CS:GO Skins have been a long part of the Counter-Strike franchise. It had it’s humble beginnings back in the days of 1.6. Before you could jump into a server, your slow modem would download a bunch of plugins and then let you in the server. Your knife would turn into a banana and the ct models would be taken straight out of Resident Evil. Of course, those were server-side skins, but you could get client-side customization through third party websites.
In the release of Counter-Strike global offensive, it didn’t have the same modding capabilities as the 1.6 scene. Sure, custom maps were a thing but the skins and new models were rare and far between. There was a huge change on the 8th of August 2013 when Valve introduced skins in the “Arms Deal” update. Players could now receive skins from drops and cases, as well as, showcase them to other people.
A neat little idea, which had massive implications for the further development of the game. Looking back at the numbers, since the introduction of the “Arms Deal” update the game had grown in popularity. What also helped were the numerous discounts of the game, some even reaching 85%.
However, all wasn’t sunshine and rainbows with the introduction of CS:GO skins. Even though there was a growth in the competitive scene with casual players having an input in the growth of prize pools, of the first couple of CS:GO Majors, there were numerous scandals. CS:GO skins brought as the first match-fixing scandals, shady online leagues and skins bettors interrupting competitive play of CS:GO.
Interruption of Competitive Play With The Introduction Of CS:GO Skins
It’s important that CS:GO skins weren’t just pretty pixels on your screen. Just like with other Valve properties, Team Fortress 2 as an example, players can trade and sell their items on the Steam community market. Skins have a price, which is dictated by the Steam Community Market. Because there is a real world price attached to skins, you could’ve used it as currency.
It wasn’t long before the first betting and gambling sites occurred. One of the most prominent betting sites was CSGOlounge. In it, players could’ve have linked their Steam accounts to the website, trade with a website provided account bot and place CS:GO skins on a match. As you can expect, this was very wrong on many levels. There was no age verification to use these sites, not to mention any governmental license to operate in countries where gambling was either forbidden or had harsher restrictions. With more interest from the community to witness the competitive play, CS:GO tournament channels saw more viewership. But this brought its own set of problems.
One of which, was the notorious DDOS’ing issue many teams had to face. If you were a professional player at the time of 2014-2015, chances are, you’re game was DDOS’ed a couple of times. Primarily, this was a tactic used by the CS:GO skins bettors. If their team wasn’t winning the game, some bettors would attack the player’s internet and disrupt their gameplay. Many professionals in the community spoke against this issue. It did enforce players to get better network protection and now these attacks are non-existent. But at the time, countless matches had to be rescheduled, re-played or teams had to use stand-ins. It was a desolate time.
The anonymity of skins betting wasn’t used by the casual player base, but also by the pro’s themselves. There have been multiple allegations of teams performing poorly intentionally to lose a map or series. This phenomenal stemmed from some questionable scorelines and allegations were plenty. But from the time, the two biggest match-fixing scandals by the pro’s were by 2 teams: Epsilon and IBuyPower.
The latter one has remained a point of contention to this day as many members of the community feel it be unjust that individuals, like Braxton “Swag” Pierce weren’t old enough to understand the severity of their wrong doing.
Even though the precedent is set and the penalty of being caught, wouldn’t allow players to participate in Valve sponsored events a.k.a the Majors, there are still cases of match-fixing being uncovered. The recent case involves a 50,000$ Online League called NoXfire Season 2. Even though the reports had damning evidence on some of the players participating and tournament organizers, Valve has yet to step in this issue.
There’s no two way street about it, CS:GO skins had an impact in the game’s development in many ways. It was the start for CS:GO to regain its relevancy in the shooter and esports title market. It helped grow the very first majors and the customization aspect of stickers help support teams who make it to the majors. But the skins aspect had affected professional play in the early days of CS:GO’s development in a negative manner. Even though it has become a lot harder to use such methods of gambling and esports betting, some of the ill practices are still here today.