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Tim Masters
Tim Masters

Watches esports a lot, when he's not writing about esports. Also enjoys video games.

May 13, 2020

The new player models in Counter-Strike have been a hot topic since their introduction. It may or may not be down to the fact that Valve decided to drop some very verdant skins at the same time they greened the ever-loving mess out of the Cache rework, creating almost a camouflage effect in the process. Unfortunately, at least if other FPS esports are anything to go by, Valve is unlikely to back down on this issue.

The invisible men

It’s fair to say that players are not particularly happy about this change, as you would expect. While games like Call of Duty and other AAA titles are happy to sacrifice a portion of competitive integrity for a bit of DLC specie, Counter-Strike has long enjoyed a utopia where the guns all behave the same, and people are judged on their skill rather than how many skins they could afford. Pros also seem to be convinced that the agent skins’ introduction was a poor move.

Not every team is as honourable as FURIA or Chaos, and many have been using (and potentially abusing) the new skins, to the detriment of the game itself. Sadly, if we look for other examples across the gaming world, it seems like any competitive improvement an CS may depend on players making a collective agreement, as other developers have had this problem – ten times worse – and done nothing about it to date.

ESL One Road to Rio - May 13 schedule
CS:GO
ESL One Road to Rio - May 13 schedule
May 13, 2020

If you’re a fan of CS:GO, then you probably already know about Rainbow Six Siege, the critically acclaimed FPS title that is often held up as an alternative to Counter-Strike, a tactical shooter that uses operators with abilities to enhance the gameplay. Like any game with abilities, there are balancing issues, but for the most part, the game is in a decent place meta-wise, even if some of the more vocal pros would have you believe it is unplayable at times. It also has a Battle Pass system similar to Call of Duty where players can invest to gain access to limited-time items based on certain seasons, some of which include player skins.

Ember Rise: a horror story

Ember Rise was fourteenth expansion for Siege adding two new operators, released on September 11, 2019. It also included a number of new skins for sale, which could be abused on some maps to give players what was at times an almost game-breaking advantage. Ubisoft never directly addressed the matter. Gentlemen’s agreements were floated, but the skins were so advantageous that most teams had no choice but to use them. Such was the benefit that some orgs even provided funds for players to purchase them.

One example is linked above, but you can find countless others online. To their credit, some tournament organisers went ahead and banned the skins, but Ubisoft themselves were basically silent on the issue – as you’d expect from a company with a vested financial interest in the sales of said cosmetics. From this, and the complete lack of other response to the community outrage, we can probably deduce that Valve are unlikely to come out and give TOs the tools to remove the player models from competitive gameplay either.

CS:GO
Ranking every Shattered Web Agent by fashion sense

This is the reality of the skin situation: games are there to make money for developers, and that is the point of all the Operations, Battle Passes and cosmetic content. It would be great for Valve to make a decision that benefits just the professional community, but there is no reason to expect that of them or any other developer – either historically or logically – when you look at esports as a whole.

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