Valve Adjusts CS:GO Prime Status, Ranked Matchmaking Is Now Pay To Play

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Prime ranked matchmaking goes from free-to-play to pay to play as announced by Valve in a blog post last June 04, 2021.


In order to enhance the overall CS:GO matching mechanism and indirectly address the game's frequent cheating incidences, Valve has taken action, thereby making CSGO essentially no longer free-to-play. The company recently released a major update for CS:GO, removing the free route to Prime status as well as the drops, rankings, and skill groups that came with it, three years after it became free-to-play. New players will need to purchase a Prime Status Upgrade, which can be done in-game or on the game's Steam store page, to gain access to ranked matches.


To dissuade cheaters, spammers, and smurf accounts, Prime was created as a mechanism to verify accounts by linking them to a phone number. When CS:GO launched free-to-play, Valve included a means for new players to achieve Prime rank by collecting XP from missions and other game types and achieving level 21. Many have referred to this "free road to Prime" as a reason why there are still a lot of cheats in ranked matching. However, this, along with other gameplay bonuses, has been removed and is now only available to Prime Status players.

Non-Prime members will be unable to participate in ranked matchmaking, but they will be able to play all other game modes, including community servers and workshop maps. They will also no longer receive XP, Ranks, drops, or Skill Groups. As a result of this, Valve is bringing a feature that’s been widely demanded by the community for years, an unranked matchmaking in Competitive mode, Wingman, and Danger Zone which will accessible to Non-Prime members. Scrimmage will no longer be used in competitive matchmaking as well.


"Along with all the gameplay that we made available for free, new players had access to drops, Ranks, Skill Groups, and a free path to Prime matchmaking. Unfortunately, over time, those benefits have become an incentive for bad actors to hurt the experience of both new and existing players. So today we’re revising the offering for new players. New players can still upgrade to Prime by purchasing the Prime Status Upgrade from the Steam store, however there is no longer a free path to Prime. And if you purchase the upgrade in the next two weeks, your current Skill Group and XP progress will carry over."


Prime and Non-Prime members can still enter matchmaking together when playing any other game mode including the newly introduced unranked matchmaking. But ranked matchmaking will be exclusive to Prime users only and will be matched against other Prime users as well.


Players who have previously gained Prime status through the free-to-play track will keep their status, but all new players will have to pay $15 for Prime in the future.