I just checked some stats on Steam that are a little amazing. Peak player count for Counter-Strike was over 700,000 while the count for Black Ops III was only 30,000. Those are some crazy numbers. That's over twenty-three times more people playing Counter-Strike over the AAA super title. Why is Counter-Strike so big? Fair games. It's a concept that's been thrown to the wayside by almost every other franchise except for a select few.
I'm talking about a game where anyone can jump in on a game and be on the same level as everyone else. No upgrades, no perks, no golden guns or pay-to-win features. Jump in, grab an AK and start shooting. Sure you'll probably get blown away by someone with super-human skills but at least it wasn't because they had a helicopter gunship in their back pocket.
The idea of leveling in those types of games makes no sense outside the game itself. I always had an issue in Battlefield where if you didn't have enough experience in fighter jets they wouldn't give you missiles. Really? I can just imagine the conversation that would take place on the runway between the crew-chief and the pilot.
"Excuse me son. What's your rating on the F/A-18 Super Hornet?"
"Sir? Uhhh...level one."
"Oh, that's too bad. JERRY! Take the sidewinders off, this guy isn't that good so we have to take away the one thing that might help him actually survive a fight."
A modern combat aircraft without missiles? That makes absolutely no sense. The ground game is also pretty bad.
Just starting out? Here's a standard issue rifle with iron sights. Your opponents? They get full-auto combat shotguns with laser sights, night vision, radar beacons, attack dogs and C-130 gunships. Too bad you didn't pre-order the game and play constantly for three weeks straight so you could keep up. Maybe next time since we'll be releasing a new version of the game in about six months. Even then you're not going to have the legacy bonuses so you'll eternally be behind the times.
These are the frustrations that cause so many gamers around the world to stick with a classic like Counter-Strike. It and games like it are more popular because the game can be fun no matter what your time commitment. I myself am a huge Day of Defeat fan. I can not play for months, start it up and continue playing like I never left. Playing a rifleman? There's my trusty M-1, rifle grenades and combat knife. Assault? Good ol' Thompson, grenades and face punching power. Same trusty gear and I'm assured to be playing against opponents with comparable equipment. That's balance.
I know, I know...how boring is it to play the same game over and over again? What's the purpose if you can't level up and get that better gun? For myself and apparently 700,000 other players today it's the challenge itself that's the purpose. Maybe I'm getting old and feel like winning on even terms is a far better feeling than winning due to having advantages my opponent didn't. Maybe I just like my games to make sense. Why would a tank have different equipment depending on who was driving? Why would air support only come when it's soldiers are winning? Wouldn't it make more sense to call in air support if you're in trouble? It's all backwards and frustrating.
"If you don't like it then don't play them!" That's fair. There's room enough in the digital wastes for every game type. I just thought the numbers were interesting and they made me smile knowing that I'm not alone in thinking that sticking to the basics is always a smart move.