CS:GO: The black sheep of Gaben's flock

This week, the God Gaben, Lord of all Valve and wearer of ratty flip-flops trundled on to stage in China to address the crowd at The International 9.

As always, he was dressed for comfort, but his appearance is the latest in a long line of visits to TI, and confirms the love he clearly has for Dota 2. Meanwhile, in the world of Counter-Strike, things look a little different.


We’re only a few days out from the start of the Berlin Major, and the developers are still tweaking maps, with information being released yesterday concerning small changes to Nuke and Overpass. This all comes alongside the introduction of Vertigo a few months ago, which was not only unexpected, but had the effect of drastically reducing the quality of the pool due to the many issues that came with that map in competitive play.

This probably isn’t the first article you’ve read talking about the issue, and it almost certainly won’t be the last, so why does this problem persist? Is it just about the image of CS:GO, is it because Gabe prefers to play MOBAs? Whatever the reason, it seems as though CS is destined to be the bridesmaid when it comes to tier-one esports, for better or worse.

Give me money, Dad!

Art often imitates life, and in reality the good lord Gabe Newell has two scions, in the same way that Valve have two games (sorry Artifact). Dota can be considered the favourite son, with regular phone calls, a bit of face time each year, and a good supply of cash coming through. By comparison, CS:GO gets wired some dollar once every six months and asked to keep the negative headlines to a minimum, as you can see from the prize money and work Valve puts into the two titles.

Dota 2 has five Majors a season, each of which receives $500,000 toward the prize pool from Valve, which also runs and arranges the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) season, and of course, kicks of the TI fund as well with a cool $1.6m. In total, and not including Minors and the like, this comes to about $4.1m dollars per year that Valve is willing to commit to prize pools to keep Dota 2 alive.

Related: Berlin Major Pickems advice

CS:GO has twice as many ‘TIs’ as Valve, with only two Majors but no other events, and each of those tournaments gets the same as a regular Valve Dota 2 Major, half a million dollars. Outside of those, there is no significant funding, and the spend from Valve is also reduced by the fact that they do not run or organise a circuit for CS:GO, meaning that there is roughly a $3m shortfall between Dota 2 and CS:GO in prize money.

There are other differences, too many to list here, but some of the more important ones are the lack of a laddering/levelling system, such as the MMR ranking Dota enjoys, and the complete lack of attention paid to the casual playerbase in CS:GO. The experience out of the box for a new player is vastly different in both games, with no ‘Battle Cup’ equivalent in CS for example, and while there are other reasons for MOBAs having bigger userbases, CS would benefit vastly from some of the spit and polish Dota has enjoyed down the years.


You may have heard this before

Again, this isn’t the first time this issue has been pointed out, and there are some relatively logical reasons for it. Dota doesn’t contain references to terrorism, bombs or even real life death, with the colourful characters dying only to buy back into the game with nary a splash of blood on screen. Even the most rabid MSM Karen would struggle to equate it to real-life violence, at least unless a giant spider and an anthropomorphised Pangolin mug her at knifepoint.

There is also the fact the Dota is worth more to Valve worldwide with the popularity of the game in Asia, although there may be an element of chicken/egg to that conversation - as it’s not as though Valve makes the same effort. Who knows what would have become of Crossfire and the like if Gaben and his crew had worked harder, sooner to get CS going in the MOBA strongholds? All we can do now is speculate, but the success of Overwatch suggests there is room for shooters in that part of the world.

There is a silver lining to this cloud for CS fans at least, albeit a small one. If Valve decided it was bored of Dota tomorrow, the game would be drastically altered in professional terms, and take years to recover, where CS is self-sustaining to a point none of the other tier-one games even approach. As with all silver linings, though, you do have to be standing outside in the rain to really appreciate it, and that seems to be where CS will remain for some time, staring through the window at Gabe playing Dota.