CS:GO smashes player records as Counter-Strike 2 hype mounts

The CS2 key art.
(Image credit: Valve)

The prospect of Counter-Strike 2 has a lot of people playing CS:GO, with a new all-time peak player record of 1,519,457 being set today. That's a number reported by both SteamDB and Steamcharts, and it's wildly higher than CS:GO's prior high water marks. CS:GO's previous high point was in April 2020, when pandemic lockdowns across the world saw many games—and Steam itself—report record player numbers.

That's because Counter-Strike 2 was announced this week. It's a real game, it's free, and everything in it carries over from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Everyone's fancy skins are going to Source Engine 2 land. Yes, even that one person's $150,000 gun skin. It has sent the CS skin marketplace straight to crazytown.

Today's record beats the prior count by over 200,000 players. The reason? Well, popular theory says that it's because Counter-Strike 2 beta access is only going to people who play a lot of Counter-Strike. (And no cheaters or jerks are getting in, which is hysterical.) That, or it's just a lot of former or lapsed players getting nostalgic about Counter-Strike and wanting to experience it at its peak before CS2 hits and steals away the player count.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has been on the rise since launch, rarely falling over the course of a single year outside of an extended nadir in 2018. Even that low point, however, was still netting over 400,000 daily players. Late 2018 saw the release of the free version of CS:GO, and the average year-over-year has stabilized at something like a million players since.

The reaction to Counter-Strike 2 has been pretty much what you'd expect from an impressive, interesting-looking update to a staple shooter for both casual and esports players: Almost universally positive. Resident Counter-Strike head Rich Stanton said that Valve may well have created his dream game, dumping a laundry list of improvements he'd noticed onto the site.

Oh, and for those of you worried that CS2 will steal all the CS:GO players away? Probably not. People still play CS 1.6, after all.

Jon Bolding is a games writer and critic with an extensive background in strategy games. When he's not on his PC, he can be found playing every tabletop game under the sun.