How Math made CS:GO #1
Realistic weapon recoil. Emulations of real-world conflict. A dizzying array of personalisation for your equipment. All viable candidates we can look to for why CS:GO has risen above all other First-Person Shooters to become the most popular gun-toting game in the esports world.
While these are undoubtedly important to the game's enduring appeal and success, I would argue that there is another key factor which explains the enduring appeal of CS:GO to players and fans alike; the Economy.
The key factor
CoD has many titles, more weapons and a far bigger name, Battlefield has vastly superior graphics and the experience of total war, yet neither have ever been able to approach the place held in popularity and hearts that CS:GO occupies - all their perks & profits can't rival a core gameplay mechanic that always promises real variety, strategy and a competitive challenge.
CS:GO's Economy isn't outlandishly complex, players are rewarded for kills (The weaker the weapon, the higher the money), arming or disarming the objective and money is deducted for friendly kills. Money is required to purchase better weapons, buy armour and items that make achieving objectives easier. In competitive games, the money is treated as a team pool, often resulting in players buying guns for each other. This concept obviously tends to fall apart in casual matches with unknown players, resulting in heavily unbalanced teams and heavy losses - which is a testament to how vital the Economy really is. Teams that can't unify and share winnings quickly fail, while the more generous and reasonable squads will come out on top.
For someone used to more mainstream FPS games, it can be an awkward new element to digest, and at first it will seem like an unreasonable amount of admin when you only came here to shoot people and plant explosives. The benefits do become clear over time. Ability is rewarded, failures are made easier to rebound from by the losing streak bonuses, and no two games can be the same with the range of choices on offer after every outcome.
While tweaks are often made and the rewards will never stay the same, the balance is always maintained. The validity of the Economy and the challenge it hold is respected. And while I'm not going to go into the figures for every reward, please rest assured that the numbers working as well as they do are no accident. One of the Valve team responsible for the CS:GO Economy went on to become the Finance Minister for Greece.
For the people at home
Not only does the Economy enforce good teamwork and strategic play, it also invigorates the viewing experience. Shooters where you simply choose your loadout from a list have no sense of risk; there's no value weight to getting kills, winning rounds or conceding bombsites. Crowds at CS:GO tournaments will be rendered speechless by a player buying an AWP in too early a round, let alone if they do anything impressive with it. Emotional investment is paramount to the appeal of any sport, and esports are certainly no different.
The most shocking revelation is that at the very core, the revolutionary concept that has caused CS:GO's enduring success, is Mathematics. Someone thought it was a good idea to put addition & subtraction in a video game. And they were right. While the sheer number of YouTube videos devoted to analysis & dissection of the Economy might deter some who want to learn the game, there is no reason why the fan base won't continue to grow as it's always done. On this, the math is clear.