Valve has officially made Team Fortress 2 a Free-to-Play game. Before getting to their rationale, just go ahead and download it if you've never played it. This is one of the best class and team based shooters ever made. And now it's free… "for freakin' ever."

Speaking with Develop, Valve's Robin Walker illuminated the decision to make Team Fortress 2 a free title. The entire flow of the interview indicates that Valve has been taking their time with this decision. Think back on all of the free-to-play weekends TF2 has enjoyed in its history; those were experiments to test the potential popularity of removing the cost to play entirely.

They worked out. And a large part of that comes from the in-game content store, Mann Co. (they sell products and get into fights). Players will be able to purchase small, in-game items during their free-to-play experience. That's how Valve will primarily make their money. And part of that cash flow will hopefully come from an otherwise "freeloading" market.

"Another way we think of it is that there are a class of players who will never pay us a dime, for a variety of reasons. We're not upset by that, it's just a constraint we need to design around. The interesting problem to solve is how to make those freeloaders produce value for our paying customers. Obviously, getting those free players into the game is the first step to doing that."

But, as Develop pointed out and Robin Walker confirmed, another reason for this free-to-play manuever is that it forces potential players to get Steam on their computers. As great as Valve's PC gaming store is, opening and browsing it is a slippery slope. Valve has gotten great at hosting Steam sales capable of scrapping every ounce of scratch out of your wallet in a single weekend. You'll get Team Fortress 2 for free, yes, but the first hit is always free. Then you'll be back.

Or, at least, that's the hope. Team Fortress 2 is now free-to-play forever with no restrictions whatsoever. Get in there and eeerect a sentry.

[via Valve]