Is CS2 Dying? Steam Active Player Numbers Explained

How bad is it, really?
Image via IGDB / Valve Software

“Doomsdayer!” “Naysayer!” “How could you betray Lord Gaben?” is what some of you are thinking after looking at the title. However, there is a genuine concern about the well-being of Counter-Strike 2 in the community. Let’s talk about what’s going on and establish if CS2 is dying or not.

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The State of CS2 in Early 2024

I’ve been with Counter-Strike for over two decades, and it feels weird when I rewind the memories in my head and remember how the entire multiplayer scene developed gradually with CS (which, indeed, was a major pillar of the multiplayer community growth).

A handful of Counter-Strike iterations and two decades later, here we are, in Counter-Strike 2, a seemingly unfinished game that lacks the features the previous iteration (CSGO) had, with the community being more unhappy than ever, and it just seems that the trust in the VAC system is at an all-time low. I’ll admit: The game looks and feels better, except for the fact that I had to underclock my RAM in BIOS to prevent constant crashing on a brand-new PC.

CS2 is not dying, but the state of CS2 in early 2024 is very far away from optimal, and you will often see people wishing for CSGO back.

Is the Active Player Count Dropping for CS2 in 2024?

Sadly, I have to confirm, based on publicly available information, that the active player count has been gradually dropping since the release of CS2. Here are some key points in the Charts:

  • May 2023: All-time CSGO/CS2 peak of 1.81 million concurrent players (likely people coming back to CSGO after long pauses in an attempt to get a CS2 beta invite).
  • End of August 2023: 1.56 million concurrent players, final swing for the CS2 beta.
  • End of September 2023: 1.47 million concurrent players, when CS2 got officially released.

In the last week of January 2024, CS2 just can’t surpass 1 million concurrent players.

This is and isn’t a reason for concern at the same time. Let’s be honest: every game developer would love the “trouble” of having “just” a million concurrent players in their game, and CS2 is far from dead and abandoned, but still, this may become a negative trend for the game down the line.

Why Are People Abandoning CS2 in 2024?

There are a few reasons why players are leaving CS2:

  • They are fed up with the cheater epidemic.
  • They are bored with the lack of new content (no new official maps have been released to this date, some old maps have not been ported to CS2, there are no new cases, and there are no new missions).
  • They don’t like the new game mechanics (sub-tick, etc.)
  • Their PC can’t run it anymore.
  • They want to play something else (Palworld, Lethal Company, Valorant, The Finals, Enshrouded, Apex Legends, PUBG, Baldur’s Gate 3, Call of Duty, you name it).
  • They don’t have the time and prioritize other, non-gaming activities, such as touching grass.

I can’t say I blame any of them. If you’ve been there during the early CSGO days, you may believe that early CSGO was far worse than early CS2. Personally, I’ve seen too many cheaters (even on my own team), and it stopped being fun and started becoming frustrating.

However, the event that crushed me the most was when I was shown an ESP-type of wallhack for CS2, which is being tuned and updated for every new patch. That’s all it takes to bypass VAC? A few lines of code? I uninstalled the game yesterday and won’t be coming back until the situation improves.

I am not interested in third-party matchmaking services that allegedly provide a safer gaming experience; the problem needs to be solved at the root. No, not every Premier match is infested with cheaters, but when you see blatant aim botting on your team so often and hear people informing you of the exact location of the enemy in the voice chat, or you just see blatant hackers live-streaming the game without getting banned, you might start believing otherwise.

This introduces another problem – trust. When you start thinking: “Is this person cheating?” every time you get killed in a ludicrous or otherwise suspicious manner, it might be hard to convince you that you either got killed by a more skilled player or the player had a lucky shot.

How Does This Situation Impact the CS2 Skin Market?

The skin market has become quite volatile. Distrust in the system is rising, and you can see people panic-selling their skins, thus increasing the number of skins for sale on third-party markets and dropping the prices of many popular skins as a consequence.

On the other hand, some players are playing the long game and believe that order will be restored, so they are investing harder to capitalize on the price drop in hopes that maybe, someday, they will turn a profit. It’s a high-risk market, and I am not qualified to advise on investments. Personally, I am staying away from there. If I were to purchase a knife skin, I’d do it because I actually want to have it and use it, and not for resale purposes.

Final Verdict: Is There Hope for CS2 in 2024?

Valve needs to act fast. Nowadays, people are impatient and want immediate results in all life spheres. If you are asking me, releasing CS2 in this “public beta” state was a terrible decision. There’s no way CSGO will be restored, but with significant effort on Valve’s part, there is hope for CS2, and I hope that the trust of the community can be restored promptly.

Some players are advocating for kernel-level anti-cheat, while some believe that it would be a security/privacy concern. Some players are so upset that they go so far as to say that you should be forced to register your government-issued passport on your Steam Account so that when you’re VAC banned for hacking once, it’s permanently over for you.

Whatever Valve thinks of – needs to be implemented promptly before the player count drop becomes serious (albeit having your daily peak drop by about 50% in nine months can be deemed as serious by some)

I fear that if the situation remains unchecked, we will soon need to resort to LAN gaming and strong, social communities starting from the local level to really enjoy multiplayer games (not just CS2) due to growing toxicity and cheating problems in many popular games… oh wait, most competitive games are online-only nowadays (check out this legendary LAN anti-cheat video from the early 2000s).

Dear Mr Newell, can I please wake up to a massive, never-seen-before VAC ban wave soon?

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Author
Nikola L
Nikola has been a Staff Writer at Prima Games since May 2022. He has been gaming since being able to hold an Amiga 500 joystick on his own, back in the early 90s (when gaming was really good!). Nikola has helped organize dozens of gaming events and tournaments and has been professionally attached to gaming since 2009.