Counter Strike: Global Offensive
Courtesy of Valve

Starting off as only a modification for Half-Life, Counter-Strike has certainly come a long way since its inception. The game struck a chord with the people since the 2000s, becoming a favourite for LAN parties besides games like Quake. Counter-Strike reached the peak of its popularity with Global Offensive, especially after the Arms Deal update came out. The Arms Deal update introduced the first set of skins (aka cosmetics) to the game. Skins eventually increased the player count for Counter-Strike to unimaginable levels, making it a cult phenomenon of sorts.

Valve might have been one of the first companies to make loot boxes seem like a very attractive deal. Open a case, and you have a chance to unlock rare cosmetics which have a pretty high value. One opens these crates to have a chance to get a unique drop in the form of a knife. Knives are the pinnacle of all CSGO items – if you have a knife in your Steam inventory, you are guaranteed to receive quite a few friend requests (out of which quite a few are scammers with phishing links trying to get that hard-earned knife of yours) as well as hear out jealous retorts in matches. Attaching a value to all skins actually granted Valve the ability to create an economy entirely out of skins – something which went on to fund the big prize pools for CSGO majors, making the game one of the best esports-worthy titles out there. You might say that “gambling” over the outcome of loot box openings might be what funds official CSGO tournaments!

The monetary value of cosmetics has deep psychological ties. Even in real life, people like to flaunt their iPhones to have a sense of superiority over their friends and family (who might be in possession of Androids like the lowly scum they are). CSGO players like to show off their collection of rare and valuable cosmetics in-game – invoking responses from others. You’re sure to be showered with a heap of mixed responses, and the mental satisfaction for getting the same is what drives more people to acquire cosmetics. Unboxing cosmetics by opening crates or just buying directly from the Steam marketplace – eventually gambling with the items for more stuff or betting the items on professional matches for getting back more items and simply trade up low-tier skins for high-tier ones.

Gambling with CSGO skins started only with the unboxing of CSGO crates, to begin with. As time passed, players figured out that unboxing skins was a pretty expensive method of getting expensive stuff. The easiest (and preferably safest) way was betting low-tier skins on professional matches and watch as the value multiplied. Gambling provided the best odds for winning a lot of skins all at once – you gain a lot of rare skins at once or lose all of your skins. The thrill of gaining skins – a lot of them made a lot of these sites operate like virtual casinos. They aren’t so different from licensed online casinos reviewed on sites like The only difference here is that the gambling happens not with tokens, but skins (with some defined monetary value).

With Valve being forced to crack down on gambling at a time the hate for loot boxes is at a record high, the gold rush is all but over. Illegal gambling dens, as well as trade bots, are being shut down – making a lot of players who invested a large amount into trading, gambling and betting (mostly involving high-tier skins) leave the game permanently. Cosmetic updates still get the more loyal player base excited from time to time, and skins still continue to form a part of the economy through fewer people get excited at the prospect of skins now.