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Team Fortress 2: The Original Loot boxes of the Western Game Industry

12-4-18

Hey there, fellas. It’s Zody from DoubleJumpGaming News. I wanted to talk about the subject of loot boxes in video games and give my opinion on it, but specifically about what I believe to be the pioneer of loot boxes in Western games - Team Fortress 2. I have about 1700 hours on TF2 and this game has become a big part of my life even though I don’t play the game anymore (for the better). But I digress.

Loot Boxes are a controversial subject in the gaming industry today. With EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II fiasco, an issue of whether loot boxes should be a part of games caused thousands of gamers to unite and protest against the company. Countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands have even formed committees to go against these companies and demand that these companies take out loot boxes from games such as Overwatch and CS:GO. However, these games were not the first in the Western Game Industry to implement loot boxes. A (now) free-to-play game known as Team Fortress 2, developed by Valve, was a pioneer of this system.

On September 30, 2010, Valve released the Mann-Conomy Update for Team Fortress 2. The update added a total of 65 new items to the game such as new weapons, cosmetics, tools, Mann Co. Crates, Mann Co. Supply Keys, and packs of both cosmetics and weapons. Along with these items was the introduction of item trading. The Steam Wallet, a feature implemented by Valve into Steam that acts as a bank which contains money that can be used to buy games, game content, DLC, and microtransactions, is a vital part of Team Fortress 2. Team Fortress 2 has an in-game store known as the Mann Co. Store, where players can purchase cosmetics, tools, packs, and weapons in exchange for Steam Wallet funds. The crates and keys were unique items to TF2 at the time, and founded a loot box system that would later be implemented into another one of Valve’s games, CS:GO. Players would be able to obtain crates in the form of item drops by just playing the game for a length of time. However, players could only obtain keys for the crates from the Mann Co. Store at a price of $2.49 per key. The contents of these crates ranged from common weapons to uncommon cosmetics or tools to extremely rare Unusual cosmetics. Unusual cosmetics had a 1% chance of being unboxed from these crates, and quickly gained a notable value that distinguished it from other items in the game. Unusual cosmetics are just normal items with unique particle effects, ranging from orbiting particles to stationary effects that stay on top or in the center of the cosmetic. The introduction of these unusual cosmetics eventually paved way to an economy specific to Team Fortress 2. Unusual cosmetics can cost as low as $20 to as much as the legendary Burning Flames Team Captain at the peak of its value ($17,130.77). Out of around 7 million Team Fortress 2 inventories registered on backpack.tf (one of the main third-party trading sites for Team Fortress 2), only 8 Burning Flames Team Captains are known to exist.

Due to the high values of the Unusual cosmetics introduced into TF2 in the Mann-Conomy Update, this led to a whole community dedicated to the item trading aspect of Team Fortress 2. In fact, some may say that is all the TF2 community has become. I personally have met people that have devoted these unusual cosmetics as their main source of income. I find it upsetting that people have let these pieces of digital apparel control their lives.

When it comes to the discussion of removing loot boxes from games such as CSGO and Overwatch, I think it is somewhat ignorant to not consider Team Fortress 2, which I believe was the pioneer of this concept in the western gaming industry. As for my stance on whether loot boxes should be taken out or not, I am neutral on this issue. I do believe they can breed bad habits and gambling addictions, but they are usually an optional part of a game, so you do not need invest in loot boxes if you don’t want to.

Thanks for reading my article! See ya!

-Zody