Team Fortress 2 – Leveling the playing field

If you haven’t heard, Team Fortress 2 went free to play on PC last week – a game that I bought way back in 2007, which I still play often enough to be informed about the numerous updates. These updates consisted of new weapons for all of the very balanced and complementary classes, new maps and game modes, an in depth weapon and accessory crafting system, and even a store in which the player can purchase items to improve upon their favorite classes. And with these updates, I have also changed the way I have played, by moving from a 32 player server to a 24 player server and gradual lowering of visual settings. Ultimately, what this means is the game has changed, not only in the way it is available to players, but the required hardware strength in order to have a desirable experience.

As someone who is embarrassed to admit the amount of hours spent playing even on a single class, I feel sort of swept under the rug since the PC specs I have now, were more than sufficient a few years ago. I understand that my computer overall is dated, so I don’t need any PC gaming enthusiast telling me that it’s time to upgrade and spend $1000 on the latest graphics cards and processors. The reality is that I don’t play PC games, I only play Team Fortress 2 because that is the only place where you can play the game with all of the great content Valve has put out for free; all of the content that is completely absent from the console version.

One major hurdle preventing Valve from delivering a similar Team Fortress 2 package on consoles is the online infrastructure that both the HD consoles operate through. Microsoft in no way would allow Valve give away all of that content for free to its player base, but even if they could, the freedom of updating the game at will like Steam on PC, is not possible since each update has to go through Microsoft’s certification process, which comes with a cost. On the other side, PSN is not as restrictive as Xbox Live, and with the release of Portal 2 on the PS3 also came Steam integration that would allow players to play Portal Co-op with their PC counterparts. It’s a great way to connect two different player bases making cross platform player possible, something I think everyone who understands the potential of this integration, can get really excited about.

However I don’t want to put the entire blame on Sony and Microsoft because I do believe that Valve isn’t doing a whole lot in order to bring an updated version of Team Fortress 2 to console players. With such a huge market that Valve is not reaching out too, I wonder if they are even aware of how much more revenue they would gain from having an equally comparable experience. In regards to their micro transaction store, why not make a deal with Microsoft or Sony, to give a certain percentage of the purchased item to them. Valve might not make as much money as they would on PC, but I’m sure both parties would gain from the player base that is more than willing to spend a few extra dollars. Valve has created a game perfectly fit for console players toenjoy, and any person can recognize the quality and uniqueness of the experience Valve has crafted and perfected over the last few years.

One of the best perks of PC gaming is all of the free content developers give away without having to deal with the platform holder. But this awesome perk is cancelled out by the need to frequently upgrade parts to the newer versions, therefore making a once powerful and costly computer degrade in value in just a few years. Consoles generally have a longer lifecycle, so Steam being on PS3 has made me hope, hope that one day Valve will update Team Fortress 2 or release a free game on PSN that everyone can download. Knowing that I have two perfectly capable consoles that can run Team Fortress 2 is why I can’t bring myself to purchase a new computer, especially when the one I currently own is powerful enough to do my most common tasks such as web browsing and office documents. I just want to play without having to worry about my frame rate dropping, or play without knowing that a build of the game exists on other platforms but with way more content and a statistically refined balance of classes. Team Fortress 2, much like the first, is going to be around for a very, very long time, so it really is never too late for Valve to fully commit and deliver to a wider audience one of the best multiplayer experiences that has appeared in the last decade.