Yesterday's news that Team Fortress 2 was to go free to play seems to have gone down well with the community. For the first time in a very long while, Counter-Strike has been knocked off the top spot of the Steam most-played list.
When Valve announced the game was to go free to play, many assumed that those who wanted to play TF2 would already have bought it by now, particularly as The Orange Box, of which it is a component, is regularly discounted in Steam sales, and the game itself hosted occasional free weekends for players to try out. Apparently not, though, as the player population has taken a large spike upwards to beat Counter-Strike, which has sat comfortably at the top of the most-played list for a long time now.
This doesn't necessarily mean Valve is going to rush into making its other titles free to play, however. Speaking with Develop earlier today, Robin Walker of Valve noted that it would be "dangerous" to make assumptions that all products would follow a similar pattern of success, particularly as it was still very early days so far.
Free to play titles often enjoy a large spike of users when they are first released as everyone wants to try them out, then the population stabilizes over the course of a few months. If the game is a success, there'll be an upward trend of users from this point onwards. If it flops, the user figures will trend downwards. TF2 is in a fortunate position in that it already has an active community, but it will be interesting to see what effect the new pricing model has on the game.
It's far too early to say yet if TF2 for free is a success, but Walker notes that the possibilities presented by the data they'll analyze over the next few months is the "kind of thing that gets us excited around the office."