If you haven’t been following the latest news from the Team Fortress 2 (TF2) blog, you might not be aware of Valve’s latest venture into micro-transactions. Coinciding with the release of the Steam Wallet, Valve have finally released the Poly Count community winners into the game (also known as ‘The Man-conomy update’). These item sets (alongside every other weapon and hat in the game) can now be purchased, while wearing full item sets grants the player statistical bonuses…
For example, if a player were to utilise the Soldiers new “Black Box” rocket launcher, the “Battalions Backup” backpack (which replaces the shotgun) and wear the “Grenadier’s Softcap” he would be granted 20% resistance to Sentry Gun damage. The Scout, Pyro, Sniper and Spy also have their own variants when utilising full item sets; the Scout receiving extra health, the Pyro increased movement speed, the Sniper the inability to die from headshots and the Spy a quieter de-cloak sound.
What is surprising is not only that all items are now purchasable, but the cost of the new items is so steep. To purchase one of the new Poly Count hats on its own will set you back £11.99. A complete class pack which includes all three class items costs £20.96 (or £29.99 for all five class packs, at a discount of 68%). The sting from such pricing is soothed slightly, thanks to a percentage of the proceeds going to the original 3D artist; that items are now trade-able with others (excluding those purchased), while all weapons and hats can still be obtained through the random in-game drop system. Older weapons can also be purchased for as little as 0.29p each, if you happen to be missing any.
This doesn’t however alleviate my reservations that in a competitive, team based shooter players are being rewarded statistical bonuses for obtaining what were once just cosmetic items. The random drop system is so painful in its distribution of weapons and hats, even the ability to trade won’t realistically improve the prospects of obtaining a full item set any time this century, placing those willing to part with their hard earned cash at an arguable advantage.
Some of the weapons within these Poly Count packs do have drawbacks (the Soldier’s “Black Box” has a 25% smaller clip size) but for the most part the negatives attached to the new toys are negligible. It is the set bonus which has me concerned though, as not only does it encourage players to look alike (wearing and using the same items) but reduces the play-style freedom the older, alternative weapons offered.
Having seen hundreds of players already wearing full item sets from the Man-conomy update, as well as other new cosmetic items (they are all visually stunning), it is evident players are eagerly parting with their cash. This is certainly a shrewd move from Valve and one which will no doubt net them significant funds (no one can say they havn’t handed out enough free content), and is undoubtedly a model that will be adopted in the future. It will inevitably secure the development of Team Fortress content for years to come, but at what cost?
Should I part with £20.96 so I’m on a slightly more level playing field with a Scout wearing the “Special Delivery” class pac,k or should I wait and pray the random drop system and item trading brings me everything I need?
I’m not sure, but I’m willing to see how this one plays out.
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