Team Fortress 2 Goes Free to Play, As Does the Rest of the Games Industry

By  |  Friday, June 24, 2011 at 1:30 pm

The free to play gaming craze has suddenly swept through some major players in the video game industry.

Valve announced that its popular first-person shooter Team Fortress 2 will now be free forever through the company’s Steam PC gaming service, with some optional premium perks for players who spend money on anything in the game. This is part of Valve’s of larger effort to bring free-to-play games to the Steam service.

But Valve is hardly going against the grain here. Last month, Ubisoft announced its first free-to-play foray with Ghost Recon Online. Electronic Arts, which has dabbled in freemium for years now, added its popular Battlefield franchise to the mix this year with Battlefield Play4Free. In March, Sony’s Free Realms became the first free-to-play title for a home game console.

Microsoft is rumored to be getting in on the action as well, with Develop magazine reporting that microtransaction support is coming to the Xbox 360. That would allow developers to give away their games and charge for in-app content.

What’s going on here? The obvious answer is that the big publishers are feeling the pressure from established free-to-play companies such as NCSoft and Nexon. But publishers like Valve, EA and Ubisoft may also be learning lessons from the iPhone, for which there’s a statistic I constantly revisit: Over one third of the App Store’s top-grossing apps are free. For big publishers, this is an untapped market, representing the people who won’t spend $60 on a video game, but might get addicted to free content and drop a dollar here and there.

Oddly enough, this is the same model that some traditional game companies are crusading against. Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime has called inexpensive games “one of the biggest risks today” in the games industry.

But publishers like Valve know that they can no longer ignore free-to-play. As this business model creeps onto Steam and home game consoles, it’s going to get very interesting to watch.


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5 Comments For This Post

  1. Bouke Timbermont Says:

    Hte major difference to note here is that Team Fortress 2 was made as a non-free game. Its quality greatly surpasses that of free iPhone games and, dear god, Battlefield Play4Free, which is being dubbed as Grind4Days by Ars Technica ( the graphics are horrible and the gameplay is terrible.

    I don't dismiss the concept of a free or cheap game in which the developers count on microtransactions to fund the game, but I seriously doubt any free game just based on microtransactions can actually be good. Especially if your purchased items influence your gameplay: then winning doesn't require skills, just a big paypal account.

  2. @manicmarc Says:

    I feel sorry for people who purchased the game when it came out, Valve have totally changed it from what it was back in 2007. Do consumers not have any rights when it comes to software? Regular updates are all very well, but if the product changes too much then it becomes a *different* product – surely that is wrong?

  3. StilgarISCA Says:

    I bought Team Fortress 2 in the Orange Box back when it came out. I do not feel ripped off by this move. In fact, I welcome it. I've more than gotten my money's worth out of the game. My coworkers and I still play everyday on our lunch hour. We're looking forward to wiping the floor with all the newbies. Also, Valve's doing this because they can make more money buy selling weapon packs and hats. They've done a tremendous job of updating and adding new content to the game since I've purchased it — it's almost a completely different game than it was in 2007. If this move helps them keep the updates and addons coming, I'm all for it.

  4. Infogravity Says:

    wow !! Good news for all the game freaks , great days ahead :))

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