Counter-Strike began life as a fan-made modification for Valve Corporation’s much-acclaimed title Half-Life 2. Created by Minh “Gooseman” Le and Jess “Cliffe” Cliffe, Counter-Strike was acquired by Valve in 1999 and saw its first retail release later on that year. Whilst it has never been the commercial behemoth that a series such as Call of Duty has become over the years, Counter-Strike has managed to establish itself as one of the most recognisable faces in the first-person shooter (FPS) genre of gaming, with three major sequels and various spin offs titles, the latest of which, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, was released back in 2012.
Valve have established themselves as one of the best in the business for continuing to support their games with constant tweaks and updates to keep things feeling fresh and optimised, and this has proven to be the cornerstone for Counter-Strike’s enduring popularity within the video gaming community.
It has also been one of the biggest driving forces for the Counter-Strike franchise being able to flex itself as the most successful FPS title in the world of competitive gaming, and a huge driving force behind its growth as a multi-billion dollar industry over the past twenty years. With the series continuing its soar in popularity ahead of 2021, here’s everything you need to know about Counter-Strike: the shooting game taking the world by storm.
The Counter-Strike series has built a legacy for emphasising team play, communication, planning and short sharp bursts of action, rather than the all-out action approach of competitor titles such as Call of Duty. Whichever game in the series you play, simply running around and trying to kill opponents is not an option at a reasonable skill level.
The game pits two teams of five players against each other on a map in a best of thirty match. Rounds last 1:55 and teams are split into either the T (Terrorist) or CT (Counter-Terrorist) side. Terrorists can win rounds by either killing the entire enemy team or successfully planting and defending a bomb until it detonates after a forty second countdown. There are two bombsites on every defusal map, and Counter-Terrorists can win rounds by either killing the enemy team before a bomb is planted, waiting out the round timer without the bomb being planted, or defusing the bomb once it has been placed.
Teams are given an economy for each round that they have to manage, meaning that planning ahead, saving weapons, choosing between armour, utility and weaponry each round can be a crucial factor in deciding the outcome of games even before a bullet is fired.
All these factors have helped Counter-Strike develop one of the highest skill ceilings found anywhere in the gaming world, and subsequently developed an hyper-competitive professional scene.
Counter-Strike In Esports
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the latest game in the series and, despite being over eight years old now, has actually seen its numbers soar over the past year or so. Not only is it one of the most watched games on online streaming platforms such as Twitch.tv with hundreds of thousands of hours digested by viewers, but 2020 saw it peak past the one million concurrent player mark several times for the first time in its history. As of February 2021, the game averages roughly 24 million users a month, over double the amount recorded in 2016.
For the first time in the franchise’s history, Global Offensive was moved to a free to play model by Valve in 2018 and can still be picked up and played for absolutely nothing via Steam even today.
Naturally, with so many players and so much interest, the competitive scene for the game is one of the most heavily invested in and fleshed out in the entire Esports industry. CS:GO betting has become increasingly popular for events and tournaments right across the world and, thanks to the influx of investment from the likes of Intel, Monster, Alienware and even the United States Air Force, the standard for competition hosting has risen substantially over the past couple of years.
The very first Counter-Strike tournament was hosted in 2001 for the original game in the series at the Cyberathlete Professional League, and the likes of the World Cyber Games and Electronic Sports World Cup hosted Counter-Strike tournaments in the early to mid 2000s as the Esports industry grew. It wasn’t until the release of Global Offensive in 2012 however that the industry really began to ramp up, coinciding with the boom in popularity of games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends.
Valve began hosting the very first Major Championship for the game in 2013 at DreamHack Winter, and have gone on to host two annual tournaments ever since. These tournaments tend to carry with them a prize pool of $1 million dollars and are still regarded as the most prestigious events in the game to this day.