Team Fortress 2 now selling items for real money, massive update just launched
The biggest update in Team Fortress 2's history is about to go live, letting players pay real money for in-game items. The Mann-conomy Update adds 17 new community-designed items, and the players who created them will receive a percentage of the takings from their sales. Item trading has also been added, along with item customisation systems for you to rename and recolour your kit. There's a new dueling mini-game, crates of mystery items to be found and unlocked, and special item sets that give you major bonuses for wearing them all at once.
This is huge. And it's probably going to make a lot of people angry. But before you make up your mind, and before you read our full interview with Robin Walker on why they're selling in-game items for real money, here's exactly what's happening and how it works - plus a few shots.
17 new community-made items added
These are the winners of the Polycount contest, items modeled and named by the community, but whose functions and abilities Valve have designed and tested themselves.
You can buy items from inside the game
Players can buy the new community items, and all Valve-made items, by adding real money to their Steam Wallet. Money added to the Steam Wallet can also be spent on anything on Steam. The minimum you can add to your wallet is $5 / £4 / €5. You can't buy older community items yet, Valve are going to roll that out gradually once the system is working.
Prices range from $0.49 to $4.99
The average price of an item is $1.97. Older Valve-made items tend to be the cheapest, new community-made items cost the most. The new Spy knife is $4.99, and the new Soldier rocket launcher is $2.49.
Some items can never be found or crafted, only bought
But these are a small number of cosmetic items. Valve are strict about making sure those that give you "gameplay advantages" are findable for free. There are also a few items that are findable but not purchasable.
You can now trade items with anyone
You can select a friend, someone on the same server as you, or anyone if you have their Steam Community profile URL. There's no dedicated official site for finding people with the items you want, but community sites have already sprung up in anticipation of this update.
You cannot unlock the new items with achievements
This means there's no way to work towards them other than buying them. But you can find them, craft them, trade for them, give them to other people for free, or win them by dueling other players.
You cannot craft or trade an item you bought with real money
But other than that, there's no way to tell between a bought item and one found, crafted or traded. The items everyone has before this update will now be Vintage items, and no items bought or found from now on will get that fancy label. There's no benefit to this, it just makes them collector's items.
There's now a dueling mini-game
In any match, you can challenge any player on the enemy team to a duel. If they accept, they are highlighted in-game the way your nemesis would be, and the game keeps track of how many times you each kill each other. Medals are awarded for duels, and winning a certain number of duels gives you a free item.
You can find tools to customise an item's look and name
You can now find Name Tags or Paint Cans that you can use to rename or recolour your items. Not all items can be recoloured, but it looks like most of them can be renamed.
The new game mode is not in this update
Robin previously told us there'd be a new game mode in the next TF2 update, but in the end they didn't have time to finish it. They were also planning to add one more pack of Polycount items, but since they relate to the new game mode, they left those out too.
Team Fortress 2 is not free to play
Robin said they considered it, but "right now the cost of purchasing TF2 again is the main cost that cheaters pay when we catch them."
That's it. This is a huge update both in terms of content, and in terms of a monumental change in the game's philosophy. I interviewed the lead designer of Team Fortress 2, Robin Walker, about why they're selling in-game items for real money - and to tell us more about the specifics.
Since we found out about this at PC Gamer, the office has erupted into... lively 'debate' about whether it's a good thing. Half the office think it's a disaster, the other half are fine with it. Tim's tapping out a post behind me right now explaining his problems with the system, whereas I'm not convinced it's going to ruin my experience.
What could be a problem, for me, is if the free routes to getting the new weapons aren't quick enough. Drop rates have never been kind to me - no hats in 280 hours of play is starting to feel like some kind of vendetta - so I don't trust them to give me a dozen new weapons in short order. It all comes down to what you need to craft them, or whether anyone will swap for my endless duplicate jars of urine.
I'm not saying I'll never buy an item - I'll probably get that saucepan hat I always wanted for my Soldier. But if I start to feel like the only viable way to get the next thing I want to play around with is to pay for it, this'll be a big drop in my enthusiasm for TF2.
Dueling people for it, though - that I'm up for.
Tell us what you think of the system in the comments. I don't think it's going to be a popular decision, but we'd love to hear exactly what you think and why. And if you've got stuff to trade, or stuff you want, head over to our forums and post in the TF2 trading thread I'm about to make there. There's an official FAQ on the Team Fortress site