Everyone has heard of the M4A4 Howl, one of only two items in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive that has ever claimed the rare Contraband quality, but most don’t know a second M4A4 skin almost became the Howl 2.0.
In 2014, a design was uploaded to the Steam Workshop for an M4A4 weapon skin by a team of two artists. The design was slick and unique, two traits appreciated by Counter-Strike’s players. But above all else, the Howl was flashy. With a flaming wolf emblazoned on its side, the skin was an attractive prospect for any potential owner.
The weapon skin was accepted by Valve and placed in the loot tables for Valve’s latest loot box, the Huntsman case. The community loved the skin, but it was soon discovered that those who had submitted the Howl design to the Steam Workshop had stolen its design. The Howl’s original artist, Andreas Mass, filed a Digital Millenium Copywrite Strike against Valve for utilizing his artwork on the skin.
Valve gets DCMA over stolen Howl Artwork
The strike was the first of its kind. Auzzii and sic, the two who had submitted the design, claimed that they hadn’t known that the image was copywritten. Regardless, Valve’s response was swift.
The developer pulled several other skins associated with the two out of loot tables across the Counter-Strike ecosystem alongside the Howl. Valve doubled down and marked the M4A4 “Contraband,” meaning the item was designated to never drop again from the end of a match or case opening.
The Howls that were already in player hands, however, would remain there. Valve pushed a patch that changed the Howl’s design, presumably to Mass’s satisfaction, as well as it’s accompanying sticker, the “Howling Dawn.” which also featured the artwork.
As a result, the price of the Howl, which is still tradeable and marketable on Steam today, jumped from prices ranging from $20-$30 to well over $1000. Currently, the Howling Dawn sticker is available on the Steam Marketplace starting at over $800.
Counter-Strike’s M4A4 Griffin was almost the next Howl
With the release of the Vanguard Collection, another skin was drawn into the fray. The M4A4 Griffin was also the subject of a copyright strike, but Valve simply redesigned the skin, changing the titular griffin to avoid the infringement. In anticipation of Valve turning the Griffin contraband, prices of the skin soared, but Valve has never released another Contraband Item.
So why did it happen with the Howl and not the Griffin? It all has to do with rarity. As a Covert skin, the M4A4 Howl had about a .64% of dropping from a CSGO Case. As a restricted skin with a 15% drop rate, the Griffin was much more common by the time a DCMA complaint was filed against it. In other words, it was simply too widespread to assign that type of value to it.
Another possible reason the Griffin never went contraband might be that Valve wants to dissuade players from submitting copywritten works, stocking up on them, and then waiting for the strike to come in.
Ultimately, there’s rarely an indication of what Valve will do in a given situation. But with all signs pointing to an expanded CSGO store and more items, skins, stickers, patches, and sprays coming to Valve’s shooter, there’s always the chance it happens again.