After years of charging $14.99 for Counter:Strike Global Offensive, in 2018 developer Valve decided to turn the game free to play, meaning anyone could jump into the game and start playing without having to pay a thing. All you need to start playing CS:GO is a free Steam account and a PC capable of playing it.
Valve makes money from CS:GO via in-game cosmetic sales, such as skins that change the look of your weapons, or stickers that you can put onto your weapons to make them unique to you.
Some skins cost as little as a few cents while others can go for hundreds of dollars depending on the rarity of the item. However, these are not required to play the game and do not give any kind of advantage, you can play the game entirely for free and not be at any kind of disadvantage.
For anyone that purchased CS:GO before it was made free to play, their account was marked as “Prime” for free when the switch happened.
Having “Prime” status on your account means you will be able to play with other players that have “Prime” in matches and be able to secure “Prime” only cosmetic items such as new skins for your weapons.
Players who did not purchase CS:GO before the switch to free to play are still able to purchase a “Prime” upgrade for $14.99, and get the same benefits.
For anyone who plans to play a lot of CS:GO, getting the “Prime” upgrade is almost mandatory.
The game, unfortunately, has a lot of cheaters in it, and many of them will stick to free accounts that do not have “Prime” so they don’t lose money when the account is banned for cheating. Paying for the “Prime” service means you should encounter less cheaters in your matches.