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fish[2]It is hardly a secret that I am a big fan of Valve’s Steam gaming service. It allows me to get games quickly, at a reasonable price (ok it can occasionally be overpriced) and offers excellent social and matchmaking tools. But I think a lot of people still underestimate both Valve and the Steam service. If anyone could said to “be” pc gaming (or Mac gaming for that matter), then it would definitely be Valve.
While Steam continues to grow by being an excellent service, the last couple of months have shown Valve to be true marketing genius’s. They have realised something that should be glaringly obvious to most consumers, but seems to images (1)escape most businesses. That giving away free stuff will earn you a fortune.
I am referring to them giving away free mac/pc copies of Portal 2 with the PS3 version, and their announcement today that they are giving away Team Fortress 2 for free. Of course both of these games do have item shops, with Team Fortress in particular having massive number of items to purchase. I should point out that there is absolutely no need to buy any TF2 items, even the weapons aren’t better or worse than the original ones, just different.
So do I think that they will make a fortune from selling hats in TF2? No, if they are lucky they will make enough to make enough money to cover it’s continued development. However TF2 for free, if advertised and marketed right, would bring a huge number of people into gaming, to the point that if you have PC you have Steam installed. Essentially they are offering arguably the best multiplayer shooter ever Age-of-Empire-Online-logomade for free. A shooter that still looks great and will run pretty well on any PC from the last 5 years.Oh and more importantly, a shooter that can only be launched from inside the online game store that is Steam.
I know that Microsoft are currently working on a free game which they are hoping to reignite Games for Windows, Age of Empires Online. Humm even if it is the best game in the last 25 years, I don’t imagine Valve will even notice.

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