Not dead after all: Counter-Strike 2 surpasses all-time player peak

It would be fair to say that Counter-Strike 2‘s reception has thus far been mixed, to put it lightly. After all, it essentially served as an Overwatch-style replacement for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive rather than a true sequel, which rubbed many CS:GO veterans the wrong way. Despite the prevailing narrative—especially on the Counter-Strike subreddit—that CS2 is “dead,” it seems reports of its demise were greatly exaggerated, as it hit its highest player peak on March 9 since its launch last September.

This is despite matchmaking issues, the competitive scene still going through growing pains, and widespread botting (which is also currently affecting Valve’s other multiplayer shooter, Team Fortress 2). The game evidently has appeal, and its modern take on age-old online shooter mechanics have lent it an enduring presence despite its many detractors.

Per SteamDB, which tracks player stats for games hosted on Steam, Counter-Strike 2 recently hit a massive peak of 1.5 million concurrent players. There are any number of reasons for this, but it’s likely that recent tournament upsets in the leadup to CS2‘s very first Major have renewed interest in the game. March 17’s Copenhagen Major will see the game’s first champion crowned, which is a big deal even for those who aren’t hardcore esports fans. Seeing their favorite competitors, many of whom are CS:GO vets, once more take the stage would naturally push them back toward trying the game themselves.

There is, however, a slightly bleaker explanation: that a chunk of these players are simply bot accounts. Botting has been a chronic problem facing Counter-Strike 2 for a while, whether they be used for cheating or—more insidiously—market manipulation. When a game has a real-money economy trading in items worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars, the incentive to game it is baked right into the system itself. Given that skin prices generally fluctuate with player count, using botnets to pump the numbers and sell high is a strategy that bad actors have unfortunately figured out to a science.

Regardless of why the game is thriving, however, it’s a good thing that it is. With that aforementioned Major still approaching, it’s clear that CS2 is still at the beginning of what will hopefully be a long, eventful lifespan, and this is a strong start. Whether that momentum keeps going is anyone’s guess, but if it keeps hitting peaks like this, it seems that there’s nowhere for Counter-Strike 2 to go but up.

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