In this article I will ask-and hopefully answer- why Counter-Strike become the massive game it is now; and whether or not Counter-Strike: Global Offensive can replicate this success.
In many ways the success of a game is very similar to the success of a genre of music in that it heavily relies on the society the games and music are entering and that in order to become the most successful it must appeal to the current attitude of society. For example Rock and Roll entered a time in which teenage culture had just started and that culture was one of rebellion; rebellion against parents and the idea of the American dream and yet no mainstream music shared the ideals. Thus Rock and Roll being the only genre with anti-parent and anti-establishment roots emerged as the biggest genre of 1950s to mid-1960s and spawn off genres that dominated to the late 1980s.
Similarly Counter-Strike entered a market with little to no team based first person shooter and the first person shooter market was saturated with futuristic shooters; thus when Counter-Strike came out it fulfilled two major wants from the community- a team based game and a modern shooter; due to Counter-Strike being a modern shooter there was an aspect of realism one could not get in other games. Also by making Counter-Strike a team based first person shooter the developers allowed people to play with friends and create communities around the game, and consequently people could also form teams leading to competitive play.
Another reason Counter-Strike was so successful was that everyone could play, you didn’t need a great pc or a great internet connection hence Counter-Strike enticed more people into gaming and more people into the competitive aspect. This idea of allowing everyone to play was also helped by the simplistic nature of the game, CT’s kill T’s, T’s kill CT’s and you buy weapons. This meant that everyone was on a level playing field; whereas a new player to Quake would be dominated by people that knew where the best weapons where etc… in Counter-Strike a newbie would not be completely dominated.
Nevertheless Counter-Strike also has a high skill ceiling meaning that if one was to put in the hours and train they could become better than any other player then again the skill ceiling was difficult to climb and so prevented the game being imbalanced for newbies. The high skill ceiling also created an opportunity for the game to become competitive…and it did just that. In fact one could say that Counter-Strike created the eSports scene. This is due to it headlining tournaments such as IEM and CPL; this also gave people a chance to ‘be’ in the game without actually playing it, as one could be sat down relaxing while watching people playing 1000 times better than they could while also learning new cool tricks to show their friends. This also gave rise to a community which strengthened the long term success of Counter-Strike.
Counter-Strike fans at IEM Hannover.
All in all Counter-Strike's success came from it not necessarily being revolutionary, but rather from it give the gaming society what they wanted-similar to Rock and Roll giving that society what they wanted; it also exploited specific aspects of society at the time such as LAN centres and internet cafes becoming huge businesses meaning that the team based nature of Counter-Strike would intertwine with the rise of groups of friends going to internet cafes.
So can Counter-Strike: Global Offensive replicate this success?
The answer to this depends on what replicating this success would mean-as, it would be possible in my opinion to get the number of people playing it equal to the number of people playing Counter-Strike at its peak as well as getting the number of people watching the professional games equal to that of Counter-Strike at it’s peak; however it cannot replicate the success in terms of percentage of gamers playing said game this is due to the nature of a gamer changing.
As in the late 1990s a gamer was someone that played games daily and was it trying to become as good as they could; gamers were thought of as another clique in high school; gaming was nerdy; gaming wasn’t the norm. But now gaming is more casual…it is accept by society as just another thing people do when they’re bored. And Counter-Strike: Global Offensive doesn’t appeal to this market as it is not casual enough; meaning that a normal gamer wouldn’t want to play it as they would get dominated and thus wouldn’t enjoy the game.
The stereotype of a gamer has changed.
This idea of causal gamers not wanting to play the game is seen in data collected by myself which showed that most people currently playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive started off with either the original or Counter-Strike: Source- highlighting the lack of new players into the game. It also showed that the people playing the more casual games such as Call of Duty weren’t interested in eSports. Though hopefully this will change in the next few years due to eSports becoming more prevalent in society and not being a niche market meaning that more people will be interested in the pro side of gaming and will then look at the big eSports games; and due to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive being the biggest first person shooter they will be drawn to watching it and then playing it.
And hopefully Counter-Strike: Global Offensive can-like genres of music- adapt to the changes in society and remerge as a leading eSports and first person shooter title.