New players have to pay to play ranked CS:GO now

Valve is making the move to combat cheaters

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has introduced a paywall for its Prime upgrade, in an attempt to cut the number of cheaters players encounter, especially in ranked mode. CS:GO has been free-to-play for over three years, and while this has helped maintain a healthy playerbase, it also allowed cheaters and hackers to freely access every portion of the game.

However, Valve has reversed this decision and removed a free path to Prime status from the game. The developer explains its decision in a blog post, citing that “[Prime] benefits have become an incentive for bad actors to hurt the experience of both new and existing players.”

This means that free-to-play Counter-Strike players can no longer receive XP, ranks, drops, or Skill Groups. However, every game mode is still available, as are community servers and workshop maps. Valve has simply put ranked mode behind a paywall in order to discourage cheaters. As it stood, players who were banned for cheating could simply make a new account and progress enough to achieve Prime status, before cheating in high-level CS:GO ranked lobbies and ruining everyone’s experience again.

Simply look at CS:GO’s “most helpful reviews” on its Steam page, which nearly all cite it as being a great game, but “ruined by cheaters.” However, now that Prime ranked lobbies are paywalled, the player experience should improve.

New players and anyone without Prime status will still have access to Competitive, Wingman, and Danger Zone modes, but all of their matches will be Unranked. Unranked matches use skill-based matchmaking, but don’t earn a Skill Group. Prime players can also jump into Unranked matches, if they want to go a few rounds without the pressure of having their rank affected.

If you’ve already got a Prime Upgrade, you won’t have to spend a penny – so long as your account doesn’t get banned, that is.

Of course, this doesn’t discount the fact that some cheaters might have enough disposable income to pay the $14.99 (£10.89) Prime Status Upgrade on every new account – but it’s certainly a deterrent.

Other developers are taking note of the decision, too. Respawn’s director of communications Ryan Rigney floated the idea of introducing a similar paywall for players who want to climb the Apex Legends ranks on Twitter.

It’s clearly not a statement of intent, but Apex is another game rife with cheaters and hackers, so it’s positive to see developers trying to think outside the box to combat the prevailing issues in both competitive FPS games.