Valve: ‘we thought we were at risk without our own MMO’

Monday, 17th September 2012 10:02 GMT By Dave Cook

Valve has revealed that it once believed it could be at risk without an MMO franchise to call its own, but installed free-to-play features and microtransactions into Team Fortress 2 as its own way of dealing with shifting trends in the industry.

In a Gamasutra interview, Team Fortress 2 lead designer Robin Walker revealed Valve’s uneasy feelings towards the MMO market, and why it chose to use the game as a test bed for its free-to-play strategy.

“[When the game shipped],2 Walker explained, “MMOs were the dominant story in the industry, and one concern we had was that we might not be able to survive if we didn’t build one.”

Walker added, “We were starting to feel the same way about micro-transactions as we did initially about MMOs: that our company was at risk if we didn’t have internal experience and hard data on them.”

Without an MMO to call its own, Valve decided to implement elements of the genre into Team Fortress 2 and luckily for the Seattle-based studio, the gamble paid off.

“In the end, TF2 has been ended up being one of the most useful tools we’ve ever built to reduce risk in our company’s future,” Walker continued, “The thought that if we hadn’t done it, we’d be here today without any data or experience with service based monetization strategies is quite terrifying.”




  1. Old MacDonald

    “MMOs were the dominant story in the industry, and one concern we had was that we might not be able to survive if we didn’t build one.”

    Haha, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard in ages. I understand why all those men in suits in the big publishers, you know the people who don’t play or understand games but still gets to decide everything, blindly follow the latest trends and lose tons of money in the process. But Valve? Seriously. I did not expect that.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. viralshag

    Other than WoW being an absolute gold mine and pretty much the one MMO to make more money than god… What other MMOs were there to lead people to think MMOs were the next big thing, or the next big trend?

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Yoshi

    Ohh come on, everyone was trying to make an MMO after WoW’s success. Some weren’t too bad, some failed terribly but it was definitely a trend to try make one.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. viralshag

    Yeah I get that it was a trend but I just don’t really know why. I mean WoW really put MMOs on the map in the commercial sense but like you said, some have been good but nothing attained the same amount of success.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. TheBlackHole

    @2 RuneScape? Just passed 200 million created accounts and has been going for over a decade. Still makes tens of millions every year without many people even knowing it exists.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. viralshag

    @5, Fair point. I guess I’m one of the many people that didn’t know it exists. ;)

    #6 2 years ago
  7. GrimRita

    The MMO market is crowded – so many smaller titles with huge player bases out there, not just WoW. However, any large publisher who wanted to bring their own MMO to the table(THQ,EA/Bioware) decided to at probably the same time Valve considered it.

    However, Valve clearly have a better thought process because something like developing an MMO set in any era, could simply break them. As EA found out with both WAR and SWTOR, it costs a fortune, then, just to please shareholders you push out an unfinished product, cut corners which simply leaves your MMO to fade in to the sunset.

    Frankly, I will be stunned if EA attempt to make another MMO after two flops. THQ paid a heavy price for a Warhammer MMO that never saw the light of day.

    Valve holding off, has paid off because the market has changed. Although a subs based MMO can still be popular, but it has to be a good MMO – not just something based on paid for high review scores(SWTOR) to try and bring it success – because that doesnt work either.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. viralshag

    Technically it’s three “flops” as they also published The Secret World.

    And TOR is far from being a bad game. I think GW2 is a better made game but I’m already looking forward to going back to TOR.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. GrimRita

    @8 I think the fact that so many left SWTOR and in record time, kind of proves just how bad it was. Dont get me wrong, I enjoyed some elements like combat but Biowares pure lack of vision gives reason why it fell flat.

    I cant see myself returning to TOR ever unless they add vast improvements to things like PvP and actually some ambition by flexing their creative muscle. But I stand more chance of winning the lottery without buying a ticket, than Bioware being creative with TOR.

    But wasnt Secret World just published under EA’s partners thingy?

    #9 2 years ago
  10. viralshag

    @9, It might be. I just kept seeing EA associated with TSW, so it might have been only that.

    I personally don’t see what was wrong with the PvP. Just to compare it to GW2 as it’s the latest game, I think the PvP in TOR is better. And I also think the story, or eight stories really when you consider each class has their own, still set the standard in MMOs.

    I like both GW2 and TOR and I can easily find faults with both of them. It’s your opinion of course, I just don’t think TOR is as bad as you do. ;)

    #10 2 years ago
  11. DSB

    You do realize that Activision is the only major publisher that’s actually making money right now, and that it’s primarily down to one very succesful MMO, right?

    Trend indeed. As much as general survival or breathing is a trend.

    #11 2 years ago

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