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Counter Strike: Global Offense Keys to Success

Updated on April 26, 2014

Keys to Success

  • Drive retention with interesting content
  • Drive monetization with deeper spending options
  • Re-invest added revenue into community growth and e-sports

Counter Strike Global Offensive

Counter strike global offensive definitely was not a failure at launch, but it also couldn't really be called a success in the eyes of the gaming giant Valve. However, since that time, the number of concurrently playing users has skyrocketed from even under 20,000 to well over 100,000. This level of growth is absolutely incredibly, but how did it happen?

Furthermore, CS:GO is the next game in the series of first person shooter legend, Counter Strike. What was different that caused CS:GO to not see the same initial level of success?

Retention & Monetization

Retention and monetization are the 2 key aspects of any game. Basically, do players like playing it and does the game make any money. You need both.

Valve is clever, really clever. They recognized both could be improved at the same time with one system for Counter Strike Global Offensive.

Arms Dealer Update:

This update allowed players to randomly earn item drops in games that included skinned weapons and cases. The cases could be opened by purchasing keys for real money. This is very similar to the drop system in Team Fortress 2.

Various skins from ugly off-colors to stunning purples and greens could be randomly earned at the end of matches and vary in visual quality from battle-scarred to factory new. Factory new being the highest quality meaning the skin was the most stunning with more intense colors and clear design.

This is obviously great for retention as players have new things to play for that make the game even more exciting. These items can also be sold on the marketplace for Steam wallet money. This enhances the system even more by enabling players who don't care for skins to sell them and:

  • Buy any of the epic amounts of cheap games on Steam
    A few dollars goes a long way!
  • Effectively get a discount on their next major purchase
  • Engage in the Steam level system by buying trading cards and crafting badges
    For those who don't know, this gives users various minor perks such as larger friends lists, backgrounds, emoticons, badges visible on their Steam profile, etc.

That really is a great system for players.

Player growth on CS:GO
Player growth on CS:GO | Source

CS:GO Trailer

CS:GO for Whales

But the key is the change in monetization!

You may not know, but the vast majority of revenue for video game companies comes from a tiny percentage of spenders. We're not talking about the 80-20 rule, more like over half the revenue coming from less than 1% of players. But this is only in games that allow for it and counter strike did not. After you bought the game, what could you spend on? Nothing.

By adding keys and skins, players with deep pockets could dump tons of money into the game to buy the nicest skins (which could cost more than $300 each!). Suddenly Valve was seeing money raining from the sky, a great move indeed.

But it didn't just line their pockets, Valve, as usual, had greater ambitions.

All the extra money funded e-sports. Examples including ESEA and ESL.

It's expensive to fund e-sports events, marketing, website design, new content for games, etc. Valve re-invested in Counter Strike Global Offensive and practically forced success down its throat. With active users jumping over 100,000, it begs the question: Should more games allow players to spend more money?

These e-sports events drove the community even more. They got more players, the players retained better, they were more hardcore. It re-branded counter strike global offensive for contemporary gamer's needs. The arms dealer update filled in the missing step between having a quality shooter, and having it commercially successful with a strong competitive scene and community commitment.

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