With the release of the “Uber update” for Team Fortress 2 last week, Valve announced that Team Fortress 2 will be come free to play “forever”. This was a pretty big move for Valve, one that may have a variety of effects on the current free to play market be it for developers, publishers, and/or the consumers of this market.
The most obvious of these effects is that Valve may have just cornered the F2P market. Team Fortress 2 is a game that has been updated continuously for the past four years and has enjoyed lots of media attention along the way. With this move, Valve has taken advantage of the image that the press has created for a game and are now using it to attract more players than ever. Couple this with the game’s hugely successful micro-transactions, and you have a recipe for success.
Team Fortress 2 becoming free may also raise the quality bar of video games across the board. F2P games have had a habit of being of lower quality than your typical pay to play game during recent years. Team Fortress 2 may just force developers of future F2P games, and even pay to play games to develop games that are of higher quality. I mean, why would you pay £20-£40 to play Brink (a game that has a metacritic score of 70), when you could pay absolutely nothing to play Team Fortress 2 (a game that brags a 92 metacritic score)?
Not forgetting it will very likely kill off the many, many F2P games that attempt to clone Team Fortress 2 in some way. Why play a clone, when you can play the real thing for the same price?
Valve took a bold move with this new approach to their flagship multiplayer shooter, however, given the success of the game over the previous 4 years, and the recent micro-transaction business model, this decision may turn out to be one of the better decisions to come from the Bellevue based games developer in a long time.
It will definitely be interesting to see how games like Tribes: Ascend will hold up in comparison.