Courtesy of Anomaly

For over two decades, the Counter-Strike video game series has captivated the world with its intricate yet endearing mechanics and competitive scene. From the first-person-shooters first release in 1999 to its third and most recent iteration, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (more commonly known as CSGO) in 2012, people have spent countless hours playing this household game. However, recently, CSGO has started to see a severe decline in its playerbase, especially in North America. Why is this happening?

Why was CSGO Popular?

To understand the decline of CSGO, it is necessary to understand the history of the game and its relationship with its parent company, Valve Corporation. There are two main reasons why the game became the premier FPS in the esports industry. First and foremost is the competitive environment of the game. The life of CSGO rests on its competitive and pro scene, with multiple hundred-thousand-dollar prize pool tournaments happening every year. Millions of people worldwide stay up late at night or early in the morning to watch professional matches, and many people in the scene strive to become like some of the top players. Next are the in-game weapon skins. Released in 2013 with the Arms Deal Update, the release of weapon skins boosted the popularity of CSGO very quickly and by a lot! These skins had real monetary value, and there were various skins worth hundreds, even thousands, of dollars! These skins were coveted by almost everyone who played the game, and the CSGO community has spent and continues to spend millions of dollars on skins every year.

Why is it Dying?

Now, why is CSGO dying? While there are many little reasons people have stopped playing, the main reason lies with Valve Corporation itself. While Valve has released useful updates every now and then for CSGO, the community is adamant that the company does not care about this game; this can be seen with their lack of care for CSGO’s cheating problem. Throughout the years, cheating has become a huge issue in CSGO’s competitive gameplay, with more and more new people joining the game to cheat. Even with multiple community complaining instances, both the pro and casual scene, Valve barely did anything to help. Although they recently updated some features of its matchmaking service, a lot of the playerbase had already left by then.

However, most of the players that left seem to be from North America as opposed to Europe. Why is this? North American CSGO has notoriously been known to be weaker than their European counterparts. Compared to the European scene, which has many strong teams such as Astralis, Natus Vincere, Vitality, and more, the North American scene is dominated by three teams: Liquid, Evil Geniuses, and Furia. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, North American teams could no longer face European teams, leading to NA-only tournaments with the previously-listed teams dominating all of them. This made the scene in NA less attractive, leading to declining viewership in that area. However, the people leaving CSGO didn’t just go anywhere; most of them left to play Riot Games’ new FPS, Valorant.

After 8 years of playing Counter-Strike, Braxton “swag” Pierce made the switch over to Valorant, joining T1 (Courtesy of T1).

Valorant offered players the things that CSGO could never: a company that cared about its game and a booming North American playerbase. While Riot Games is by no means a company known for their meticulous care of games, they have been continuously updating Valorant to fit players’ wants and needs. Coming from a game like CSGO, where updates were once in a blue moon, this new change meant a lot to its playerbase. Not only that, many former CSGO pros and figures like Braxton “swag” Pierce and Spencer “Hiko” Martin made the switch to Valorant, starting a movement of players from Counter-Strike to Valorant. Even major organizations such as 100 Thieves decided to drop their CSGO roster and invest in Valorant. With such a unique and new game with the opportunity to grow exponentially in the future, (something something something).

Can CSGO Be Revived?

Can CSGO be revived? In my honest opinion, no. There are way too many factors and detriments built up; the COVID-19 pandemic was just the crack in the dam that led to the burst of issues that caused CSGO to decline. However, I don’t think that CSGO is truly a dead game yet. Whether or not it is labeled a dead game can only be done after the pandemic ends. There is still a chance that the NA vs EU battle reignition can bring many players back to the game.