One of the most popular FPS games of the last decade, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), has gone free-to-play this week in a controversial move that has many hardcore players up in arms.
Developers Valve announced that the full game of CS:GO would be available to all players for free. Previously, the game had been relatively cheap at $14.99, but now anyone can download the game at no cost. There will be a premium tier available, called prime status, which will be given to players who have already bought the game, and new players can get prime status too by either reaching rank 21 or by paying $14.99. Prime status gives access to special items and weapon cases, among other benefits.
The problem is that the player base is deeply unhappy about this change, and the game’s Steam page has been hit with over 13,000 negative reviews since the update went live last week. There is already a considerable issue of cheating in CS:GO, and players worry that making the game free will only encourage the cheaters. Currently, whenever a player is caught cheating their account can be suspended or banned, but with the free-to-play model it is very easy for cheaters to simply make a new account and start cheating again.
This problem can be mitigated for those who have prime status, as they have the option to play only with other prime status players. In order to get prime status, you now need to provide a phone number as well as paying for the game, which makes it much harder for cheaters to create multiple prime status accounts. However, players who bought the game before it went free-to-play are given prime status even if they do not add a phone number, lessening the effectiveness of this system. In theory, playing with prime status matchmaking should lessen the numbers of cheaters who players have to deal with, but in practice many complain that there is still plenty of cheating even in these matches.
Another issue some players have complained of is that the update has made the game unstable on certain systems running Intel iGPU graphics. CS:GO is one of the relatively rare games that gives you something comparable to an AAA experience even on underpowered integrated GPUs, but the poor stability of the update is leaving some players unable to play the game at all.