Off With Their Headgear: TF2 Dropping Older Hats

By Craig Pearson on January 14th, 2013 at 8:11 am.

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?
The hand of Hale giveth, the hand of Hale taketh away. And then it probably punches something. That wacky, violent Australian. In a strange move for a game that’s built around the notion that people want to buy hats, Team Fortress 2 is retiring some of its headgear from sale, drops, unboxing, and even crafting. The only way to get them is through trading. I guess that’ll include the Steam Marketplace as well. What hats, you ask? Well, unless you click this link, the only way to find out is to look below. There is literally no other option. I’d prefer you went below. I have a treat waiting for you if you do.

In the twisted fiction of the Team Fortress 2 universe, the hats were stored with jars of mayonnaise which spoiled. They were then eaten by raccoons. The stinky, rabies infected toppers are: Batter’s Helmet, Soldier’s Stash, Pyro’s Beanie, Demoman’s Fro, Football Helmet, Mining Light, Prussian Pickelhauge, Trophy Belt, and Fancy Fedora. All old, and probably not selling particularly well. So this is probably another experiment in seeing how much Valve can make from them in a short space of time, before dropping them from. It’s not like they won’t still exist: according to the FAQ hats any existing hats will be untouched.

Q: What is happening to this set of nine hats in two weeks?
A: These items will no longer be sold in the store, randomly dropped, unboxed as unusuals, or acquired through crafting.

Q: What happens to copies of these items that are already in my backpack?
A: All existing copies of the items will remain unaffected.

Q: What about older crates that have these items as a potential drop?
A: Crates that contain these items will still have a chance at unboxing them in normal quality only.

Q: How will I now acquire these items?
A: These items are still useable in trading.

Q: Will these items ever come out of retirement?
A: No. Once an item is retired it will stay that way.

Q: Will more items be retired in the future?
A: Advance notice will be given if any other items will be retired.

Interesting. I’m not sure what to make of it. The notion of restricting digital content just seems odd to me. I spent so long at the beginning of the hat craze craving the Fancy Fedora, that the thought of it being retired is slightly sad. I’m reinstalling the game to look lovingly at mine, then in five years I’ll sell it to a new free-to-play player and retire on the funds. It might anger the Heavy, who loves hats.

Oh, yes! I promised a treat. Here’s a Lily Allen/Littlest Hobo mashup that is best of all things.

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55 Comments »

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  1. Real Horrorshow says:

    [Insert joke about TF2 being all about hats now]

  2. pakoito says:

    It’s quite simple, they want to experiment with the hat-conomy by creating a set of superspecial hats and see how their prices skyrocket or may be used as a Gold Standard for the rest of the prices instead of keys.

    • Derppy says:

      I love the fact they make TF2 players guinea pigs for their experiments.

      One experiment I’d love to see, would be that Valve introduced an extremely ugly, poorly modeled and textured hat and announced it’s only going to be sold for 10 minutes and costs 20-40$. If tons of people actually bought it, they could push it further.

      Introduce even worse quality hat with even higher price tag, until they reach one untextured plane sold at 150$.

      It would give them some very interesting data about how far people are willing to go for novelty items and how easy it is to abuse them.

      • Kollega says:

        And now you’re giving them ideas.

      • LionsPhil says:

        The LagCube

        A basic cube which floats off the side of your head, incorrectly attached to a shoulder bone. Textured with a misaligned “DO NOT USE” message. Special effect: adds random microsleeps to the renderering and network threads for the equipped player only.

        Unique achievement: Become the MVP on a minium 8-player team while wearing the LagCube for the entire match.

        $25 (75% off SALE! Ends in 47:53:19)

        • Sugoi says:

          Sad, but also true.

          The sheer number of error messages that you’ll get spammed in the console these days is a bit ridiculous. Valve really ought to just take a week to polish the worst offenders, add proper LODs to the models that lack them, and so on.

          Of course, based on several people I’ve talked to, it seems that there isn’t a lot of enthusiasm for fixing up Source’s more obnoxious bugs since they plan to port most of their games to Source 2 in the not too distant future.

      • HadToLogin says:

        They already done that. With somewhat better looking but more pricy model of ring for Valentine’s Day. Looking forward to see if it’s back in a month…

  3. Kollega says:

    I think Valve are just trying to make the prices of those hats inflate beyond reason. I don’t know why exactly, but i’m sure it’s good only for Valve themselves and not for consumers.

    • Bilateralrope says:

      I can’t see how this would be good for Valve. On the other hand, I’m not aware of anyone actually testing something like this before and Valve has had some other counter-intuitive results before with Steam pricing.

      It feels like Valve have decided that they have no empirical data about what will happen. So they decided to get some.

      • TimMc says:

        Its incredibly lucrative for Valve. They earn a % of every sale on the steam marketplace, so artificially making some hats worth exuberant amounts of money by having them no longer generate will give them big bucks.

        • Kollega says:

          I have to admit that i totally forgot about the Steam marketplace. But if you count that too… wow, that’s some Magnificent Bastardry right there.

        • LionsPhil says:

          This is a little worrying, since one of the thing that helps keep Valve on the straight and narrow has been that their income stream has lined up pretty nicely with providing things their users want: for example, a lot of the “social” stuff in Steam is not to feed data into the hungry maw of marketing, but to encourage you to go “hey, my friend seems to be enjoying that game, maybe I will buy it too—maybe we can even play it together!”

        • Deadly Sinner says:

          That’s assuming that the marketplace obliterates keys and bills as currency among the hardcore traders, which is unlikely due to the fact that the marketplace only nets you Steam Wallet cash and Valve takes a hefty cut. It also assumes a mass of deletions or a large wave of new players because these hats are very common.

          • Premium User Badge

            VelvetFistIronGlove says:

            I have created approx. seven hundred alt steam accounts which run trade bots to exchange scrap for hats. I aim to obtain as much of these hats as possible before the prices rise. Estimate I have 72% of extant Soldiers Stash, a little less of the others right now. When Valve pulls the lever, I will delete all these accounts except one. I will then have very rare hats to sell for big profit.

          • Premium User Badge

            Aninhumer says:

            Would it not make more sense to keep all the accounts and sell the hats slowly to keep the price up? Most likely the price would fall as you sold them, but you’d get the same money from the first batch, and then still have a load more to sell, even if the price drops a bit.

        • stupid_mcgee says:

          Yes, Valve does receive a cut of the Marketplace sales. For the Marketplace Beta that fee is set at 5% of all sales, plus an additional fee depending on the game that can be set by the publisher. In DOTA2 and TF2’s case, there is a 10% fee. So, basically, Valve takes a 15% cut from all Marketplace sales.

          However, you can only do 200 listings per year. That means all of those people selling crates will only be able to make $2 per account, per year, from selling crates. (since crates sell for $0.02 giving a $0.01 profit)

          Also, only Genuine items, description and name tags, crates, keys, and paints are available for sale via Marketplace. So, if you have a crafted hat, you cannot sell it. If you have an uncrated hat, you can’t sell it. Vintage hats cannot be sold. Even if you have an unusual hat, you won’t be able to sell it in the Marketplace. That may change, but for now, you cannot.

          The Marketplace is still in Beta, of course, and I imagine they will expand what can be sold over time. Right now, there’s some good deals, some not. For example, Surplus Vouchers are cheaper in the Marketplace than in the Mann Co. Store. However, Tour of Duty tickets are more expensive in the Marketplace than in the Mann Co. Store.

      • DMStern says:

        A lot of these things have actually been tested, just not in the context of video games. If you’re interested in stuff like this, you may find this blog interesting.

        In this particular case I’m guessing they’re trying to entice people with small amounts of money lying dormant in their Steam wallets to spend it.

        • Mctittles says:

          Yea they call it an experiment, but it’s pretty obvious what the plan is.

          I wouldn’t be surprised if this was planned around the time trading for steam wallet money was introduced. They just waiting a bit so the connection would not be so obvious.

          Next up: Valve does an “experiment” with an angry birds clone.

    • Baf says:

      I think you’re underestimating the effects. This isn’t just about those specific hats. The more important thing is that this is introducing the concept of end-of-production into the hat economy in general, and very specifically making it clear that they could do this to any other hat in the future. That’s a radical change to the hat economy. If there’s a hat you’ve been hoping to get in a random drop, maybe you’ll be more willing to trade for it, just in case it’s next, to avoid the mad scramble when it’s decommissioned.

      • Mctittles says:

        Putting less content in your game for more $$= Good Plan

        REMOVING content in your game for more $$ = Pure Genious

  4. Beelzebud says:

    Looks like my Vintage Miner’s Light is going to be worth something soon!

  5. Premium User Badge

    Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    They can have my hat when they pry it from my cold, dead teeth.

  6. jonnychimpo says:

    The fact that people pay real life cash monies for something so ephemeral as in game headgear is one of life’s great mysteries.

  7. Danda says:

    So that’s why they hired that economist.

    Part 2 of the experiment: selling TurdHats™ for 10 minutes only to see their prices skyrocket.

    • baby snot says:

      Yanis has been pretty clear why he was hired at Valve. Here’s something I meant to link to a while back. In the second half of that podcast (July 5, 2012), Yanis talks a little bit about what Valve were having trouble with and why they approached him, stuff that’s been printed elsewhere, along with his early experiences with and impressions of the company.

  8. meepmeep says:

    If you do have a sought-after hat, then it just means getting a ‘trade’ request every 30 seconds and pestered by people to swap it for their crap.

    I gave mine away to someone who’d obviously enjoy it a lot more.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Cross says:

    I’m ever the more thankful that i ditched TF2 a while ago. It’s my most-played and most-loved game ever, but Valve’s increasing focus on experimenting with how to nickel-and-dime players without them even realising it, and the continual degradation of the actual game, makes me thankful i’m not playing it any more.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      How is this in any way nickel-and-diming anyone? Hats have absolutely no effect on gameplay and are completely and utterly ignorable. Very, very few people would have noticed if Valve had not announced this.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Ask yourself: why did Valve even bother announcing the item retirement? The answer’s pretty obvious, and it points to the reasoning of why Valve does what it does when it comes to matters involving TF2 and the Marketplace.

        Like it or not, this kind of thing does have an overall effect on gameplay.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Fitzmogwai says:

    This is what you get when you hire an economist and tell them they’re free to experiment on the playerbase.

    THEY’RE HERE! THEY’RE HERE! YOU’RE NEXT!

  11. Detrian says:

    Fuck that noise. League of Legends did the same with a bunch of old character skins and it was one of the reasons I stopped playing that game.

    Why? Well unless they have a very good reason for it I think that making virtual items scarce is horseshit and a jab against the playerbase present and future, depriving them of content for no reason other than to turn a profit (or at least that’s how it was with LoL, at least here you can still trade that stuff but the point stands.) Sure, maybe you could argue that no one is buying those old items but if that’s the case then just permanently discount them or give them away through something beneficial and simple like reporting rule breakers or watching a video or god knows what.

    As it stands, there’s really no clear reason to take away content and honestly makes the whole thing sound fishy.

  12. zeroskill says:

    Yet another elaborate, evil plan to make hat’s the new world dominating currency of the future. Gaben must be very pleased about this, sitting in his evil mountain lair.

    I’m am frankly offended on a personal level.

  13. Tei says:

    This is because when you use a digital computer to store hats, you have a limited of hats you can store. In 8 bits you can only store 255 hats, and so on. People with small computers and pockets calculators, need old hats to be deleted so new hats need to be added. You don’t want people to join a TF2 game, and then have a memory overflow of hats. Memory is limited for some reason I can’t really remember.

    • Premium User Badge

      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      TF2 still supports Windows XP, which can only use 3GB of RAM—this equals Not Very Many hats. Clearly this is the reason for removing the old hats.

      • Mctittles says:

        You’re right. Using Tei’s example of 255 hats per bit that only leaves room for 33,686,018 hats per gigabyte. Clearly not enough storage for the arrival of new hats.

  14. Didden says:

    Wow, its almost like, as owners of the franchise, they can suddenly control what appears in their store. Wait, wasn’t this the issue Valve had with Windows 8? Funny old world huh.

    • zeroskill says:

      Though you are wrong on so many levels, even the notion of comparing the entire PC platform, which Microsoft controls, to a small video game environment is absurd.

      But anything is fair game when fueling one’s fanboy’ism. When it comes to hat’s (and their unbearable filthyness, it seems), clearly, many are blinded by their deep emotions.

    • Mctittles says:

      I agree with Didden. It is similar.

      Now we have one leader and one follower. I think you know how this conversation is going to end.

  15. Robin_G says:

    Great. Now if they could just increase the rate of hat removal to above the rate of hat addition, someday we might get back to a game about shooting people. Which they won’t. Because this is yet another economic experiment to see if they can artificially increase the value of older items. The game I enjoyed years ago has been irrevocably altered by prodding and tweaking to the point where it is no longer the same game. And I don’t enjoy that new game as much as the old one.

    • Serpok says:

      Could you elaborate please? Because in its current state your comment makes little sence.

      You say that game has been “irrevocably altered” to the point where it’s no longer “a game about shooting people”, but as far as I can see the only game these changes affect is Trading Game, confined to trading servers and chat rooms.

      Do hats somehow prevent you from joining a ctf server and stealing a briefcase or errecting a sentry?

  16. Koozer says:

    Gah. I haven’t played TF2 for months and months, and it’s still my most played game on Steam. I wanted that beanie so badly, and I never got it, now it’s being retired – that sums up what I loathe about the random drop system.

  17. Vurogj says:

    So, Lily Allen/Littlest Hobo huh? Certainly not the worst mashup I’ve ever heard.

    (I have never played a single second of TF2, sorry)

  18. Bhazor says:

    NOTHING I repeat nothing including Lilly Allen can be considered a treat.

  19. iGark says:

    The number one thing I hate in gaming is things other plays have that you cannot get, ever. It’s bad enough when it’s stupidly difficult (random drops) but this just drives it off the cliff.

    Unfortunately I doubt it’ll make a lick of difference and I’m still going to be obsessed with the game.

    • Mctittles says:

      I’m not a fan of that stuff either. Like the play with a developer achievement you can only get for a short period of time.

      I’m working on a game and put a lot of thought in things like this recently.
      Every achievement must be entertaining to achieve; an actual achievement (difficult); and never a one time only thing.

  20. SkittleDiddler says:

    Thank Dog I have no interest in buying into Valve’s enclosed economy scheme. In the meantime, the items I really do have an interest in, like the Adult Swim gear, cost $4.99 per piece and are non-drops. I suppose I’ll just have to spend another 100 hours or so farming crates no one wants to trade for in order to get the cool stuff.

  21. Rabbitsoup says:

    I AM RICH! RICH!

    not real rich, but pyro beanie TF2 rich.

  22. RagingLion says:

    I sense an economist at work here.

  23. P.Funk says:

    I never understood people’s problem with how TF2 earned its money after going F2P. Its the most benevolent F2P scheme I’ve ever seen. You don’t even have to spend money if you have items already. Everybody picks up weapons which you can trade up or breakdown into more metal which can be traded as currency for hats.

    If you REALLY wanted a hat you could just play for a few weeks or months, turn all your extra weapons into metal and trade it for that one hat you wanted. If you’re obcessed with collecting the hats then you just have incentive to play more often, but none of the gameplay itself leverages changes in how you play to earn items or hats. So little of the game has been compromized by the hats themselves. Only the new weapons can screw up the game, and thankfully the vast vast majority of those are imperfect and weak compared to default or the first class expansion weapons.

    I managed for a while to play the trading market and traded a few weapons up, managed to get enough metal to secure a few stranges, trade those up with newbies who desperately needed them, then traded metal and keys til I had oodles of metal. I traded for a particular hat I wanted, traded for the colour I wanted, and was satisfied with what I had. It was actually rather fun, and easily enough forgotten without feeling like I’d wasted my time or anything because eventually if you ever want to get back into it you have the metal lying around, metal I earned through a few hours of posting on the steam forums for trades.

    Its the most harmless free to play scheme. It takes advantage of the fools that actually spend money on this stuff that could be had with a little patience and the intellect to study a market which is transparently analyzed in abundance on the steam forums.

    Complainers need to really appreciate how stupid it all is. Not to mention, while some will jump at the chance to buy the hats before they go, the ones who already have them just got a massive upgrade on the value of what they have. It used to be that the Iphone buds were the most rare and expensive item, and they probably still are, but these new things will up the ante on high level currency. It’ll be interesting to see how these hats play out in the market amongst those who are loathe to spend actual money.

    Nobody is getting nickle and dimed, unless you actually want to be, and its easy enough to trade for half the weapons out there that you would buy anyway. Random drops give me most of the stuff I’m curious to play with too. I kind of like the item market frankly.

    Its not the items themselves that ruined the game either. Its that its free to play at all that killed the player quality, buti f you can deal with that then the items are something to enjoy in the aftermath.