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I don't suppose anyone knows why Valve made TF2 free, do they?

edit: Steam adoption+in-app purchases. Good call.




Pivots aren't common in the gaming industry, but I think we just saw one here. Valve has never produced a Korean model, free-to-play game, but they now have converted one of their most popular products into one, transforming a game whose install base has probably plateaued into a potential new revenue stream.

It's a gutsy move, to be sure.


While awesome, this isn't a particularly gutsy move. Mass-market games make the majority of their money in the first three months, generally, I believe. Considering how long TF2 has been out, I think the potential lost sales are vastly smaller than the potential wins here. That said, good job Valve! I'm so glad to see them experimenting with stuff like this.


That might be true for console titles, but steam based games are a little different, due to the possibility of steam sales. By using the advantages of digital distribution (e.g. infinite stock, razor thin overhead) steam makes it possible to have sales of older games at huge discounts. This then generates a huge volume of sales which can generate substantial revenue (to the degree where steam-sales have actually rescued some game companies from the brink of extinction). Valve doesn't have to release sales figures, but it's a good bet that the revenue curve over time for TF2 has a much fatter and longer tail than for your typical AAA console title.

That being said. The advantage of making TF2 free-to-play are huge. Firstly, the hat-conomy generates plenty of revenue on its own. More importantly, TF2 could quite easily become a gateway drug for casual PC gamers to use steam. More users playing TF2 means more users looking at, say, Terraria for 10 bucks, or Left 4 Dead 2 for 20, or some other relatively recent game at a ridiculous price during a sale.


So technically, I bought TF2 last month. But what I really bought was the orange box, which happens to include it.

I really doubt many people are buying TF2 by itself anymore. Anyone who hasn't played it will almost definitely pick it up as part of a bundle.


Steam has just recently released "Free to Play" games, i.e., games that can be downloaded and used for free via Steam. Making a flagship title like TF2 among this class of games greatly increases awareness of Steam's new free offerings. While I doubt this is the complete reason, it probably played a role.

I would also guess that Valve has something big up their sleeve to be willing to give away such an important money maker, but I have no backing for that other than instinct. Now what would be really awesome would be open-sourcing TF2.


I think we're starting to see some land grabs by bigger players in the digital distribution of games. Electronic Arts has just launched their Origins service and Stardock sold off Impulse to Gamestop. Valve is enticing users onto their platform with all of these free-to-play additions.


I suspect it's because of paid DLC. The ol' razor and blades model - give the game away for free and reap the profit on bought game content (e.g. 'hats'). The margins on those make gillette envious.


Except you need blades to shave -- most hats have no effect on gameplay.


In my experience vanity items with no effect on gameplay attract droves of people with to much disposable income. When I was still playing WoW lots of people were buying things like pets and mounts with no benefit other then looking cool and showing off. I don't see how TF2 hats will be any different.

Regardless, as people said the sales of TF2 have probably mostly dropped off, distributing the game for free costs nothing (well, it costs hosting and bandwidth but I don't suspect those costs make up any significant percentage of Steam's total costs, so effectively the hosting is free) so they have barely any income to lose and a massive fanbase and ingame transaction economy to gain.


Valve makes a killing off the in-game item store. With the game nearly 4 years old I'd say they're pretty much through most of the people who would have bought the game, and making it free increases the number of people playing (good for all the current players) as well as the number of sales of items. Valve makes use of it's community really well, it supports a lot of community events and encourages mod-makers to make items which Valve puts into the game.


It will definitely be interesting to see how the influx of free users will affect the community and the games. I know that people used to detest free weekends when a lot of non-paid newbies would be allowed to play for free on the weekend of an update. Are we getting into an "Eternal September" for TF2?


I believe that for a continually-updated game like TF2, they can continue to make money as younger gamers age into the game's target range (it helps that you can't really resell Steam games). I don't believe there's a strictly limited set of people who are willing to buy any given game.


Because they make tons of money from the in-app store. Valve has done pricing experiments on TF2 for years. Its retail price has varied from $20 to $1.99. They had already mostly saturated the market.

Since they opened the in-app store a few months ago, they've made tons of money. TF2 now sells individual hats for up to $13, more than the retail price of TF2 during many periods. At this point, it becomes obvious: expand the market by making it free to play.


Among all the discussion (and most of it likely very insightful) I don't see one thing being mentioned. Maybe new TF2 purchases had slowed to a point where they felt giving it away and focusing on in-game purchases was simply comparative, if not preferable?

I love the robustness of TF2, and Valve has been awesome about continuously providing new content for free, but, it's something to consider.


They have already made a heap of money off it, so they can get more people into steam and they have also had in game purchases.


Perhaps to promote Steam adoption?




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