How do case keys work in Counter Strike: GO?

Although CS:GO is a purely skill-driven FPS game and by no means is it an RPG, there are some elements which are inspired by these types of games, such as gaining experience points or moving up the hierarchy rank. Another important element of this game is the drop system introduced in the form of case keys. What exactly are they, and how do they work?

What are case keys?

During the evolution of Counter Strike: Global Offensive, various mechanisms were introduced to the game by Valve. One of them is the looting system which allows players to collect various items to be used in the game. Basically, after a finished match, it is possible to get a free weapon skin, or a case. If you get a skin, it’s automatically added to your account. And if you’re lucky enough to get a case… Well, that’s where the fun begins.

A case may be opened with a Counter Strike GO case key. Back in the day, the keys were also used by skin traders as a currency to trade various items between players. They could have been obtained not only from the publisher but also from the other players. However, since 2019, Valve has tied the keys with individual accounts and made buying keys possible only through the Steam Store. That move was quite smart on the company’s part – it boosted the revenue a lot, due to the vast amount of microtransactions. At the same time, it suppressed illegal actions perpetrated by some players. In late 2019, CS:GO even made the news Renowned papers like The Guardian or even the BBC Radio had reported that nearly all of the case keys transactions were part of a money laundering process. Because of that, Valve had decided to prohibit key trading.

How to get a CS:GO case key?

It’s very simple. Since the 2019 update, every key is tied with a Steam account. The only way to get the keys now is to buy them in the Steam Store at a price of $2.50. Getting a case means that you can obtain a certain set of items (usually not valuable ones – there is a very poor chance of getting something more valuable). So, from a technical standpoint, the case itself is free but opening it comes at a cost.

It’s good to remember that at the moment, the only official source of keys is the Steam Store. So, if you stumble upon a site offering you “the best CS:GO keys” – be very careful. It’s probably a scam that will cost you a lot of money if you fall for it.

Are CS:GO case keys better than drops or buying skins from the market?

The short answer is: yes and no.

Not every player has enough money to spend it on expensive skins. The market for them is very diverse; prices of available skins range from pennies to tens of thousands of dollars. For some, buying valuable skins is a kind of financial investment which can give big returns in the future. The skin market is not regulated. Its volatility can be a blessing and a curse, all at the same time.

The second option of obtaining skins is to get so-called “raw drops” after a match or during a special event. This is also quite a good possibility, an absolutely risk-free one. But it’s also very time-consuming and quite laborious. Usually, the skins which you get after a match or an event are nothing more than the ordinary, cheap ones which you can see in almost every match.

The third option involves the CS:GO case keys. For a relatively small amount of money, you get the possibility of looting a very valuable item. It’s basically a slot machine, but with a higher probability of winning something of a greater value than just a handful of coins. The winnings can be enormous. However, since we’ve already established that the whole process possesses some traits similar to gambling, you probably shouldn’t do it too often. A couple of keys is quite enough. And if you want to spend a lot of money on CS:GO, it’s better just to buy a desired skin via Steam or markets such as Skinwallet which offer a lot of interesting and eye-catching products.


It’s good to develop your own method of obtaining such items as skins or sprays. Just like in the real world, a good investment must be diversified. Perhaps you should consider only buying keys from time to time, a skin every once in a while, and at the same time – getting small raw drops after matches? The strategy is up to you.

Justin Germino
I have been obsessed with computers, tech, gadgets and games since the early 1980's having grown up on the Commodore 64 and Amiga computers. By day I work in the IT Security Industry and have been in IT for over 20 years. On my spare time I am a Vlogger, Blogger, Streamer, Gadget Reviewer, affiliate marketer, influencer and entertainer. I am also an avid movie fan, TV Show fan, Anime fan, video game fan and fan of trying anything and everything new.
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