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About 40 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) players have reportedly had their accounts banned on the popular PC gaming platform Steam, resulting in over $2 million worth of skins being lost. Crypto Twitter users and Web3 gaming advocates claim that NFTs fix this—but would they?
CS:GO is consistently the most-played game on Steam, often with more than one million active players taking part in the team-based first-person shooter (FPS) matches. It also fuels a significant unofficial market for gambling with in-game “skins,” or unique item designs—but creator Valve banned such activities in May, over a decade after the game’s launch.
Reports from gaming websites like Dexerto and Dot Esports suggest that over $2 million worth of in-game CS:GO skins are now permanently inaccessible, as they were tied to the banned accounts. The skins for items like guns, knives, and gloves will remain lost to the owners and wider CS:GO community so long as the bans remain intact.
The latest set of bans comes just over a month after a previous wave of CS:GO skin traders were banned after gambling site links were found.
The banned accounts were allegedly part of a “supplier program” for CSGORoll, a third-party marketplace that lets players trade skins. It’s also a site that offers up CS:GO-themed gambling games, as powered by a decentralized app (dapp) built on the EOS blockchain.
Information regarding the bans was leaked by Variance Warren, who appears to be part of the team of a rival gambling site, CSGOEmpire. Warren's thread alleges that the accounts were able to withdraw their balances at a more favorable rate than usual, that the site unlawfully allowed crypto cashouts, and that CSGORoll is an "illegal casino that advertises to children.”
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
Pseudonymous CSGORoll owner EyE took to Twitter to deny the allegations, writing that "innocent people are being dragged into a blood-fueled personal vendetta" with Monarch, the pseudonymous CSGOEmpire creator.
If the allegations are true and these CS:GO players violated the game’s terms of service, then Valve would be within its rights to shut down their accounts. However, members of the wider CS:GO community have taken to Twitter to complain about the moves.
rest in peace to the most beautiful AK skin in CS:GO 😭
— ren (@renyanFPS) June 28, 2023
"Rest in peace to the most beautiful AK skin in CS:GO,” one Twitter user said. Another user remarked that they “got very close to buying this AK for $19,500” a couple weeks back, and added that they “really hope he is unbanned.”
Decrypt reached out to Steam for comment, but did not immediately hear back.
Are NFTs the answer?
As with past examples of centralized, “Web2” games banning users and effectively stripping them of access to their owned digital items, Web3 enthusiasts took this as an opportunity to argue that NFTs would solve such dilemmas.
“Web3 fixes this” has been a common response to tweets about the CS:GO bans. "Lmao this what all y’all get for hating on blockchain and NFTs,” tweeted HBA, the pseudonymous founder of Ethereum NFT collection, Fishy Fam.
Essentially, the argument here is that if CS:GO skins were NFTs—blockchain tokens that can represent in-game items and be traded freely across marketplaces—then the skin owners would have full control over their assets. Even if Valve banned them from playing CS:GO, they’d still be able to sell or trade the items.
Lmao this what all y’all get for hating on blockchain and NFTs
— HBA (@HBAcrypto) June 28, 2023
Instead, CS:GO "owners" don't really own anything—especially if Valve doesn't want them to. As in other popular games like Fortnite and Roblox, CS:GO skins are locked to the game in question and don’t have utility outside of Valve’s own ecosystem.
“Not your account, not your skins?” one Twitter user snarkily wrote, playing off of the popular crypto phrase "Not your keys, not your crypto"—a warning to the potential dangers of storing cryptocurrency on centralized exchanges.
When storing your crypto on centralized exchanges, you technically don't own your assets but the exchange does—this is called a custodial wallet. For example, when FTX collapsed last year, users lost access to their crypto when withdrawals were paused. It’s comparable to Steam users being banned from their account, preventing withdrawal of their assets.
Not only is it upsetting for the community to lose a catalog of valuable, in-demand skins, but it appears these traders were also banned—collectively losing assets valued in the millions of dollars—without a transparent process or insight from Valve.
If they had true ownership and custody of their respective assets, then Valve would be unable to strip them away—although the developer could potentially limit their use in-game and impact their secondary market value in the process.
Would NFTs fix this? Potentially, yes. But until Valve begins integrating NFTs, a highly unlikely prospect given that it banned NFT games from Steam, then CS:GO players will remain vulnerable to the whims of a centralized gaming giant.