Was CSGO’s ‘Free to play’ update a good idea?
On the 6th of December, 2018, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive officially went free to play. This was introduced along side the Danger Zone update, the new battle royale game mode featuring larger scale fights with a more exploration themed objective. This was the biggest update in Counter-Strike’s history, transforming the premium competitive shooter into a platform for new players to try their hands at arms race. The decision to remove the price tag spurred a lot of controversy from the community, with most of the feedback being negative. Players were worried that this would ruin the community, allowing players with little to no experience to ruin competitive games and hackers having no barriers to stop them cheating on new accounts.
It’s been two months now, so lets take a step back and look at the numbers. The month before the Danger Zone update saw a total loss of 15,000 players on the platform. The months prior saw seemingly random fluctuation in the player base, but none quite as drastic as December. The 85,000 people who flocked back to Counter-Strike was a mix of new players, who didn’t want to spend money on the game, to old players, who wanted to give the new game mode a go. Ever since December, the player count has only gone up. Was the update good for the player base? It seems likely.
One reason Valve was so eager to give the game away for free was their confidence in their new anticheat system, VACnet. It’s hard to say exactly how effective the system has been, so this is up to the community to figure out. The influx in new players has been somewhat avoided with the increasing importance of Prime, something that new players will have to work for in order to get into more secure matches. You can experiment how well this does to prevent newer players by simply turning prime matchmaking off (but from personal experience, it’s much better just to leave it on).
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