Why former CSGO pros are quitting Valorant to return to CSGO

Kenneth Williams • January 21, 2022 11:21 am

Decorated Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella tried his luck with Valorant, but now he’s coming back to his original flame.

nitr0 is the first major pro esports player to leave CSGO for Valorant and return to his original game. He officially signed with Team Liquid’s CSGO roster earlier this week. The move has serious implications for Valorant and many of its competitive players. nitr0 may be the first player to make the transition, but his motivations are far from unique. 

The most obvious reason a Valorant player would return to CSGO is due to money. As the more established esport, CSGO has much larger prize pools and a massive number of tournaments.

Valorant is less than two years old. Compare the biggest events of 2021 and the difference becomes stark. CSGO’s Stockholm Major boasted $2 million while the Valorant Champions Tour had half that at $1 million. In nitr0’s case, he has earned $964,191.73 across his esports career. About 5% of that came from Valorant. 

There’s also the issue of gameplay. The oldest CSGO pros can trace their roots back to the early 2000s with 1.6 and Source. Valorant’s short time in the esports spotlight means that players aren’t nearly as attached to the game. nitr0 started playing CSGO professionally in 2014, and he probably played at a high level for several years beforehand. He played Valorant for a total of 18 months before switching back.

Do CSGO players make more money than Valorant players?

By sheer prize pool metrics, CSGO players have access to way more money than Valorant players.

In 2021, there were a grand total of 15 CSGO tournaments with more than $250,000 on the line. Valorant had three.

Lowering the threshold down to $100,000 reveals an even bigger discrepancy. The frequency of high-value tournaments is the biggest concern for any professional torn between two games. Money is clearly the biggest motivator for any esports player. Bigger and more frequent prize pools are a great way of encouraging competition, especially if the money comes from somewhere other than the developers. 

This massive contrast is primarily due to third-party interest. Almost all of Valorant’s competitive scene is bankrolled by Riot Games. The developer has a history of creating esports industries including League of Legends, likely the biggest esports title in the world. Valve has a much looser grip on its tactical shooter, which leads to more active third-party events. To compare them statistically, CSGO had four $1 million third-party events from BLAST and Intel. Valorant’s Red Bull Home Ground #2 put up $68,663.

Based on prize money totals, it’s clear that top-level pro CSGO players make way more money than their Valorant equivalents from prize pools. To once again use nitr0’s career as an example, Esports Earnings reports that he earned $477,850 in 2019 alone. After switching to Valorant in early 2020, he made $47,300 throughout the year.

There are salaries from organizations in play. Though nitr0 made $47,300 in prize pool winnings he also likely took in a respectable salary from his sponsor, 100 Thieves. But for a high-level player like him, who can walk back into CSGO and find a home with a different top organization, the prize pool difference looms large. nitr0 isn’t alone in this regard, either.

There’s always the chance that Valoprant prize pools could explode in a few years. But in the meantime, it’s likely that nitr0 could lead an exodus of top-level CSGO players out of Valorant.

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