Counter Strike: Global Offensive went free-to-play on December 6. Valve's first-person shooter debuted more than six years ago, but that didn't stop the company from introducing a new battle royale mode, called Danger Zone, and moving away from the pay-to-play model. We called that announcement the Fortnite effect, but nearly 30,000 reviews have used far less charitable language to criticize Valve's decision in the days since.
The main objective in most CS:GO matches is to successfully plant or defuse a bomb on designated sites. Fitting, then, for the game to be hit by a 'review bomb' soon after becoming free to play. Backlash from the Counter Strike community was swift--negative reviews of the game skyrocketed from 1,657 on December 6 to 14,327 on December 7. That number has fallen by about half each day since, but that still adds up.
Most of the complaints were caused by Valve's decision to extend Prime Status to anyone who bought CS:GO before its method of monetization changed. Prime used to require players to connect their phone numbers to their accounts. Valve in turn matched Prime members only with other Prime members to deter trolling, cheating and other problems that can plague games that let people set up new accounts whenever they like.
Now that barrier to entry has been removed. Some fear this could lead to worse matchmaking for non-Prime members because it'll be easier than ever for trolls and cheaters to set up new accounts. This happens in other free-to-play titles, like League of Legends, all the time; players have been "permanently" banned multiple times. (And, in one case, then return to favor and host their own wildly popular tournament.)
These aren't the only concerns brought up by these negative reviews. Others say the game doesn't compare well to Fortnite, at least one is upset about an Easter egg that some folks thought was teasing a new Portal game and still other complaints abound. But the vast majority can be summarized as people being upset that a game they spent money on is now free-to-play and Prime Status is now easier to attain.
Most games suffer when they're review bombed. That isn't the case for CS:GO, though, and it seems like Valve's decision is paying off in the short term. According to Steam Charts--a utility that monitors the number of concurrent players in Steam titles--CS:GO has seen a 7.26 percent increase in concurrent players from November to December. It also has the most players today, with a 24-hour peak of 746,548 players.
That isn't too surprising. Valve essentially tailored this update to attracting as many players as possible. Battle royale mode in 2018? Yep. Paid-for game becoming free-to-play? You bet. The long-term effects have yet to be felt, but at least for now, if Valve wanted fresh blood that's exactly what it got.
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Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.