CS:GO 101: The Counter-Strike Economy

Written by: Jason O'Toole
Twitter: @OnFireMoses

One of the endearing qualities of Counter-Strike is its simplicity. A pure first-person shooter, free from the distractions of healing and respawn timers, on a very basic level the game comes down to a simple concept; shoot your virtual opponent before they shoot you. Yet underneath the hood of this game lie many complexities that provide the depth that allow analysts such as myself the perfect excuse to make a living out of explaining this game to the fans at home.

Key to success in Counter-Strike is having the right tools for the job. Certain maps play to a sniper’s strengths but they are neutralised if you can’t put a sniper rifle in their hands. Other environments lend themselves to needing lots of covering smoke grenades and blinding flash bangs to gain entrance to a site. Most obviously of all you don’t want to be going into battle armed with little more than a peashooter. The game mechanics feature a fluctuating economic system that has to be mastered and understood to maximise the potential return of rounds from each side.

The economy in Global Offensive is a simple system that has a massive impact on how the game is played on a professional level but can sometimes be missed by newcomers to the game. Players are awarded money for killing their opponents and for completing the team objectives. The amount of money teams have is spent on in-game weapons and items that dictate likely strategies and firepower.

The easiest way of earning money is by killing opposing players. The standard bonus for this is $300 per kill, but different weapon categories provide different amounts. Most SMG's reward a player $600 per kill which is why those weapons are mostly seen early on in each half when team economies are fragile. Shotguns provide $900 per kill due to their effectiveness being highly dependent on positioning. The AWP sniper rifle, a long range weapon with one­hit kill capabilities, awards only $50 per kill. The knife, used when all else has failed, provides $1,500.

Completing team objectives provides the largest amount of money to a team. For each round that is played, the winning team of that round receives $3,250 per player. The Counter­Terrorist (CT) side gains $3,500 per player if the bomb is planted and subsequently defused, while the Terrorist (T) side gains that same bonus if the bomb is planted and the defuse is prevented. If the round timer ends without successful completion of those objectives, the CT side will gain $3,250 and any still­living T's will get $0 (but retain their weapons into the next round).

Often times during a CS:GO match, teams will struggle to win rounds and encounter a losing streak. When a team loses their first round they are provided $1,400 per player. This increases by $500 for every subsequent round loss they suffer up to five round loss bonuses. So a team during a losing streak will get the following per subsequent round losses:

First round loss: $1,400 per player

Second round loss: $1,900 per player

Third round loss: $2,400 per player

Fourth round loss: $2,900 per player

Fifth round loss: $3,400 per player

The losing bonus is capped after five rounds, any losses sustained six rounds in a row or more still only provides $3,400. Winning a round at any point resets the losing bonus and starts the team back off at the first round allowance of $1,400.

The economy system impacts the game by limiting the equipment each player or team can purchase. The stronger the weapon, the more expensive it is. Without a strong and stable economy, teams may be unable to match the weaponry of their opponents or may be lacking grenades that are utilized to execute strategies. A team's economy is so important that frequently throughout a match teams will choose to execute an "ECO­round", short for economy, which is a round they choose to sacrifice in order to save money for the future in order to bring a more powerful arsenal to bear.

You may also hear the term “force buy” during the course of a professional match. This is when a team elects to spend the majority of their money on sub-optimal equipment in the hope of being able to execute a tactic or kill their opponents off guard with a rush. A failed “force buy” will often leave a team in a worse situation than they would have been had they simply saved their money, however the pay-off can be very high, turning the tide of matches and forcing their opponents into difficult economic decisions themselves.

Counter-Strike’s economy is one of many aspects of the game players have to consider every round. As you will see over the course of the Eleague season the best teams in the world have such a mastery of the economy system that it becomes a tool they can use to defeat their opponents.