‘Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’ – How A Game Became An Esport

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is one of the biggest games out right now due to its following in the esports community, but what is Counter-Strike and why should anyone care about it?

The Counter-Strike franchise is a tactical first-person shooter game that pits a team of counter-terrorists against terrorists in situations that deal with tactical game-play situations. Situations like diffusing bombs and rescuing hostages.

The first game started off as a game modification for the wildly popular 1998 shooter by Valve, Half-Life. Valve officially started to support the modification and it eventually became its own standalone release. There have been four releases in the Counter-Strike franchise: Counter-Strike, Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, Counter-Strike: Source, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive first released in late 2011 as a beta and became a full release late in 2012. At the low cost entry point of $14.99, the game had explosive growth because of the game’s title and nostalgia. However, the game had its own issues when it came to game-play.

Many professionals of the older game questioned if Valve and Hidden Path were serious about listening to the input of the community. The fans wanted to make sure it grew in a competitive sense since Counter-Strike: Source, the previous game in the series, was considered a low point in the franchise.

Sure enough, Valve took on the challenge of making the game the professionals wanted, but, at the same time, also created items that the community could enjoy. Tweaks to the spray patterns on the guns, to hitbox changes on the character models were all priority to Valve.

To grow the community, Valve introduced gun skins, music kits, stickers, and many items to the game. The money spent on these items helps the game grow to this day.

Valve didn’t stop at making micro-transactions a prominent aspect of revenue. They also have worked with third-party organizations to create a professional esport out of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

Valve created a “Major” system that professional esport teams compete in. Events like minor qualifiers eventually lead Major tournaments. The prize pools started at 250 thousand for the early ones. Starting in 2016 however, the prize pool increased to 1 million dollars.

With this type of money on the line, the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive scene has grown to the point where established professional sport franchises like the NBA, NHL and international soccer teams have started to invest into the the existing organizations. Some are even creating their own esports teams by buying-out rosters from established organizations.

Team North
North is a Danish esports organization and the esports affiliate of F.C. Copenhagen and Nordisk Film. Photo Credit: North
With this massive growth, there have been some controversies in esports scene.

The creation of gambling on esports teams using virtual skins purchased in the game has become a problem. Valve has come under fire in the past for not curtailing underage gambling since in-game currency gambling is not regulated. Valve did take action in the summer of 2016 by saying users must cease-and-desist the use of the Steamworks platform for gambling purposes. Gambling sites do exist to this day, but there are less now than there were before.

Another controversy that has effected the scene is match-fixing and cheating. Valve does have measures against cheating since the game has been out to the public, and if anyone is banned from the system, they are no longer eligible to play in a major tournament. However, there are some organizations that will let banned players play in their tournaments after serving a 2-year ban, according to a report by Dot Esports.

Match-fixing has been another issue that had to be addressed. In 2015, players from the team IBUYPOWER were issued a lifetime ban from majors by Valve due to throwing a match, according to a report by Dot Esports.

Some members of the team bet against their team and threw the match to acquire a large payout of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive skins that do have monetary value outside of the game. Many fans of the team believe that the lifetime ban for match-fixing wasn’t just due to the fact that some of the players were young and no rules were established for it. Others believe that match-fixing is worse than cheating, and they deserve to be banned for life.

IBUYPOWER Roster Photo in 2014. Four of the five members were banned after match-fixing scandal. Photo Credit: IBUYPOWER and ESEA

Overall, the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive scene has seen serious growth and large amounts of money thrown into online leagues. Those leagues can lead to offline finals.

Sometimes there are even multiple tournaments going on during any given weekend that could have prize pools of upwards of 500 thousand dollars. The influx of money and sponsors is all rooted in wanting to be able to capture the coveted 18-25 year old demographic. A demographic that has been harder to reach after the shift away from cable for many of them.

Esports, in general, is supposed to become a $1 billion industry by the end of 2017, and it’s only going to grow from there.


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