Why Counter-Strike players think Valve is about to announce 'Counter-Strike 2'

(Image credit: Valve)

A perennial rumour in  the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive ecosystem has been the theory that the now 10-year-old FPS will be ported to Valve's current in-house engine, Source 2. This past week, the speculation and whispers have gone into overdrive, with many convinced that a 'new' version of perhaps the iconic PC game is on the way.

CS:GO as it stands was made with Valve's older Source engine. What an upgrade to Source 2 would actually look like is the subject of some debate, with some starry-eyed about the prospect of a rebuilt game that follows in the longer history of Counter-Strike being re-released in new forms, while others are more downbeat and expect any eventual Source 2 version to be 'only' a minor visual upgrade, possibly with the official 128-tick servers players have long pined for.

Last week a leak buried in Nvidia's latest drivers not only reignited speculation about the Source 2 version of CS:GO, but sent it into orbit with several prominent community members and the esports figure Richard Lewis joining in to flesh out the leak with reports. First data miner Aquarius found a pair of config profiles added to the latest Nvidia graphics drivers, both called "Counter-Strike 2", and two executables called "cs2.exe" and "csgos2.exe."

I've checked the files and they're there, so this at least is real. There are also other references to it elsewhere in Nvidia's other software, like GeForce Experience, but perhaps the most telling tidbit of all is that whatever this is will use the same Steam app ID as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, which is 730. Don't expect this to be a full-on sequel.

Then: the megaton! Valve updated the CS:GO twitter banner image to one that simply read "Counter-Strike." Then, in short order, it updated the image again, to the classic CS silhouette of a CT aiming their weapon. Then it updated again, this time returning to the "Counter-Strike" text but adding the tagline "Big fans of #TheNightShift" (a bit of a community in-joke which the CS: GO account has made before). I know, I know: Source 2 confirmed!

This wasn't enough for one determined CS:GO-er who put the logo image through various filters to reveal… a smudge in the background. In a clear sign that someone at Valve watches all this stuff with no small degree of amusement, the CS:GO Twitter banner updated once again, this time to the Counter-Strike logo with hidden text reading "It's a banner. Nothing more. Promise."

The excellent Counter-Strike YouTuber 3kliksPhilip has a video that succinctly nails the mindset with which all such things are greeted by the community, and goes over the various possibilities of what is actually happening.

Then there's a report from the journalist Richard Lewis, a figure with a controversial past but a great track record of esports scoops. I can't corroborate any of Lewis's claims, but here's his full report, and take this extract with appropriate caution:

"The sources explained that the creation of the game had been something of a priority for Valve’s team, which includes members that have overseen development of previous iterations in the Counter-Strike franchise. This, they said, should explain why some issues with CS:GO have been largely unattended to for some time. “The big priority is getting this out and then polishing it, fixing any bugs and bringing it up to the level people expect from CS.”

The report says the game will be on Source 2, feature 128-tick servers at beta launch, and an overhauled matchmaking system. Lewis' report really has folk chomping at the bit, and he's certainly not alone in believing that Valve has been quietly testing CS:GO Source 2 and is now ready to roll that out to a wider audience.

More curious are some other signs that stars are aligning, such as the creation of an official CS:GO Tiktok account (which so far has amassed 28,000 followers without posting anything). Interestingly enough when Aquarius, the dataminer who noticed the Nvidia stuff, commented on this account, the official CS:GO Twitter replied with its most recent activity: The 'Hide the Pain Harold' meme.

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For some in the Counter-Strike community, and lord knows I'm among them, this is all too much. Theories of the Source 2 version of CS:GO have been around for so long now that it's become a white whale, something whose pursuit we all know is ultimately folly: And yet, to dream. To see Dust 2 with overhauled textures and physics, to have your grenades touch on Mirage in a new fashion, to rush A long once more because they'll never expect it: But looking better than ever.

What's next for Counter-Strike is not yet known but, if there's smoke where there's fire, something is going on. I've obviously contacted Valve and, you will be shocked to hear, there's no response. But we all know how Valve rolls by now. If Counter-Strike Source 2 is happening, and it certainly looks like it, expect this thing to release without fanfare at 3 am on a rainy Thursday morning.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."