Team Fortress 2 player base 5x larger post free-to-play switch

Gabe Newell details team-based shooter's uptick in traffic following monetization model changeup; Steam sales successful due to player base promotion.

Valve has been driving force in digital game sales over the past few years. Company cofounder Gabe Newell was at last week's TechNW: North to Innovation conference where he discussed the Team Fortress 2's successful conversion to the microtransaction model, the difference between free and free to play, and the elasticity of game pricing driving Steam's sales strategy.

Team Fortress 2 has seen a bump in popularity since going free to play.

According to GeekWire, Newell spent time talking about how the company's understanding of consumer trends is increasing. Team Fortress 2's recent shift to a free-to-play model provided Valve with insight into how audiences react to different pricing models.

The team-based shooter has seen a five-fold increase in its user base since going free to play, Newel said, an increase that other Valve titles offered free for a limited time never approached. He explained this disparity saying that free and free to play imply very different things, with the latter creating a sense of increased future value for the players.

Speaking to free-to-play conversion rates of players that go from experiencing the free content to those who spend money on in-game items, Newell said Team Fortress 2's rate is 10 times that of anecdotal numbers from partners at 20 to 30 percent. "We don’t understand what's going on," Newell said, "It's just an exciting time but also a very troubling time."

Newell also spoke to the pricing of titles and the affect it has on revenue. He characterized game prices as perfectly elastic. No matter the price of a game, the final revenue will remain the same with more or less purchases over time depending on the price point. This makes pricing decisions alone incapable of increasing revenue.

The seasonal sales that Steam is known for do bring in more revenue by a factor of 40, but this is time-shifted revenue, Newell said, expediting future purchases. The Valve cofounder said that despite the aforementioned elasticity in relation to revenue, the sales promotions work in a different way. Post-sale purchase numbers typically see a boost that put them higher than pre-sale numbers at the same price point, he said, adding that retail sales also see an increase showing the size of the player base as a more effective marketing tool than the lowered price during sales periods.

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Discussion

81 comments
basangicu
basangicu

I actually bought the game (with Orange Box) but I can't play since after one patch (sometime in 2011) my game stopped passing the loading. :)) Nice menus tough...

ZiggyStardust66
ZiggyStardust66

I too never would have purchased Team Fortress 2, but after it went free-to-play it got spruiked all over youtube and since I already had steam thought I would try it out. Love the game! Purchased some stuff from the store, not that I really needed or wanted it (prefer the stock weapons to be honest), but just to support the game after having now racked up like 70 hours of playtime (so far!). It's just such a fun, awesome game. I also really like it that they don't -punish- f2p players. There's nothing that annoys me more, than a game that says it's "free to play" when in reality the 'free' part is just like an extended trial. I could have happily stayed as a f2p player forever, and ironically enough that made me want to give Valve money, lol. PLAY THIS GAME!

keichimorisato9
keichimorisato9

my only problem with the game is the fact that every time now since the newest patch i can't play on any of the servers

pszone
pszone

i dont carebring us half life 3

pegi989
pegi989

i like the fact that it has gone free to play i already had it but i stopped because it was close to death but now it filled with peaple witch i can play with (and defeat hard). so the fact that it has been gifted with a second life is great and they still get their money with the hats and guns and i am okay with it it keeps the game going

Pete5506
Pete5506

I've had the game for years, but have been playing it more since it went F2P

Philly1UPer
Philly1UPer

@lfebaggins There were tons of people who didn't know how to play properly before this game went F2P. Why are you mad? that you wasted money to buy a game that went F2P a couple of years after it was released and made its money?

Philly1UPer
Philly1UPer

@lfebaggins what is /wrist though oh superior intelligent being? Why not just write "go slit your wrist" It would make your insult to someone of being a "community college dropout" have some actual merit to it.

donsnypa
donsnypa

untill team fortress 2 went free to play i never even imagined purchasing it it just never apealed to me but now i have played it i have to say its been my most played title latley i have already even considered going premium good job valve smart thinking(now lets see what else they make free)

Joedgabe
Joedgabe

@lifebaggins I'm all for helping the community and helping people, hell i've helped plant trees and given money to charity however... I always question people that always bring Africa as their way to impose someone being inconsiderate of others... and yet people in Africa that can't afford food and have problems living they still have kids? Was their responsibility as a parent not to bring life to earth unless they was able to take care of it? Yes way off topic but I don't find the whole Africa argument completely justified considering the other facts. I respect the human population and knowledge that Industrialism and consumers are to blame for Africa's current state however :S they are making their own situation worse.

lfebaggins
lfebaggins

@Magick420 I find it hilarious that you claim I'm a jobless loser who has no money yet you acknowledge the fact that I had tf2 pre-f2p patch and that I must have bought the game. Disgruntled kid, moms basement, blah blah blah, good job insulting me with what everyone else says to other trolls. While trying to decipher my own words against me, all you've done is prove you have the intelligence of someone who flunked out of community college. You can go /wrists though, that could be the first intelligible thing youd do

Cloud-Zehro
Cloud-Zehro

@emperiox Not that I wanna STEAM your buns, but nobody is gonna miss your sales....

keech
keech

This is one of the only games I've seen that has done F2P right. In that you actually DO get a complete game for free without having to drop extra money to make it fun and/or playable. Rock on Valve.

chuck_hamburger
chuck_hamburger

TF2. For 20 bucks I have played 1500 hrs+ The game is constantly adding new maps, items (cosmetic and functional) It is community driven and gives money back to it's players that contribute maps and items to them. It can be a social game or a competitive game for the individual or someone that wants to work as a team. It has a liitle niche for everyone. The only people that I can see that would have a problem with this game are people who can't stand up to a mild learning curve.

Magick420
Magick420

@ lfebaggins I find it hilarious you mention starving kids in Africa when talking about people buying things online. What exactly do YOU do to help 3rd world countries? Nothing? Hmm. Then you are no different than the person buying stuff from a cash shop. You just decide not to spend your money there. In all honesty you probably dont have a job and cant afford anything anyways. You truelly sound like a kid in his moms basement that is all disgruntled over people buying items it took you months to earn in game.

BloodMist
BloodMist

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

lfebaggins
lfebaggins

@BloodMist My pessimism is just in response to some butthurt noob's pessimism on my comments that TF2 is too good of a game to go the f2p route, being offended by my calling f2p noobs as cheapskates, since his friends and possibly he himself got the game when it became f2p, and trying to justify that buying hats on the Mann Co store counts as paying for the game. I'd go on but I think what I've said so far says enough.

BloodMist
BloodMist

@lfebaggins Massive pessimism based on pure hyperbole wastes everyone's time.I hope you figure that out some day. *pats on head*

lfebaggins
lfebaggins

@WolfGrey What good is the community expanding if all it does is add more retards that can't seem to figure out how to transition from playing angry birds to team fortress. All the morons playing can't even figure out how to use the demoman pipebomb launcher. I never seen more tards playing tf2 except when tf2 became Mac compatible and the community had an influx of Mac tards. Oh and you and your f2p cheapskate friends bought some hats eh... GOOD FOR YOU! Here's your cookie. I never bought anything on the mann co store and never will. I got all my hats pre-mann co patch through frags and time played, without using the idling cheat. Congratulations on spending real money on that stuff. I mean poverty-stricken countries in Africa are scouring for dollar donations but hey if you want to spend cash on video game customizations that have no effect on gameplay, by all means! You are right, ignorance is bliss. F2P noob.

BloodMist
BloodMist

Brilliance, thy name is Valve.To give away a game that for all intents and proposes is a flawless multiplayer experience with a microtransaction system that's appealing to some yet not intrusive to the game in any way is pure genius.

MrHatnClogs
MrHatnClogs

I think it's a good thing when the only complaint people have about a company is when they give a product away for free, compared to SOME COMPANIES that charge you for ridicules stuff like Capcom for the RE5 multiplayer, EA for the extra 5$ when I bought a used ME2, and don't get me started on the Call of Duty Maps spending over 100$ on a game and the new COD Elite charging people even more.

vega13mv
vega13mv

i got it when it went free and im just constantly getting pwnd, having trouble finding any fun in it but I still load it up every now and then to see if I can manage to at least stay alive for a while

M-S-M-S
M-S-M-S

I think that Valve is one of the best companies in the gaming business. Not just that they make amazing games, it seems that they know what gamers want... and they deliver. I wish other companies will learn from Valve how to treat their costumers. Hear that EA?

Anicsin
Anicsin

No more free games! Making this free was the worse decision, as they brought thousands of incapable players (not newbies, or inexperienced players, "dumb" ones) into the game, transforming it into a joke. The old times were the best... without nonsense weapons, and without mindless bot-like players...

thingta42
thingta42

Played this game theo ther night and uninstalled it an hour later. I don't understand the point in it. Its just everything custom servers with one shot kills and stuff. I'll skip. Least it went F2P i would of been angry if i had paid money for it

emperiox
emperiox

Many of which are hackers, watch me never buy a valve title ever again...

BlackWaltz_No_3
BlackWaltz_No_3

TF2 gave me more than 1000 hours of gameplay and it only cost me $20. No other game has made me hat-obsessed than this game. MOAR FREE HATS VALVE!

gameking5000
gameking5000

The same amount of money for a CoD map pack bought me Team Fortress 2.

WolfGrey
WolfGrey

@lfebaggins So bringing 5 times more players,making the community bigger, and extending its life time probably by years is bad? Luckily there is very little of any those kind of elitists on the game now or in SPUF. And btw most F2P players actually buy something pretty quick.Most F2P friends i had all within a week each went out and bought stuff on the Mann Co store, supporting the game. Ignorance must be bliss.

TheOtherTheoG
TheOtherTheoG

Would you believe it, I actually went out and bought it in anticipation of the Uber Update, in which it went F2P - I saw that they were having 'their biggest update ever' or something and thought 'I've been wanting to play that for a while, I'll pick it up'. A couple of weeks later it went F2P :D Anyway, still one of my absolute favourite games ever.

Too-DementeD
Too-DementeD

I bought it just months before it became F2P, and it annoyed me at first considering I had just paid for it not too long ago. Now however, I think it was a great move by Valve. Many of my friends downloaded it for free, then after realizing it is possibly the greatest multiplayer game they have ever played, bought items from the store so that they could get a Premium account. I get to play the game with more of my friends than I could before, and Valve (eventually) still got their money.

bibliomaniac15
bibliomaniac15

I bought TF2 for sale for $10, and that was the best deal I ever made for a game.

tachsniper
tachsniper

i bought TF2 the day it came out. .. now its F2P... i hate it when they do that.

lfebaggins
lfebaggins

Im a little disappointed Valve went with the f2p route with Team Fortress 2. Its a game that deserves to be paid for in order to play, not to leech off from f2p cheapskates.

madglee
madglee

I paid for the whole orange box years back and I don't regret it at all - I just got to play for that much longer. :)

nemesis4x
nemesis4x

@CrossFire312 Yes i watch it, you got a problem buddy? :D Its an awesome cartoon and it makes me happy

eva89
eva89

ya so its time to go on and stop making hats whenever theres a freaking new game.

jinzo9988
jinzo9988

You want to know why Team Fortress 2 is doing so well under the free to play banner? It doesn't suck complete dog feces like Asian shooters do, thus it has absolutely no competition in free to play shooters. Within the next 5 years as North American games go free to play, all these crappy Asian games that Westerners have been subjected to for all these years will rapidly decline and die off. The market is totally ripe for the taking and Valve can totally own the North American free to play shooting market hand over fist if it really wants to. Can you believe tens of thousands of people in 2011 play garbage like Cross Fire every day?

Jedilink109
Jedilink109

Haha, I already owned this game for YEARS before it went free to play. :P

ADDADAC
ADDADAC

I spent $30 on tf2 a year before it went free, I don't regret a thing

X_Colbert_X
X_Colbert_X

This is very, very good news indeed! In my opinion, Team Fortress 2 is the PERFECT multiplayer experience. Classes are exceptionally balanced and each one can be adapted to a multitude of play styles. The community is mature (for the most part), respectful, and understand that people actually play games to have fun, not to get incredibly competitive and ***** at other players. Kudos to Valve, Steam, and Gabe--you are among the few innovators of not just the PC gaming industry, but the gaming industry as a whole.

slvrraven9
slvrraven9

@ Jessica_M_C and that is an important message brought to us by captain obvious! but i do agree wholeheartedly!

slvrraven9
slvrraven9

@ toddx77 amen to that brother! no matter how ridiculous the industry gets valve somehow always manages to stay relatively grounded

Toysoldier34
Toysoldier34

Long Live Steam. I bought the Orange Box when it launched twice. Once for PC and again on PS3. I had to buy it on PS3 because my PC couldn't run TF2 or HL2:EP2 back then. Though now I have no problems with games on my PC.

madglee
madglee

"We don’t understand what’s going on," Newell said, "It’s just an exciting time but also a very troubling time." Am I misunderstanding, or is he confused that more people play when it's free.

toddx77
toddx77

I love it when gamespot has in article about either gabe or valve. You just know its going to be a good read.

starduke
starduke

When it went F2P is when I started playing.