The long, strange path that’s been the post-release development of Team Fortress 2 has formed out of a need for Valve to both experiment and survive.
Over the years a variety of additions have been made to compliment the title including going free-to-play, bringing in new modes, class updates, introducing co-op play, various balance tweaking, opening up the Steam Workshop gates, and of course inflcting the craze that is hats onto the world.
In other words, the game is evolving at a near-constant pace, and through the process Valve has figured out how to properly monetize the product as well as other projects.
The experimenting wasn’t done out of plain old curiosity – Valve was worried.
The game launched smack dab in the middle of an MMO golden age, and the company was concerned the lack of the game genre in their own catalog could spell disaster.
“MMOs were the dominant story in the industry, and one concern we had was that we might not be able to survive if we didn’t build one,”TF2 lead designer Robin Walker told Gamasutra.
“We were starting to feel the same way about micro-transactions as we did initially about MMOs: that our company was at risk if we didn’t have internal experience and hard data on them.”
TF2 was to be their lab rat to deal with a shifting industry by exploring potential ideas for the company’s survival over the long-term. The one that stood out to them the most was the sprinkling in of MMO elements, and the decision would work out better than Valve could have ever imagined at the time.
"In the end, TF2 has been ended up being one of the most useful tools we've ever built to reduce risk in our company's future,” Walker said.
“It's been really nice that it's also brought in significant revenue throughout that time, but ultimately, the importance we place on understanding our business and our customers has made it totally worthwhile.”