CS:GO teams, players earn $70m from in-game Major items in one year

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Image credit: Valve

US-based game developer Valve has announced in a blog post that $70m (~£59m) has been raised by the community for CS:GO teams and players in the past 12 months.

The money is raised from the sale of in-game stickers and capsules, of which teams and players get a cut. Valve, the developer of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), releases the items for Majors — prestigious twice-annual tournaments sponsored by Valve.

Valve officially announced the figure in a CS:GO blog post celebrating the iconic FPS’ tenth anniversary. The figure — a rare glimpse into the numbers behind Valve’s revenue-sharing system — indicates that teams actually earn more from digital item sales than from Major prize pools. However, esports organisations differ on how they split earnings from prize pools and item sales with professional players.

Valve takes an undisclosed cut of all revenue generated by in-game Major-related item sales.

Valve had sold stickers — cosmetic items players can attach to their in-game weapons — during every Major since 2014, adding player-autographed stickers in 2015. It also sells Major viewing passes, which offer further in-game and cosmetic items.

Teams will see another opportunity to earn sticker revenue in two months time, when ESL hosts the second Major of 2022 in Rio de Janeiro.

The revenue-sharing system helps incentivise teams with CS:GO rosters to continue fielding teams in Counter-Strike, even as large organisations like 100 Thieves and Gen.G close their CS:GO division, and longstanding teams like North close their doors for good.

The distribution of sticker revenue has not been without its issues, however. Players for Swedish organisation Ninjas in Pyjamas remain in a dispute around sticker revenue from the cancelled 2020 Rio de Janeiro Major after the organisation reportedly refused to give them a portion of sticker revenue.

The $70m figure is also notably far higher than the amount distributed to teams in The International, a Valve-sponsored Dota 2 event. The 2021 event had a prize pool of ~$40 million (~£34 million), predominantly funded by in-game sales.

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In the blog post, Valve also released details around the success of viewing figures for Majors, and the overall health of the game since it went free-to-play four years ago.

“Over the past 12 months alone, we’ve seen more players than ever before (averaging over 20 million monthly unique players), record viewership for Majors (2.7m concurrent viewers), and massive community support with over $70 million raised for professional organizations, teams, and players. The future could not look brighter.”

Patrick Walker
Patrick is a freelance writer for ESI based in London, reporting on competitive PC gaming and esports marketing. His passions include Valorant, running, and over-ambitious baking projects.