In mid-2008, Valve and Nexon launched “Counter-Strike Online”, a free-to-play spin-off based on CS: Condition Zero, targeted towards the Asian gaming market. It’s filled with loads of new game modes (including, but not limited to an assortment of challenge modes, and boss attack modes), characters, maps and weapons. It also uses a micro-transaction system that makes you pay for your weapons, using a combination of in-game post-match points, and real money (believe it or not, it’s actually doing pretty well). It has been distributed in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, and there’s even plans to release it in India. And it’s actually really successful.
In a… pretty surprising move, actually, Valve and Nexon have announced that they’ll be doing all of that… all over again.
I’ll just quote the original press release:
Counter-Strike Online 2 will offer enhanced graphics, more realistic gameplay and powerful impact sensations powered by an enhanced version of the Source engine. The game will also feature various game modes enhancing its original game experience with new and improved environments, weapons, equipment customization and more.
Under the terms of the agreement, Nexon Korea will develop and be the exclusive publisher of Counter-Strike Online 2 in Japan, Korea, China and other areas in Southeast Asia. Nexon Korea intends to continue to leverage its proven development expertise and deep understanding of local markets to make Counter-Strike Online 2 one of the leading first-person shooter titles in the region.
Sounds intriguing. No idea if it’ll be based on CSS or CS:GO, but seeing as they’re not offering any kind of release estimate, it does sound as if they might be waiting on CS:GO (which is currently targeted for summer, but obviously won’t make that deadline). And that’s good – CSO fans deserve a pretty impressive sequel. Let’s hope we get to find out more about it soon!
It’s just a shame that these two… sub-series, so to speak, haven’t merged in any meaningful way. I’m not talking about a hypothetical Counter-Strike 2 with guitar guns that shoot lasers, and cost $15 to be used for just a single month – because that’d be absolutely dreadful. I’m talking about a hypothetical free-to-play CS: Online game (this would be a complete spin-off, completely unrelated to the core CS series that Valve itself has been doing since 2000) being distributed across Steam, and developed by Valve and Nexon together, targeted towards Oriental and Occidental markets alike. Valve would be applying not just the time-tested Counter-Strike formulas to this game, but also the lessons they have learned from TF2, and its brand of Westernized F2P micro-transaction.
And I think that’d really work, because TF2 sports one of the few types of F2P micro-transaction systems that works not just from an economic standpoint, but from a gameplay standpoint as well. TF2 is not pay-to-win, it is not a cheap cashgrab, and it has incredible community integration. Furthermore, it’s one of the few games that has ever taken the F2P micro-transaction formula, and made it work in the West. Whether or not it’d work back in the East is a different question altogether, but I have faith that if Valve and Nexon really worked together, they could make it happen, and it’d work really well.
In fact, Valve have stated that they are actively searching for a publishing partner to help them distribute Dota 2 in China. What with CSO’s success in Asia, I think Nexon would be just the right candidate. They said that any plan to distribute Steam in China would be “a whole different ball of wax”, and that a more likely scenario would involve a separate version of the Steam back-end powering a Dota 2 Chinese platform to keep the game updated, and allow players to… well, play together.
Interestingly, this is exactly what Nexon did for the original CSO: Steam tech powered much of its infrastructure. And if Nexon does help Valve out in what might be one of its biggest endeavors yet, who knows what else we can expect to see from their partnership. I’d like to get into CSO, and CSO2 as well - I just worry I don’t have the… yen for it. I mean, we did hear about that 17-year-old Chinese kid who sold a kidney for an iPad 2, an iPhone and a laptop. Lord knows there’s at least some TF2 fans out there who’d donate a kidney for some of the loveliest hats in the entire game. To be fair, it’s not like they’re actually using that kidney in the first place. But hats? You always use hats.