It’s no secret that Team Fortress 2 skyrocketed to new heights when it went free to play in June 2011. As Valve has mentioned numerous times before, that change in business model drew in new players and increased the game’s revenue by a factor of 12. What the studio hasn’t touched on, however, is that the game’s growth didn’t stop there.
According to new data from Raptr, Team Fortress 2 managed to set a new record for player activity several months later, when the game added a suite of community features that put the spotlight on user-generated content.
Just after Team Fortress 2’s fourth birthday in October 2011, Valve debuted the game’s Manniversary Update, which — in addition to adding a suite of new items to the game — marked the launch of the Steam Workshop.
This new community hub provided a dedicated venue where players could create, share, and promote the user-generated items they wanted to see in the game. While Valve had included user-created items in prior Team Fortress 2 updates, the Steam Workshop made it even easier for players to contribute items to the game, and as such, it sparked a brand new wave of excitement among the Team Fortress 2 community.
Data from Raptr’s 15 million users indicates that just one day after the Manniversary Update, the game’s daily active users increased by 271%, as players were fascinated with designing their own items and consuming the first wave creations on the Steam Workshop. Alongside this increase in users, overall playtime for Team Fortress 2 increased by a full 361%.
These figures are made even more impressive by the fact that Team Fortress 2 was still enjoying a wave of increased activity from its initial free to play transition. Back in June, Team Fortress 2’s daily active users increased 316% after the game went free to play, and overall playtime increased by 544%. The Manniversary Update and the Steam Workshop helped Valve build upon this success and set a new standard for player activity.
Overall playtime for Team Fortress 2 has remained elevated ever since the Steam Workshop’s debut, as the Team Fortress 2 community has become fascinated with creating, consuming, and sharing each new wave of player-created content.
This sustained excitement also attracted many new users that arrived months after the game went free to play. In June, new user acquisition increased by 28x, and while the Steam Workshop didn’t ignite the same influx of new players, it still increased the number of new users by 2,5x for a full three months.
Similar patterns emerge when we examine the game’s existing and returning users. While we see a sharper spike in activity after Team Fortress 2 went free to play, the Steam Workshop helped hold on to existing users and attract those that hadn’t played the game in at least two weeks.
Given this notable boost in activity after the Steam Workshop’s debut, it’s clear that user-generated content played a significant role in Team Fortress 2’s post-free to play success. Valve’s community hub gave players the chance to create content for themselves, and as a result players became far more interested in the game as a whole.
Raptr’s data has shown us again and again that user-generated content can have a positive impact on player engagement, and nowhere has this been more apparent than in Team Fortress 2.
After making the game free-to-play and giving players a channel for creating their own content, Valve has seemingly opened the floodgates with its hit online shooter. The game’s community is as strong as ever, and the constant activity on the Steam Workshop will likely keep these players around for some time to come.
Team Fortress 2 is a shining example of an online game done right, and that success is largely thanks to the Steam Workshop and the relationship it has built with the game’s community.