Free to Be You and Me: Valve’s ‘Team Fortress 2’ Goes Gratis

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Valve’s got a good thing going on two important fronts.

First, its Steam digital distribution network went from an idea viewed with skepticism to a juggernaut that’s a vital destination for developers both big and small who want to reach PC gaming audiences.

Second, as one of gaming’s most respected creative studios, they’ve created classics like the Counter-Strike games, the Half-Life series and two magnificent Portal titles.

(MORE: Portal 2 Review: Our First Perfect 10)

One of those highly regarded titles is Team Fortress 2, a multiplayer first-person shooter where players can choose from nine mercenary classes that can be customized and deployed in an endless series of battles. TF2 debuted alongside the first Portal in The Orange Box compilation release in 2007 and won raves for its balance, art style and humor. It was already a good game at a great price, but now it’s going to get even better.

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Late last night, Valve announced that Team Fortress 2 was going free-to-play. That means that instead of paying an upfront price to get the core game, you can download and play it for nothing.

Valve’s FAQ says that they’re not nerfing the experience at all and that all of the game content can be accessed for free. All those hats and the other highly desirable in-game goodies can be acquired through achievements, crafting or drops, meaning that you can make, earn or find them. Of course, if you want that stuff without all the work, you can buy some of it via the “Steam Wallet” feature that exists already.

TF2 was already one of the most robustly supported multiplayer games out there, with constant updates and add-on content being pumped to players for free. This move to free-to-play makes sense, though, as Steam Wallet gives Valve the ability to let players make in-game purchases without breaking up the flow of play. If you’re not playing TF2, you’ve got one more compelling and affordable reason to get your Heavy, Scout or Medic on.

MORE: Valve Plots Living Room Takeover with Steam