the most important political and cultural positions for Night Elves. She and her partner, Malfurion Stormrage (Illidan’s brother), act as analogues to King and Queen. As such, she’s long been one of the most integral characters in "World of Warcraft" lore.

When people think of the aesthetics of Night Elves in the "Warcraft" franchise, they most likely conjure up an image of Tyrande Whisperwind’s pale skin, glowing eyes, colorful hair, and tribal face markings. That makes her inclusion in "Overwatch" all the more desirable. Its always a treat seeing a Tyrande Symmetra in lobbies, and fans are still trying to figure out how to get their hands on one.

Zen-Nakji Zenyatta

Zen-Nakji hightlight pose

One of the most interesting ways that games sometimes commemorate their best players is by immortalizing them in the game itself. "Overwatch" has done this with its OWL MVPs, starting in 2018 with JJoNak and his custom designed Zen-Nakji Zenyatta skin.

JJoNak earned his OWL MVP playing for the New York Excelsior in 2018, particularly due to his Zenyatta play. According to a report from Kotaku, JJoNak’s nickname is short for "jjomullak najki" in Korean, or "fumbling octopus" in English. JJonak also has an octopus tattooed on his arm, complete with Zenyatta’s orbs. With that added context, Zen-Nakji Zenyatta stands amongst the most sought-after "Overwatch" skins due to its utterly unique look, a well-blended aesthetic, and limited availability from only one re-release.

Its one-of-a-kind traits have inspired fans to create some brilliant fan-art showcasing the skin’s quirks. As such, any Zenyatta mains should be proud to own and use this skin.

LEGO Brick Bastion

LEGO Bastion holding bird

Back in 2019, LEGO and Activision Blizzard leveraged their brand partnership into a line of brick-themed skins for "Overwatch" that have only gotten more sought-after since their release. The Brick Challenge event that ran in September of that year allowed players to unlock Bastion’s legendary Brick Skin by winning enough games and unlockables before the end of the event. The colorful palette of Bastion’s LEGO-centric skin absolutely stands out on the battlefield and it is considered by some in the "Overwatch" player community to be one of his best cosmetics ever.

Unfortunately, it appears that the LEGO line of skins might be locked away forever. In January 2022, LEGO revealed to Brick Fanatics that it was canceling the planned release of an "Overwatch 2" toyline. A spokesperson for the brand explained, "We are currently reviewing our partnership with Activision Blizzard, given concerns about the progress being made to address continuing allegations regarding workplace culture, especially the treatment of female colleagues and creating a diverse and inclusive environment." Where many other skins on this list can be made available again through The Vault, the LEGO line is beholden to corporate partnerships, so its rarity will likely continue to increase over time.