Showing once again that it's a cut above typical game studios and publishers, Valve has announced that Team Fortess 2 has transitioned from a retail title to a free-to-download, free-to-play game. The team-based multiplayer shooter can be freely downloaded right now from Valve's Steam service for Windows and Mac OS X.
The guys at Develop have gotten some inside details about the move from Valve's Robin Walker, who says the company has been considering the free-to-play model "ever since the Mann-conomy update [in September 2010]." He adds:
“It's a belief of ours that in multiplayer games it's generally true that the more people playing the game, the higher value the game has for each individual customer.
“The more players, the more available servers in your area, the wider variety of other players you'll find, the greater the opportunity for new experiences, and so on.”
According to the official FAQ page on the Team Fortress website, new players who grab the game for free will have access to all of the same game modes, classes, maps, and "nearly every weapon." As soon as they make a single purchase of any value on the Mann Co. in-game store, their free account will be upgraded to a "premium" account, which will let them store more items in their backpacks, send gifts and trade with other players, and access or get blueprints to all of the game's items. It looks like the cheapest Mann Co. items run about a dollar, so that's a pretty sweet deal. Players who paid for the game before the free-to-play switch should already have premium accounts.
Incidentally, Valve says it has set up measures to deal with unruly players who might get the idea of spoiling everyone's fun and registering a bunch of free accounts to sidestep bans. The company says, "We’ve built systems that’ll allow us to measure and track what these players are doing, and respond quickly."