Counter-Strike Global Offensive went free to play late last year. This announcement came alongside the Danger Zone update; CS: GO’s take on the Battle Royale Genre.
The instance of the game going free has had multiple effects on the final player count of the game. The month of December saw CS: GO’s player count almost double to 20,535,709. This is the peak number of unique players in the game.
The CS:GO betting sector is set to have a huge spike as CS: GO doubles its players.
20,535,709 unique players for @csgo_dev in December, doubling numbers of previous month. This is the biggest number ever recorded for Counter-Strike.
— Nors3 (@Nors3) January 2, 2019
Of course, a lot of these players are existing players making smurf / alternate accounts. With the game being free to play, we are witnessing an uptick in the number of hackers and cheaters in the game. Existing CS: GO accounts are all upgraded to Prime status. Players who are using CS: GO using the free version are still non-prime. Non-Prime account games are full of cheaters according to the community.
The game still has room to grow as it is well short of its peak player mark. We can hope that CS: GO continues to grow as it is one of the few games with a thriving third-party esports scene.
They could even beat the playerbase peak record of all time, it's all in Valve's hands.. If they are willing to do 2-3 big updates, they gonna get a huge wave of players. People dont want to play buggy, clunky shitty FPS anymore. and CS:GO gives the best impression of all, by far
— C4 (@Joohnny222) January 2, 2019
A large number of VAC Bans
Keeping pace with a large number of players, there has been an equally large number of VAC bans in December. In fact, according to Steam.db; there have been more than 500,000 VAC bans in December alone. This is just a testimony to the fact that CS: GO going free to play has only brought an influx of cheaters and hackers to the game.