2022 is set to be a very big year for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and the best barometer for the game’s health is its player count.
Rival tactical shooter Valorant is in its second year of existence, and CSGO saw some major changes to its matchmaking system in 2021. This resulted in some enormous shifts to the game’s player base. But what did CSGO’s player count look like in 2021, and what will happen to it in 2022? Here’s the state of the game right now, and where it will go in the coming year.
CSGO’s player count is still strong in 2022, with average numbers regularly exceeding 500,000 concurrent players.
In the first half of 2021, the game was still enjoying some of its best tallies ever starting with a 743,000 average player count in January. The numbers started slipping from there and fell off a cliff in June 2021 when Valve implemented a new matchmaking policy. This put ranked matchmaking and item drops behind a paywall with the new $15 Prime Matchmaking feature, something that chased away many of the game’s free-to-play players at the time.
This resulted in a cataclysmic 16.8% drop in CSGO’s average player count in that month, followed by another 8% loss in July. This meant that the January 2021 tally of 743,000 players on average shrunk down to 504,000 by July.
Luckily for Valve, the game’s player count leveled off in the fall and got a modest bump during the holiday season. The decision to effectively end CSGO’s run as a free-to-play game was likely made to combat the game’s enduring hacker and cheating problem. Whether this decision works out for the best will only be made clear with more time.
No, CSGO is not dying. It remains the biggest game on Steam and has a very large player base.
There’s no ignoring the fact that the game’s player base has declined over the last year, with 2021 being a serious down year for the game. The loss of free-to-play players delivered a big hit to CSGO’s player count, but it wasn’t so large that the game’s at any risk of dying in the forseeable future.
The game still boasts an average player count over 500,000 with peaks close to one million. CSGO is still garnering big numbers, even if they aren’t at the heights the game reached in 2020.
CSGO’s daily player count still peaks at over 750,000 concurrent players on an almost everyday basis.
Unfortunately, it is unclear how many unique users actually play CSGO each day. Valve does not outright publish these sorts of figures and sites like Steam Charts that track player counts for games on Steam do not track figures such as unique users. This does limit the available accuracy for player count numbers.
CSGO’s monthly player count heading into 2022 is likely between 20 and 25 million players.
Valve does not regularly put out player count data regarding unique players of its flagship first-person shooter, but estimates for the month of February 2020 had approximately 24 million users. January 2021 and February 2020 are likely to see similar player count totals and as a result it’s safe to assume that there would be similar monthly unique players between these two months.
At this point, it doesn’t seem as though Valorant has had a significant impact on CSGO’s player count, and it’s definitely not killing CSGO.
Valorant launched in June 2020. While CSGO did suffer a player count drop during that time, it was already trending downward following anomalous highs in the spring due to global restrictions that saw more players kept at home than ever before. By the end of 2020, CSGO gained back almost all the players it lost during that stretch. These numbers held strong until the Prime Matchmaking status change in June 2021.
If anything, CSGO grew in the months following Valorant’s release. This isn’t to say that Valorant hasn’t been a smashing success in its own right. Though Valorant and CSGO are technically in the same genre, the games seem insulated from each other in many ways.
The one area where Valorant has really hurt CSGO is esports. Hot up-and-coming pro players like Tyson “TenZ” Ngo and veterans such as Shahzeeb “ShahZaM” Khan have left CSGO in favor of Valorant. This gutted the semi-pro and tier-two scenes of CSGO, particularly in some regions, which the game is still trying to recover from.