How Valve has treated Team Fortress 2 is a disgrace, and its community deserves better

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“TF2 community, we hear you! We love this game and know you do, too. We see how large this issue has become and are working to improve things.” Just over two years ago, the official Team Fortress 2 Twitter account made this now infamous announcement, and the initial excitement has long since been replaced by a cocktail of apathy, derision, and disappointment.

At nearly 17 years old, Valve’s iconic shooter is doing more than just surviving. The game rakes in tens of thousands of players daily thanks to having fostered one of the most passionate communities in gaming, regularly breaching the top 10 most played games on Steam for any given day – all despite having only received one major update since 2017.

But it isn’t the lack of new content that has the game under threat (though it’s certainly another front in the same war). Team Fortress 2 has a botting problem. 

How Valve has treated TF2 is a disgrace: A pyro player firing a Flare Gun shot at a Sniper that is on fire.
Aimbots like this sniper are found in almost every game of TF2. Image captured by VideoGamer

For several years now, TF2’s casual servers have been plagued by aimbots. It’s almost impossible to join a game on an official Valve server without at least one there to ruin things for everyone else. And unfortunately, this is merely scratching the surface.

Bots often spam text and voice chat with everything from insults and racial slurs to adverts for aimbot software and ‘bot immunity services’, a means of scamming players looking for a means to evade these bots. Some bot hosters have gone as far as to impersonate and dox their critics, send death threats, launch DDoS attacks, and, in one instance, even swatted the owner of a prominent website used to document cheaters.

Two years ago, with no word from the infamously secretive Valve, TF2 players took matters into their own hands, swarming social media with the hashtag #SaveTF2 and bringing widespread attention to the botting issue. So when the game’s developers finally broke their silence to deliver the aforementioned promise to ‘improve things’, the situation was looking up. And yet, despite a major update last summer, there has been no further movement on the botting issue.

How Valve has treated TF2 is a disgrace: A player crouching down next to a seal on a rocky beach next to some wooden buildings.
Last year’s summer update added new community-made maps and gamemodes. Image captured by VideoGamer

TF2 YouTuber ShorK has been one of the movement’s most prominent advocates and has continually echoed the community’s disappointment in Valve’s lack of action. “It is very insulting at this point because most of the community decided to put their faith in Valve for the first time in about four years. It feels like they saw an easy way out”, he writes.

“TF2 has an incredibly strong and dedicated community”, he adds, something made evident by the game’s continued popularity nearly two decades after its release. “This is something that just makes the treatment of the game absurd and unacceptable.”

It’s hard to disagree with this. Player numbers aside, TF2 continues to be a fruitful proposition for Valve thanks to its famously hat-based in-game economy, spurring on the sale of Keys, cosmetics, and other items from the game’s Mann Co. Store. It may not rake in digital dollars to the same extent as Valve’s golden children Dota 2 and Counter-Strike 2, but it continues to make Valve a pretty penny, and the failure to support the game has left many players feeling like little more than a cash cow to help fund Valve’s more lucrative projects.

How Valve has treated TF2 is a disgrace: A player's TF2 loadout showing the equipped weapons and cosmetics for a Demoman.
TF2’s reputation as a ‘hat simulator’ is not entirely without merit. Image captured by VideoGamer

And for these same players, enough is enough. The community has organised a new #SaveTF2 campaign to take place on 3 June, appealing for players to share footage and personal stories of their experiences with botting alongside the #SaveTF2 and #FixTF2 hashtags. Additionally, a website, save.tf, has been set up with a petition calling on Valve to solve the bot crisis once and for all, and has already garnered more than 110,000 signatures at the time of writing.

For some, Valve’s inaction regarding TF2 is indicative of a wider issue at the company. While the Valve that released TF2 back in 2007 was universally regarded as a trailblazing studio that had produced some of the most beloved games of all time, the Valve of 2024 is viewed as a hulking corporation more interested in Steam, the company’s personal money-printing machine, than it is in creating or maintaining games.

How Valve has treated TF2 is a disgrace: Two Demomen firing stickybombs towards a payload with a lone Soldier next to it.
Almost all new content in TF2 has been community-made for many years. Image captured by VideoGamer

Indeed, even players of Valve’s two giants Dota 2 and Counter-Strike 2 have long been complaining of a lack of major content updates, and in CS2’s case, even their fair share of cheaters, arguing that Valve seems to have no care for the games beyond adding the occasional loot boxes for players to spend more money on.

The majority of developers would make a deal with the devil to have a game with as many players on launch day as TF2 has 17 years on from its own launch. For the first month following its release, The Finals was pulling in more than 100,000 concurrent players a day on Steam. Nowadays, it’s lucky if it hits 20,000. Even Helldivers 2, one of 2024’s biggest releases has now fallen below TF2 in terms of daily players on Steam, putting in perspective just how dedicated the Team Fortress 2 player base continues to be.

How Valve has treated TF2 is a disgrace: A Scout firing towards two Demoknights as one of them attacks a red Medic.
TF2’s bizarre collection of weapons promote a variety of wacky playstyles. Image captured by VideoGamer

Full disclosure, I have a clear bias in this fight. I have thousands of hours logged in TF2. While in school, I used to spend weekday nights playing in competitive leagues run by third-party websites. I used to play Mann vs. Machine, the game’s PvE mode, religiously for a chance at a rare item that never came. TF2 is one of, if not perhaps my favourite game of all time.

Which makes it all the more tragic to watch it slowly perish, not because of a lack of interest from the players, but the apathy of what once was my favourite developer. As the save.tf website curtly puts it, “TF2 is not dying, it is being intentionally killed.”

How Valve has treated TF2 is a disgrace: A player with a bow and arrow aiming towards some battlements as a Demoman flies through the air towards them.
Unique gamemodes like ‘medieval mode’ have long been a trademark of TF2. Image captured by VideoGamer

For ShorK and the rest of the community, there’s a lot that needs to be done, but nothing else matters unless the bots go first. “Of course, there are other things that should be fixed related to the issue afterward, like free-to-play accounts not being able to voice chat, text chat, or even do voice commands, but first and foremost the only thing we want is for Valve to give the bots the boot.”, he writes, before adding “We do not need new items or new updates. We just need a playable game.”

Despite all of its flaws, TF2 is deeply beloved by its players for everything from the game itself to the bizarre lore and crazy stories told by its cinematics and comics. Valve owes it to its players to do something to save it, and if it won’t then it can expect far more backlash, as this community has shown time and again that it will not lie down quietly and let the game they love go.

About the Author

Alex Raisbeck

Alex is a Guides Writer for VideoGamer. He is an indie gaming obsessive with a soft spot for Zelda, roguelikes, and Football Manager, as well as an unhealthy relationship with his backlog.

Team Fortress 2

  • Release Date: October 10, 2007
    • - 01 January 2007 (PC)
  • Platform(s): Linux, macOS, PC
  • Genre(s): Action, First Person, Shooter, Tactical