Valve, Counter-Strike, macOS, and How Not to Relaunch Software

Published on September 28, 2023 (↻ October 12, 2023), filed under (RSS feed for all categories).

Counter-Strike is—at the moment, was—a multi-platform game (Windows, macOS, Linux, SteamOS) and one of the most popular online games.

Earlier this year, Valve, maker of the Counter-Strike game series, announced Counter-Strike 2 (CS2).

A months-long testing period followed, during which Valve presented a fantastic overhaul of the game (my take from following the development, particularly thanks to coverage by 3kliksphilip and TheWarOwl).

Yesterday, on September 27, rumored but still somewhat suddenly, Valve released Counter-Strike 2, replacing the game’s predecessor, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) on Valve’s Steam platform.

But

Valve shipped only a Windows version.

And put something unplayable on all other systems *:

Without notice, without a way to go back to CS:GO, without a way to decently emulate the new version—and also without a clear path forward.

Right now, all that “works” is a hacky and sketchy way to even get to and sell one’s paid game inventories (which can be worth a fortune)—a way that’s furthermore limited because the funds are by default tied to players’ Steam Wallets (i.e., can only be used on Steam).

(Counter-Strike means millions of dollars of revenue—actual money—, Valve controls the economy, and a part of the player base just lost access to the game and a way to use and meaningfully manage their inventories. Like that 🫰)

Jekyll and Hyde

What was likely a suspenseful happy end to a long wait of the Windows player base, has turned into one of the worst relaunches ever for every other player, creating and fueling anger and mistrust.

That is, on the Windows side, Valve’s release of Counter-Strike 2 must have been one of the most exciting ones to follow in a long time.

But on the macOS side, it’s one of the worst software relaunches I’ve ever seen. It’s easily the most drastic and disrespectful one. And it’s one that raises many serious questions.

What I find most annoying, however, is that even without knowing the actual product, engineering, and legal decisions, it’s clear that much here could have been mitigated through—communication.

Ultimately, how you relaunch your software is not the point—it’s if and how you respect your users.

I’ve been a regular Counter-Strike player on macOS since the beginning of the pandemic, and I’m curious how Valve is going to manage this brewing storm. Like other players, I’ve reached out to them on their channels, but—have not received a response now received a non-answer, in that Counter-Strike 2 would not be available on macOS “at this time.”

Update (October 1, 2023)

There is a mailing list on Google Groups, cs2macos, to discuss. (Email the group at cs2macos@googlegroups.com, or log into your Google account to join the group.)

Update (October 7, 2023)

There’s still no communication from Valve. The document What you can do details some steps macOS players can take. (It does not provide legal advice.) Feedback and contributions are welcome, preferably via the list as previously mentioned.

It seems useful to reiterate the main problem, lack of communication: If macOS players had known that Counter-Strike on macOS was not to be supported anymore, or would not be supported long-term, they would have stopped or not even started playing the game. It’s also unlikely they would have spent any money on purchasing anything in or for the game. Valve making the game unavailable/unplayable without notice made this impossible, advantaging Valve, and disadvantaging macOS players.

Update (October 10, 2023)

Valve officially pulled the plug on Counter-Strike on macOS. […]

* There’s also a Linux version of Counter-Strike 2, but that one doesn’t seem to be working reliably. There are numerous reports on sound issues, with audio being crucial in Counter-Strike. Focus of this post is on Counter-Strike for macOS, but I might edit and update the post as I learn more.

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens (long: Jens Oliver Meiert), and I’m a frontend engineering leader and tech author/publisher. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

I love trying things, not only in web development (and engineering management), but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you want to do me a favor, interpret charitably (I speak three languages, and they can collide), yet be critical and give feedback for me to learn and improve. Thank you!