Competitive matchmaking is coming to Team Fortress 2 this week, starting with a small beta that gradually grows in size and sporadic stress tests along the way.
Competition has been core to the Team Fortress 2 experience since its launch more than eight years ago. While the core game itself has never tracked wins, losses or kill/death ratios in a meaningful way, servers have added individual player tracking on their own. Leagues and tournaments have been prevalent all eight years and show no signs of slowing. Team Fortress 2‘s community has so confidently driven competitive play that Valve’s hardly considered doing it themselves. Until now.
In 2015 a group of community leaders within the competitive Team Fortress 2 scene began discussions with Valve regarding improvements to the game that could benefit them. By April 2015, those community leaders took a trip directly to Valve headquarters to pitch their ideas directly. What Valve told them was that the Team Fortress 2 team was already working to implement all of their ideas. It was only a matter of time before certain Quality of Life improvements, a main menu CS:GO-style stream list, and most importantly of all matchmaking, would be added.
It’s taken Valve a bit longer than most were hoping for, but today’s the day. Valve announced this morning that the closed beta for Team Fortress 2 competitive matchmaking would start this week. The beta will start very small and invitations are exclusive to members of the Team Fortress 2 Competitive Beta Steam group, with priority set for specific types of players. Invites will continue rolling out, slowly increasing the beta’s size until it’s ready for full release. Valve will also be hosting several open stress tests sporadically in the coming months.
Exactly what Valve’s plans are for the matchmaking mode are left unclear, but the odds favor a system akin to Counter Strike: Global Offensive‘s matchmaking. Why design a whole new system when you already have one that’s a proven success? Whether competitive Team Fortress 2‘s competitive matchmaking will prove as CS: GO is unlikely, but that’s a high metric to live up to. If it could find its own success, perhaps cracking into the top 25 streamed games on Twitch, then perhaps a resurgence is in store for Team Fortress 2.
Valve’s undoubtedly hoping competitive Team Fortress 2 will take off. The developer/publisher is scaling up its eSports efforts in an insanely large way, with Dota 2‘s handful of majors and Counter Strike: Global Offensive tournaments seemingly running every day of every hour. Add in Team Fortress 2 and Valve could run their very own ESPN 8 channel of rotating weekly Valve game tournaments.
eSports aside, it’s just nice to hear that competitive Team Fortress 2 is finally getting some respect. The game was such a force eight years ago, and remains one of the most exciting team arena shooters I’ve personally ever played. Once they finished with the individual class updates however, the balance went all sorts of off the deep end. Hats and stats took over the game and it’s hard to say whether a meta or balance can even be found. Best to just have faith.
Team Fortress 2‘s competitive matchmaking closed beta will begin later this week. For details on how to sign up for the beta, head to the game’s Steam group for the upcoming feature.