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TF2 now the "most highly-rated" free-to-play game

The cat is out of the bag: Team Fortress 2, the 92% MC shooter first released in 2007 as part of Valve's Orange Box, has gone free-to-play as part of this week's Über Updates.

The game will now be monetised solely through in-game purchases in the pre-existing MannCo store.

Premium content for Team Fortress 2 ranges from vanity items such as the famous hats through to weapons of varying power. Micro-transaction purchases can be made through Steam's Wallet system, and community-authored content will continue to pay revenue to creators.

Valve has promised the rate of in-game item drops will not go down as a result of the move to a freemium model; nor will Valve cease or slow updates to the game, which is famous for highly-anticipated content updates.

The free-to-play move comes as little surprise; Steam opened to free-to-play games last week, and quietly admitted to having its own plans in the area. Putting that together with the announcement of the Über Update, billed as the most significant in Team Fortress 2's history, painted a pretty compelling picture.

Team Fortress 2 is the successor to Team Fortress Classic, a full release remake of the popular Team Fortress mod for Quake. During the game's nine-year development, creators John Cook and Robin Walker joined Valve full-time and gradually transformed the game from a realistic modern-warfare game to the cartoon style it favours today. It has since become one of the most successful PC multiplayer titles ever, maintaining a huge, dedicated user base.

The game's nine classes each have their own distinct personality and voice, as evidenced by its famous Meet The... series of short films, and a simple plot of world-dominating corporations explains the classic competitive gameplay.

And you can wear hats. Often awarded as part of cross-title promotions or as part of community events, the hats have become a kind of by-word for the game, and once Valve stumbled upon the realisation that people were willing to pony up for them, well - the rest was probably inevitable.

Speaking to Develop, Team Fortress 2 lead Robin Walker discussed the game's shift to a freemium model.

"We've been toying with the idea [of going free-to-play] ever since the Mann-conomy update, where we added the in-game Team Fortress 2 store," Walker said of the move.

"Over the years we've done a bunch of price experimentations with the game...The more we've experimented, the more we've learned there are fundamentally different kinds of customers, each with their own way of valuing the product.

"Now that we're shipping it, it feels like a fairly straightforward next step along the 'Games as Services' path we've been walking down for a while now."

Walker commented that it would be "dangerous to assume" the freemium model would work for other Valve games, and said the company has no plans as yet to bring over more titles.

Team Fortress 2 is available on PC and Mac, exclusively through Steam.

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