On Wednesday, Valve had community-banned over 40 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) accounts on the popular PC gaming platform Steam. The ban resulted in over $2 million loss worth of skins or unique item designs.
Days later, the ban wave has not slowed down. In a tweet by a skin trader Pickle, 82 accounts — and possibly still counting — worth almost $6 million have been banned by Valve. At the time of writing, the highest-valued trading account was worth $376,631.79. Esports.net considers this wave as one of the biggest removal of skins in CS:GO’s history.
The CSGO skin-trading community was shocked and concerned by the recent wave of bans. Traders took the time to track the banned accounts and found that they contained many popular and expensive skins. Some players went to Twitter to express their disappointment over the move.
“Rest in peace to the most beautiful AK skin in CS:GO,” said Twitter user MarokoCS with a picture of a skin.
Meanwhile, another user named TheSnipingSnake tweeted, “2 weeks ago I got very close to buying this AK for $19,500 from Robert [one of the banned users]… I really hope he is unbanned.”
2 weeks ago i got very close to buying this AK for $19,500 from Robert… i really hope he is unbanned 🙁 pic.twitter.com/WSGqUNw0rW
— Snake 🐍 (@TheSnipingSnake) June 28, 2023
CS:GO is still one of the most popular games on Steam, with over one million active players daily. The game is a team-based first-person shooter (FPS) that allows players to play for in-game skins as a reward or buy them in the game’s store. Its popularity led to a significant number of unofficial markets selling skins.
Parties involved in the ban
Valve’s community ban policy prevents Steam users from trading their skins for items like guns, knives and gloves. This means that the skins of banned traders are effectively stuck in their inventories unless Valve decides to lift the ban.
The ban wave was the second from Valve as a means to mitigate illegal trading activities. Valve conducted the first one in May, targeting three accounts with skin collections valued at $367,300 the highest.
There is speculation that the banned accounts were involved in illegal trading at CSGORoll, a well-known skin gambling platform.
According to Decrypt, the platform also offers CS:GO-themed gambling games powered by a decentralized app on the EOS blockchain. These acts are against Steam’s updated Code of Conduct.
Variance Warren, a person affiliated with a rival gambling site, CSGOEmpire, revealed the information about the bans on Twitter. They shared a list of CS:GO traders who have been allegedly involved in a scheme to launder crypto through the rival site illegally. These accounts withdrew their balances at an unfair rate and illegally withdrew cryptocurrency.
Every single CSGORoll Supplier account mentioned in this document was just banned by Steam.
Using illegal, unlicensed websites that engage in money laundering comes with risk. We tried warning about this months ago.
But it is a new dawn today. Here's to safe, fair trading. ✌️ https://t.co/tZoZOC7P3v
— Warren (@variancewarren) June 28, 2023
Dexerto has confirmed that most of the accounts in the list were community banned on Steam through CS:GO Float, a database that tracks all skins in the game. As of the time of reporting, only one account on the list does not appear to be banned.
The owner of CSGORoll, EyE, denied these allegations. EyE said that “innocent people are being dragged into a personal vendetta” with Monarch, the creator of CSGOEmpire.
“16 people who support themselves financially from trading skins on my and other platforms, who are well known in the community as trustworthy traders, have been banned for a total cost of $2m in skins because they have been falsely accused of money laundering with no evidence by this bitter individual,” said EyE in a Twitter post.
Despite this statement, some Twitter users still demand EyE address some allegations proposed by Warren. The two companies are still feuding to this day.
CSGORoll also faced criticism after releasing a gambling advertisement featuring G2 esports player Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov. The video was released on m0NESY’s 18th birthday, raising concerns about the advertisement’s timing and ethics. Some people assert that through this announcement, CSGORoll is irresponsibly promoting gambling to underage users.
There is still no confirmation of whether these allegations are true or not. However, in May 2023, the Australian government banned access to CSGORoll. The government decided after closely monitoring CS:GO gambling websites and concluding that they were in breach of Australian gambling laws.
If the allegations by Warren are true, then Valve would be justified in shutting down their accounts for violating the game’s terms of service.
The developer has been struggling with skin-gambling issues since 2016. Back then, the Washington Gambling Commission even sent letters to Valve president Gabe Newell to change its policy regarding skin-gambling websites.
A possible solution to the skin-gambling issue
Web3 enthusiasts have argued that NFTs could solve the problem of centralized gaming platforms banning users. They point to the fact that NFTs are stored on the blockchain, which is a decentralized network. No single entity could control or censor them.
If CS:GO skins were NFTs, the skin owners would have full control over their assets. Even when they’re banned from playing CS:GO, the players can still sell or trade the items they had acquired.
Currently, CS:GO users do not truly own the skins within the game. These skins are only licensed to the users and Valve can revoke that license anytime.
As they do not own them, CS:GO skins owners do not have the same rights as owners of physical goods. For example, they cannot sell or trade their skins outside Valve’s ecosystem.
One Twitter user quipped, “Not your account, not your skins?” as a play on the crypto phrase “Not your keys, not your crypto.” It was originally a warning against storing cryptocurrency on centralized exchanges.
When people store their assets on a centralized exchange, they trust the exchange to hold them. This model is called a custodial wallet.
An example of this model is the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, which collapsed in 2021. Users lost access to their funds when withdrawals were paused.
According to Decrypt, NFTs could potentially fix the issue of users not being able to access, sell and trade their items. Unfortunately, Valve is still against NFT games and even banned them from Steam. It is highly unlikely that the company will integrate NFTs into their game system anytime soon.