Three years after going free-to-play, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is revoking its free path to Prime matchmaking, as well as the drops, ranks, and skill groups that come with it. New players will now have to buy the Prime status upgrade from the Steam store for $15, Valve announced.
The change was introduced alongside the release of Unranked Competitive matchmaking, a feature that’s been widely demanded by the community for years. New free-to-play players can still play every game mode except for Ranked Competitive, but won’t earn XP, ranks, skill groups, or drops. They also won’t be able to activate bonus XP or claim service medals.
Prime was introduced as a way to authenticate accounts by tying them to a phone number to deter cheaters, spammers, and smurf accounts. But when CS:GO went free-to-play, Valve introduced a way for new players to earn Prime status by reaching level 21 via collection XP from missions and various game modes. Many have pointed to this “free path to Prime” as a reason why there are still a lot of cheaters in ranked matchmaking since the game went free-to-play.
Players who have already earned Prime status via the free-to-play track won’t have their Prime status removed, but all new players going forward will have to pay $15 for Prime.