Counter-Strike: How the shooting game became one of the most popular in eSports

The image shows a screenshot of a Counter Strike character holding a weapon and aiming. The Letters CS appears on top of the image.

Counter-Strike, also known as CS, is one of the most traditional first-person shooter games of all time. Released more than 20 years ago, it remains one of the greatest esports games in ages, with major tournaments taking place around the world and millions of dollars in prizes. It’s amazing that a video game that can be called “grandpa” is still so successful in 2020: the game has reached the biggest peak of players at the same time since its launch, with more than 901,000 people online simultaneously.

The gameplay concept is quite simple: one team is composed of terrorists who must place a bomb or prevent a hostage from being saved at a certain point on the map, while another, of counter-terrorists, must disable the bombs. The confrontation needed to achieve these goals is intense and requires a precise aim from the players. The match is also over if all players on either team are eliminated.

But how did this online PC team shooting game get there?

The Beginning

Slice of Counter Strike original cover

Counter-Strike was launched in 1999 as an unofficial modification of Half-Life, one of Valve’s most successful games. Created by Minh Le and Jess Cliffe, the “mod” quickly became a huge success, spreading across the world in the early days of the internet. Since the game was being played a lot, it didn’t take long for Valve to acquire Counter-Strike’s rights and take creative control of the game.

In the year 2000, the deal was closed for an undisclosed amount and both of the mod creators were hired by the company. They worked on the game for a while, but they didn’t stay long in Valve. One reason was the cancellation of the Counter-Strike 2 videogame, which was never released.


Counter Strike CS:GO art

With the game’s incredible success, Valve planned new versions. Counter-Strike: Condition Zero was released in 2004, but had very poor reception. Gamers weren’t that into a single-player mode with several missions back then.

Because of the failure, a new version was soon developed and released. Counter-Strike: Source, also from 2004, came with the game Half-Life 2 and brought new graphics, which pleased the players ⁠— at the time, the look of the first CS was already very old-fashioned. The focus on online multiplayer was what fans of the first game wanted, so the game nailed it and was played until 2012, when Counter-Strike: Global Offensive was released. The game is still played today and is a public success in esports.


peaople in an esports arena watching a counter strike macth

Since the early 2000s, CS was a hit in tournaments, long before the esports had all the of today’s headlines. The first major tournament was the Cyberathlete Professional League Winter Championship, held in Texas in 2001. The total prize pool at that time was $150,000 USD.

It didn’t take long for CS to be one of the most-played and watched games around the globe. He was part of the World Cyber ​​Games, a championship which was considered the Olympic games of video games in the early 2000s. The same happened with ESL, which put CS in the Intel Extreme Masters. Until 2007, it was the main game in the competitive scene.

After switching from CS to CS: GO in tournaments, many pro players complained that the new title did not have the same balance as before. After months of work by Valve, problems were corrected and the game became what the pro players wanted. The streaming of pro players playing CS became a hit by mid-2012. More tournaments won broadcasts, which increased interest in the game.

The main tournaments taking place in 2020 are the ESL One: Rio 2020, in May, with a prize of $1 million USD, and the Intel Extreme Masters XIV, which takes place at the end of February in Katowice, Poland.


The soccer player Neymar using the corner flag of the football field as a weapon.

CS was banned in Brazil in 2008, when the consumer protection bureau decided to collect all games from stores due to the content, which was considered violent. The statement at the time said that the game was “too realistic and simulated a real war”. It was just a year later that the game found its way back to stores.

Counter-Strike also inspired Brazil and Paris Saint-German soccer player Neymar. At the 2018 World Cup, when he scored the goal against Mexico, he pretended to throw a light bomb and put his hand on his face. The celebration was a trend around the world

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