Valve's decision to make online shooter Team Fortress 2 free to play was a resounding success, it's said.
Revenue from the game was 12 times higher than the game's monthly sales following the June 2011 switch, Valve's Joe Ludwig said during a Gamasutra attended GDC panel.
Prior to that, when Valve introduced the item store to the game, money made from the sale of virtual items was four times larger than revenues from sales of the game itself.
In hindsight, it seems like the decision to go F2P was a no brainer, but according to Ludwig, Valve were worried about it.
"This is just the beginning of taking the lessons we've learned from TF2 and applying them to Steam itself," Ludwig said. "It was risky, everything could have gone horribly wrong, but we felt it was worth the risk to try the new business model."
Valve's decision to make TF2 F2P was motivated by issues with the triple-A boxed game business.
"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," Ludwig explained.
"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."
In October last year Valve boss Gabe Newell said TF2's user base had increased by a factor of five since it adopted the free-to-play model.
The game enjoys a 20 to 30 per cent conversion rate of people who are playing who buy something - much higher than other F2P games.
Upcoming Valve games Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will support the Razer Hydra PC motion controller.
Motion gaming support has been added to over 250 of the most popular games on Steam, including Left 4 Dead 2, Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2, via creator Sixense's MotionCreatorTM 2.0 software.
Steam users will get motion control updates for current and future titles automatically from now on. A new in-game overlay lets you view control maps for the Razer Hydra as you play.
The Razer Hydra uses an electromagnetic field, via a base station, to track hand movements as you hold two motion-sensing controllers, both complete with thumb sticks.
We first heard of the Razer Hydra Valve love affair early last year, when we discovered those who owned the Razer Hydra were entitled to exclusive Portal 2 content.
Valve is selling a virtual ring for use in free-to-play online shooter Team Fortress 2 - for $100.
But before you grab your pitchforks and head for Valve HQ know this: by the Half-Life developer's own admission: "It's basically useless."
"If there's one thing we know more about than hats, it's probably romance," Valve wrote on the Team Fortress 2 blog.
"Remember that romantic scene in Say Anything where John Cusack holds up a boom box in the rain? Well, we hold stuff up in the rain all the time. Golf clubs. Our wallets. An umbrella. Whatever's handy, really. And do the girls go for it? Hard to tell - it rains pretty hard in Seattle, so the limited visibility combined with wind shear makes it tough to see the appreciation on the ladies' faces.
"Anyway, today's Valentine's Day, and that means if you're dating or married, you're going to drop somewhere in the area of $600 tonight on flowers, dinner, babysitters, hot air balloon rides, a hospital bill for rain-related holding injuries (Seattle only). It adds up fast, and you might be asking yourself at the end of the night, 'Was it all worth it?' The answer, emphatically, is no. Happy Valentine's Day, stupid.
"But wait! What if we told you that you could waste as much as 1/6 less money this Valentine's Day? What if we added that you could do it without even leaving your house? Then what if we sweetened the deal further by saying sorry for calling you stupid earlier?
"Introducing the 'Something Special For Someone Special'. It's ring-shaped, it's gift-wrapped, it's basically useless, and it's really expensive ($100!). In short, it's the most accurate simulation of an actual Valentine's Day gift ever made available to the public."
We're not sure why anyone would buy the Something Special For Someone Special ring, but we're sure someone will. In that case, it's probably best you know that it's not tradable, only giftable.
When your special someone clicks on the item from their backpack, a menu will open that lets them accept your proposal.
If the proposal is accepted a message will be broadcast to the entire Team Fortress community that will include your name, your special someone's name and the name of the ring.
The item then turns into two matching diamond bands you can wear.
Feb 3, 2012
Valve has teased a secret new Team Fortress 2 project - and it isn't hats.
"The TF2 team is working on something brand new for 2012," reads an update on the Team Fortress 2 blog.
"We can't tell you what it is, because they won't tell us, but what they WILL say is that it isn't a hat, it isn't a map, and go away.
"From this we can only conclude that the TF2 team is working on some ungodly hat-map hybrid that you can wear on your head while you run around in it. You heard it here first. Also last, because they just told us it's not that either.
"But it's really cool."
2012 content planned for the hugely successful free-to-play FPS includes the last "Meet The Team" video short, this time for the Pyro.
"There will be blood," reads the blog. "And not like in the movie There Will Be Blood, either, where there was only blood at the end, and not even very much of it. Ours has lots of blood pretty much all the way through."
Meanwhile, Valve announced the now live Steam Workshop Blog, which will keep players abreast of all the developments concerning the Mann Co. Store.
Valve said there have been nearly 4000 user-generated items submitted to the store so far, and will continue shipping them throughout the year. You can vote on the items you'd like to see on the blog.
And finally, Valve points us to the second annual Saxxy Awards, which will be bigger and better "due to the imminent unveiling of another secret". The Saxxy Awards showcase the best Team Fortress 2 replays.
Valve has announced the second annual Christmas-themed update for free-to-play shooter Team Fortress 2.
The Australian Christmas update part two includes two retro-futuristic "Dr. Grordbort" class packs for the Engineer and Pyro, designed by Weta Workshop's Greg Broadmore.
It adds CP_Foundry, a new five-cap control point map designed by Valve's Team Fortress 2 team and featuring 12 map-specific achievements.
The update also adds 14 new Christmas-themed weapons, hats and items made by the Team Fortress community's item creators using the Steam Workshop.
For Christmas, Valve has knocked up to 75 per cent off over 50 items in the Mann Co. in-game store. This sale lasts until 2nd January 2012. Valve has also doubled the in-game item drop rate for the first week of the event.
Oct 14, 2011
Team Fortress 2 item makers have made over $2 million selling their digital creations, Valve has announced.
Yesterday marked the first full year of the in-game Mann Co. Store, and during that time user-generated content creators have made millions selling their virtual wares.
The Mann Co. Store is where the community designs, buys, sells and trades items TF2 characters can wear, such as hats.
"The 'Mann Co. Store' represents an important new direction for games and game makers," said Valve boss Gabe Newell.
"By leveraging and extending the platform features of Steam, Team Fortress 2 has enabled a viable marketplace for independent content creators and significantly extended the gameplay experience in an incredibly short amount of time."
Meanwhile, Valve has made live the Steam Workshop, an improved submission hub for community-created content. It's designed to make it easy to upload entries, check their status and get feedback from Valve. The Team Fortress community can view, comment on and rate items there, too.
Valve's added 30 new hats and cosmetic items, an item decal system, a "try before you buy" system, loadout presets, improved game performance and a new taunt as part of the Manniversary Update, which the company describes as "one of the largest and most ambitious in TF2's four-year history".
Oct 13, 2011
Pre-purchasing Football Manager 2012 from Steam gets you a handful of exclusive in-game Team Fortress 2 extras, Valve has announced.
Put down your £29.99 now ahead of the Sega footie sim's release later this month and you'll receive the following:
- The Merc's Pride Scarf can be worn by each class.
- The Ball-Kicking Boots are available for the Scout and spawn a team-colored ball that everyone can play with.
- Vuvuzela Noise maker.
Sep 6, 2011
Steam has officially launched its new Trading feature today following last month's open beta.
Thanks to an auto update which has just gone live, you can now trade Steam Gifts and in-game items from Team Fortress 2, Portal 2 and Sega adventure Spiral Knights with other members of the Steam community.
Valve is apparently working with other developers to incorporate the service in their games, with further announcements expected over the coming months.
For the full lowdown on how item trading works, check out the Steam FAQ.
Aug 25, 2011
Quake mod Team Fortress launched 15 years ago today. To celebrate, Valve is giving anyone who plays Team Fortress 2 today a goody bag of TF2 swag.
What do you get? A free hat, naturally - of the party variety. A free noisemaker - which you can use as much as you like today and then not again for another year. Plus free cake and gifts (remodelled health kits and ammo packs).
Valve has also turned on Birthday mode - meaning levels get a "Happy Birthday Team Fortress" beach ball.
The Celebration Gib is also active, which turns exploded players' blood and guts into showers of balloons and confetti.
Team Fortress, a mod for id Software classic Quake, was followed by Team Fortress 2 in 2007. Valve has been tinkering with it ever since, and earlier this year made it free-to-play.
Aug 25, 2011
Valve wants the Xbox Live Arcade version of upcoming shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive to feature Steamworks integration.
But it faces a tough job convincing Microsoft to let it do so.
"We certainly can deliver a lot of value to customers to the degree to which we have those capabilities," Valve boss Gabe Newell told Eurogamer.
"The PS3, obviously we made a lot more progress with that. The PS3 customers of Portal 2 are going to start to see the benefits of that with Portal 2 DLC coming out in September. So we'd really like to be able to do that for Xbox customers as well."
The PS3 version of Portal 2 features a number of exclusive features as a result of Steamworks integration, including cross-platform play with the PC version.
There's also cross-platform chat, Steam Achievements (earned in synch with Trophies), player profiles and game invites. You can even play Portal 2 on a PC or Mac - Valve grants a free PC/Mac Steam edition of the game to PS3 gamers.
Xbox Live, however, remains a closed platform, with Microsoft employing strict guidelines on what publishers can and cannot do.
"The main thing is having Microsoft get comfortable with it and let us do it," Newell said of the challenges Valve faces bringing Steamworks to Xbox.
"Right now, there's a huge amount of updates and free content we've been able to deliver to people who have The Orange Box that we haven't been able to deliver to the Xbox because of the restrictions that have been placed on us on Xbox Live.
"We'd love to see those relaxed. Other developers on the PS3 are starting to benefit from Sony's more open approach. Hopefully that will help Microsoft see that's a good strategy for making customers happy, that the barbarians won't tear down the walls of Xbox and turn it into some chaotic wasteland."
One game making use of Sony's more relaxed policy is Dust 514, from Eve Online developer CCP.
"Let's just say that with Sony at least they have policies that allow us to build the game the way we want," CCP CTO Halldor Fannar said during an E3 presentation attended by Eurogamer in June. "That is one of the reasons why we've gone with PSN."
Valve isn't the first MMO developer to find Xbox Live troublesome.
Last year Final Fantasy XIV Online creator and director Hiromichi Tanaka told Eurogamer that a "closed" Xbox Live blocked the game from appearing on Xbox 360.
"The main reason why we couldn't go with Xbox 360 was the Xbox Live system," he explained. "[Live is] different to the normal internet environment, so when we wanted to introduce this game in the same environment as Windows PC it had to be PS3, so that was our choice.
"Microsoft has a different point of view: they want to have a closed environment for Xbox Live. We're still talking to... We couldn't come to an agreement on Xbox Live."
MMO developer Cryptic chucked in the towel on an Xbox 360 version of Champions Online in early 2010. Producer Craig Zinkievich told Eurogamer he was frustrated with the business side of getting an MMO on Xbox Live; the game itself, he said, ran just fine.
Sony, however, seems more open to the idea of allowing MMO developers to play by their own rules on the Network.
"Sony allows us to use our systems," Fannar explained. "Microsoft has Xbox Live. They're very strict on that. There are a lot of issues we run into. It may be a basic thing people don't realise, but with Dust and Eve on Sony's network, we can allow them to chat together. Voice chat, text chat, that's all one world.
"One of the reasons for the partnership with Sony is because they're opening up new ways to do these things. We're going to be managing most of it. We're using PlayStation just for credentials, stuff like that. Then it's all our stuff.
"With our agreement with Sony they seem to be fine with our three month expansion cycle. They've been looking at the MMO space for a while, trying to understand why something like that hasn't still happened on the console. They're coming to terms with it. There are certain things they have to relax just to allow these things to function."
Still, there appears to be hope for Xbox 360 owners - a report in June claimed free-to-play games were coming to the console and that Microsoft was talking with developers to discuss free-to-play game deals.
And last month Hi-Rez Studios boss Todd Harris, who is making Tribes: Ascend, told Eurogamer free-to-play games supported by micro-transactions on Xbox 360 were "inevitable".
Valve is yet to decide how to monetise CS: GO - indeed it may end up free to play, as its other shooter, Team Fortress 2, is.