New Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players now need to pay for ranked play, Valve has announced.
Previously, new players of the free-to-play competitive first-person shooter had access to drops, ranks, skill groups, and a free path to Prime (paid) matchmaking.
Valve said that over time, these benefits had become "an incentive for bad actors to hurt the experience of both new and existing players".
Now, new players have a different offering. They can still play every game mode, play on community servers and play workshop maps, but they will no longer receive XP, ranks, drops, or skill groups.
Those features are now exclusively available to Prime Status players, Valve said. The Prime Status upgrade costs £10.89.
New players can still upgrade to Prime by purchasing the Prime Status upgrade from the Steam store, but there is no longer a free path to Prime. (If you buy the upgrade in the next two weeks, your current skill group and XP progress will carry over.)
It's a clear attempt to tackle cheating in CS:GO ranked. Prior to this update, players who Valve banned for cheating could simply create a new account and progress enough with it to achieve Prime status and, from there, cheat in CS:GO ranked lobbies. Theoretically, with this update Prime ranked lobbies should see less cheating - assuming the £10.89 paywall is enough of a deterrent of course.
Valve also announced unranked. Now, when new players play Competitive, Wingman, and Danger Zone, their matches will still use skill-based matchmaking, but players will not earn a skill group.
Prime players can also play unranked matches, where their skill group will not be affected and where there are no lobby skill group restrictions.