Team Fortress 2’s Mann-Conomy Update

Two or three weeks after I quit my full time job at Minecraft, Team Fortress 2 got a massive update in the form of The Mann-Conomy Update.  Not only were all of the new items from the Polycount Pack included, but also a new store in which players can buy items for their roster of characters.  Now, rather than having to play for hours and hours, hoping for the right random drop or collecting enough raw materials to craft, players can plunk down a wad of cash from their Steam Wallet and buy what they want, straight away.  So I started playing again.

I was a bit apprehensive at first, but overall, the in-game item store is a good idea, really.  It helps monetize a game that, even after 3 years out, is still going strong online, making it more sustainable for Valve to continue updating it (and for the community members creating the content, apparently).  For players who don’t want or can’t afford to purchase items from the in-game store, the old item collection system is still in place, so they can continue to earn rewards the old fashioned way.  And for now, store items cannot be traded, so found or crafted items retain lots of value among players.

Aside from a few small balancing issues with the scout and soldier, my biggest complaints with the update revolve around Mann Co. Crates, boxed items that can be randomly “found” while you play, which require the player to pay $2.50 for a virtual key to open. Sure, the fiscally broken player can trade the crate items to others who don’t mind paying to open them, but it still bothers me that they require real money to open.

And that leads to my other gripe.  Unlocking crates grants players a mystery item, one of the items listed on the box’s description.  This includes an assortment of normal items, hats, and “unusual” rare items that don’t spawn very often.  This is all fine, and I understand why Valve did it; it serves to keep the money flowing in as people gamble on the contents of crates.  But it further bothers me that even while paying $2.50 for every opened crate, there is still a very good chance that you’re going to receive a normal item that could have cost less in the item store, or which could be found or traded for free.

I understand that there is a balance to how good the loot in the crates can be versus how much you pay to open them, but there is a premium that comes along with paying for content, and it’s lame that people are receiving tons of ordinary items when they are opting to pay for the very chance to receive an item in the first place.

Other than all that, I’m enjoying the update a lot.  It’s nice to be able to pick up cheap items for a buck or two, instead of having to wait for days or weeks to get them as a drop.  Team Fortress 2 is as fun as always, and the mayhem is only further exaggerated by all the crazy items people have.

And just for kicks, you can check out my backpack here if you like.


  1. xot - Over a year ago

    Interesting post. I was wondering what this was all about. I have TF2 but I’ve never played it. I was completely unaware of “drops” being in the game and I’m a little shocked that an uncommon random prize would cost $2.50. That’s a bit more than what I’d call a micro-transaction. But then again, I’m pretty stingy.

    The community creation aspect of the store is probably what interests me the most. Apparently modders have made something like $50,000 combined with the system. And I think they only get 25%, so this is a big win for Valve too.

    1. Martin - Over a year ago

      If you like online FPS games (and frantic mayhem), I’d recommend giving TF2 a shot. Back when I first got the game, I wasn’t too excited to try it out (having played the original Half-Life mod before and not being very impressed), but once I did try it, I was hooked. There’s something about the cartoon look / animation that I just really like. And I find it infinitely entertaining to see a team of completely random types of dudes working towards the common goal of annihilating the other team, all while blasting each other with absurd weapons and yelling all kinds of funny things.

      I need to look into learning how to mod the game, though. I used to build maps for Quake 2 and then Half-Life / Counter-Strike as a hobby, and making hats for TF2 characters seems like it’s got to be easier, especially since I can probably work in whatever modeling program I want to start, and then convert to the proper format later. It’d be great to have a spare $50k laying around just for making some silly models, eh?

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