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Valve Switching Team Fortress 2 To Free-To-Play Increased Revenue Twelvefold 196

An anonymous reader writes "We've frequently discussed the growing trend among video game publishers to adopt a business model in which downloading and playing the game is free, but part of the gameplay is supported by microtransactions. There have been a number of success stories, such as Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online. During a talk at the Game Developers Conference this week, Valve's Joe Ludwig officially added Team Fortress 2 to that list, revealing that the game has seen a 12-fold increase in revenue since the switch. He said, 'The trouble is, when you're a AAA box game, the only people who can earn you new revenue are the people who haven't bought your game. This drives you to build new content to attract new people. There's a fundamental tension between building the game to satisfy existing players and attract new players.' He also explained how they tried to do right by their existing playerbase: 'We dealt with the pay-to-win concern in a few ways. The first was to make items involve tradeoffs, so there's no clear winner between two items. But by far the biggest thing we did to change this perception was to make all the items that change the game free. You can get them from item drops, or from the crafting system. It might be a little easier to buy them in the store, but you can get them without paying.'"
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Valve Switching Team Fortress 2 To Free-To-Play Increased Revenue Twelvefold

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  • Re:what about (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @06:57PM (#39294945)

    Those who bought the games all won a very awesome, useless bagde!!

  • business school 101 (Score:5, Informative)

    by slew ( 2918 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @07:01PM (#39294995)

    A common truism you learn in business school is that it's usually easier (and less costly) to sell more to your existing customer than to try to get new customers...

    If every new dollar you earn is less costly, you have more operating margin which you can then use to feed back into your business and make it grow faster. Thus cross-selling and up-selling techniques are really just no brainers that nearly everyone uses. Works in almost any business (including the gaming industry).

  • Re:what about (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @07:05PM (#39295059)

    Also the ability to play the game up to 4 years prior to the f2p people. And the ability to actually trade items and get vanity stuff (if thats your thing)

  • Re:Pay to win (Score:5, Informative)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @07:21PM (#39295249)

    When I heard TF2 is going f2p I was fearing a p2w system, akin to many other f2p games where you are essentially the "product" for those that dump money on the makers because your tools, your weapons, your equipment just cannot hold a candle to theirs and you're, essentially, akin to some rather smart bot on easy difficulty level.

    Valve solved the problem fairly well. As far as I can tell, you can have all the items for free that someone who spends money can have (well, aside of some vanity items without any effect in game). What happened is that you can either dump money on them to get the weapon you want NOW or you wait for the random system to drop one on you.

    Also, the weapons in TF2 are not like in most other games where you don't touch your "newbie" gun anymore once you got something better. The fun part is that you don't get more powerful with more choice, you just get more versatility and more choice for certain situations. Pretty much every item that gives you some bonus in one area has some rather nasty drawback. A gun that slows the enemy does less damage, a rocket with more direct damage does less splash damage, a sniper gun that does more damage uses tracer rounds and gives away your position... you get the idea.

  • by brainzach ( 2032950 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @07:31PM (#39295351)

    Paying doesn't mean you are lazy.

    Time is money. Maybe someone with a busy life doesn't want to spend 10 hours getting a $5 dollar item for free when they make $60 an hour in the real world.

  • by VGPowerlord ( 621254 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @07:47PM (#39295487)

    One of the major themes in alternate weapon in TF2 that they aren't necessarily better than the weapons they replace.

    There are two weapons in the entire game that have clear upgrades. Those are the Medic's Bonesaw and the Soldier's Shovel.

    I'll use the Soldier's Rocket Launchers as an example of weapons that are sidegrades. The rocket launchers are:

    Rocket Launcher - 4 Rockets per clip. 20 rockets total. Rockets shoot slowly. Rockets have a good amount of splash area.

    Direct Hit - 4 Rockets per clip. 20 rockets total. Rockets shoot quickly. Rockets do 20% higher damage. Rockets mini-crit airborne enemies. Rockets have 70% smaller splash area.

    Black Box - 3 Rockets per clip. 20 rockets total, rockets shoot slowly. Rrockets have a good amount of splash area. Player gains 15 health per person hit.

    The Liberty Launcher - 3 Rockets per clip. 20 rockets total. Rockets shoot quickly. Rockets have a good amount of splash area.

    The Original - Identical to Rocket Launcher, but fires from the center instead of from the right.

    Cow Mangler 5000 - 5 Rockets per clip. Unlimited ammo. Slower reload time. Rockets shoot slowly. Rockets have a good amount of splash area. Can not do critical hits. When your clip is full, right-click to shoot a charge shot (takes 3 seconds to fire, during which you move at 1/4 speed) which does mini-crits and sets enemies in its splash range on fire... but uses the entire clip of 5 rockets. All shots do 80% less damage versus buildings, but a charged shot disables buildings for 4 seconds.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 08, 2012 @08:07PM (#39295653)

    There is no paid content in tf2 that can't be obtained through other means, either by trading, crafting, or simply having the item "drop" like an mmo (it just appears between lives while playing, you usually get 10 a week or so if you play a lot). The most expensive content is vanity items, hats or other facial accessories, but those can be obtained via the above methods as well. Several of the earlier ones are available through achievements as well. Most of the strongest items for all classes are the original weapons (or ones available via achievements) - new stuff tend to be sidegrades or gimmicks (but still relatively easy to obtain if you are actually interested in them).

  • by Kaenneth ( 82978 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @09:14PM (#39296269) Homepage Journal

    Since the subject came up, I'm going to mention that EverQuest is going to launch their Free-to-Play program in about a week. (the original, EQ2 has been F2P for a while now) info is at http://www.everquest.com/free/ [everquest.com] (also a new fresh server starting.)

    I don't work for Sony, I just like (and play) EQ. In fact I work for a competitor.

    I'm not a fan of the F2P model, I plan to keep my regular sub; but an MMO needs fresh blood to stay healthy, and I'm hoping this will boost the userbase.

  • by NemosomeN ( 670035 ) on Thursday March 08, 2012 @09:50PM (#39296545) Journal
    I play TF2 quite a bit. Nothing that can actually give you an advantage is buy-only. This includes someone else buying something, and you trading for it. You can get every game-changing item without paying a cent. I bought the game, so I have never had a free-only account, but it's my understanding that you need to have a premium account to trade, which means you have to spend at least 50 cents on a item. Once you've done that, however, you can basically get any game-changing item you want. Things randomly drop while you are playing, but there are 9 classes. Trade any two weapons, and you can get any one weapon you want, generally. It is VERY easy to become competitively equipped with one class, and only takes a month or so of playing to become competitively equipped for all classes you would likely play regularly. TF2 is without a doubt the model of Free-to-Play gaming, from a business perspective. I have bought a few keys, but the impact has been nothing but cosmetic.

BLISS is ignorance.