“We were also hitting a point in Team Fortress where, bizarrely, we would get emails from fans saying, ‘I’ve been playing this game for four years… Do you have a donation tip-jar or something?’ At the point where fans are mailing our corporation asking if we have a donation tip-jar because they want to give us extra money… it’s a strange thing.”
Half-Life: Alyx First Screenshots (4K)
These sorts of letters seemingly run counter to the perception of customers, Walker says. “I think people have this really, weirdly adversarial relationship with customers, where they think customers fundamentally don’t want to give, don’t want to spend money, they just want everything for free, whereas we always think of it as; people want to spend their money on the things they like…
“I, personally, really enjoy spending money on the bands, and the artists, and the movie-makers and so-on, who build things that I love. I wish I could give them more if it meant that they’d make more.“So, to us, Team Fortress was the place where we tried to figure out how to do that. We know we’ve got a bunch of people who are enjoying this, and they’re mailing us and telling us that they’re enjoying it… it seems like they would prefer spending their money on this than another game and so we were trying to figure out, ‘What is it that they like? What would they want?'”
As for the industry at large, Walker was surprised opinions solidified on microtransactions so quickly. “I think it took us years, and we’re still learning an enormous amount… I think that was the other thing that was… shocking to us at the time: the industry seemed to have already decided it understood how microtransactions worked.
“This was… 2011 or something. There was microtransaction stuff going on in web games and stuff like that. There was all this stuff written about how you’ve got to add friction to your game, and then people can pay to take it away… there was all this sort of stuff and it seemed really unlikely to us, given how young microtransactions were at that time, or even just service games in general… that the industry had already figured out the ‘optimal’ way.“We felt like everything that was being done then was, basically, teaching players to regret every bit of a dollar they spent. You would play a game and just regret it. So… we thought, ‘There’s got to be a way to do this. We’ve got to be able to figure out a way to do this where this is an addition that people enjoy and want. That came with a set of things around… making sure that… there was an enormous amount of the game that you still got for free or… with Dota… it’s entirely cosmetic, none of it affects the core game, itself.”
Walker wrapped up the topic by saying that the progress Valve has made in making microtransactions something people want to engage in, instead of something they feel they are forced to engage in, has allowed the company to make games like Counter-Strike and Dota 2 completely free.
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Brian Barnett writes news, features, wiki guides, deals posts, and much more for IGN. You can get your fix of Brian’s antics on Twitter and Instagram (@Ribnax).