Popular games can fade into obscurity for any number of reasons, but they can also take a game further than ever before under the same conditions too – in modern gaming we’ve seen steps taken to introduce certain restrictions which have either changed their direction completely or have taken them from the limelight and pushed into obscurity – none more so than the popular esports title Counter-Strike, as following a tough time a few years following release, it has been able to recover completely.
Gaming and esports fans together will all know the story of the skin betting scandals and how CSGO has found huge recovery and popularity following the changes made not only by the developers, Valve, but also by changes in local laws and regulations. For those unaware, skins in the latest Counter-Strike title are cosmetic items that players can obtain through a slot styled gambling mechanic in-game, and whilst these cosmetic items don’t hold any direct value outside of the game, there were a lot of real-money trading websites set-up to handle the passing of these skins from player to player.
This is where the controversy started – some websites set-up a service in which players could deposit their skins as a predetermined value as a wager, and if they were to win their bet, they would receive the original bet skins back alongside others that make up the value of the win. With no regulation, and no protection to those looking to bet this way, many took advantage – scam sites eventually arose, there’s an infamous situation in which a professional team was found to be match fixing at a time where prize money was low, and some other dodgy dealings with popular figures setting up trading websites in which they could profit. Valve quickly put a stop to this – sending cease and desist letters, changing the ways in which skins could be traded and adding further trading restrictions and punishing those who were found to be scamming and match fixing – individual countries also took a stance toward this, as some such as Germany implemented rules around whether or not the roulette styled crate opening system that had become popular was safe.
We’ve seen all sorts of measures put into place to provide some level of protection – gambling in the UK as a whole had an entire initiative introduced called Gamstop which is aimed at helping problem gamblers, an although there is a comprehensive list of non-gamstop casinos available the initial figures are looking like it is helping – and the same was true for CS too. The changes made by Valve to the skin trading system made it difficult, but not impossible, to do so – and as such many turned to a more traditional form of betting and popular and established companies begin to see the value in esports – the game went from more of a niche favourite to those who knew into a phenomenon capturing over a million daily concurrent players and pulling millions of viewers for the events they hold.
Skin betting is now all but gone, aside from a few outlying sites which garner no attention and the game has recovered from the rocky beginning as bigger tournaments offer larger prize funds to prevent anything like this happening again – but there was a time in which many in the scene thought this could have killed the game as a popular esports title.