Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has become a little less free-to-play. The game has had a paid access tier, called Prime, since going free-to-play, and Valve has just added some restrictions to non-Prime accounts that limits their progression.
Non-Prime accounts can still play all game modes, play on community servers, and play workshop maps. However, they will no longer receive XP, Ranks, drops, or Skill Groups, and they won’t have a path to Prime access. Non-Prime players will play in “unranked” Competitive, Wingman, and Danger Zone matches. Prime players can also join such matches, with no effect on their Skill Group; otherwise, Prime players will only be matched against other Prime players.
A Prime upgrade costs $14.99, and if you purchase before June 17, your current Skill Group and XP progress will carry over. You can find a FAQ detailing the rest of the changes on the CS:GO support page.
Why the change? Valve states that it’s not about money, but rather “bad actors” who have tended “to hurt the experience of both new and existing players.” That’s not too different from restrictions we’ve seen on other free accounts in MMOs that are meant to prevent spamming gold-buying site links in chat or other misbehavior that can occur with such accounts. And if you’re playing CS:GO competitively, it probably makes sense that you should be willing to shell out a few bucks for the priviledge.