Why is CS:GO so unpopular as a collegiate esport?
In their recently released 2022 report on the most popular collegiate esports, Esports Foundry revealed something quite unsavory — CS:GO was the least popular esports offering among top collegiate programs. With the recent success of teams with Davenport University and CS:GO's position as one of the most popular games in the world, it raises two questions, why and how is CS:GO being dwarfed by other titles.
To understand why CS has struggled to catch college's interests, Dust2.us reached out to former Davenport University Esports Director and current University of Missouri Esports Coordinator Colin Graham to get an idea of why colleges aren't embracing one of the world's most popular titles.
Graham told Dust2.us the issues can basically be broken down into four key areas:
Unpalatable Subject Matter:
Selling the terms terrorist and counter-terrorist to an administrator is a heavy lift.
Valve has, from my perspective, not invested heavily into the competitive side of their titles. This is fine and it works as intended. But if you're a director trying to decide if a title is going to be around for the next 4-8 years (think 1 to 2 full student cycles), it's hard to justify a game at the collegiate level that the developer puts zero resources into.
Cost of Entry:
CS:GO and tactical shooter titles in general have a higher barrier of entry than Call of Duty. To compete at a high level you'll want a PC that can cost upwards of $1,500, a monitor that is at least a 240hz refresh rate (~$300), high quality gaming mouse, mechanical keyboard that can range from $70 - $200+ depending on how much you want to customize it, and even a mousepad that caters to your specific playstyle. Call of Duty is a $500 console, $70 game, and a $200 TV. You're getting to play that game for under $1000. Which makes it more accessible to the average consumer.
Lack of Presence in High Schools:
High school kids are not playing CS:GO unless they had a friend get them into it and they REALLY enjoy it. Or maybe they do play CS:GO, but the school only sponsors VALORANT, so they play that instead. Riot made a FPS title that avoids certain verbiage, removed blood, renamed and gamified real guns, and turned utility into abilities. They took CS:GO and made it family friendly. This means that schools have an easier time getting it into their roster of titles and can satisfy the wants of the players in their schools.
Graham's points paint a fairly negative picture about the future of the game's popularity, especially as CS2 has not addressed verbiage issues and has a higher cost of entry due to system requirements. However, while he described the current situation as "tough" Graham said, "I hope CS2 revitalizes the player base and we see a resurgence in people playing. Maybe that helps the conversation and more schools adopt CS."
With the release of CS2 capturing the interest of many gamers and organizations alike, perhaps CS2 will be able to overcome some of the endemic issue that come with the mature-oriented title if it can continue to capture the esports zeitgeist when it releases officially.