donhonk discussion about the decline in TF2 item revenue

Discussion in 'Team Fortress 2 Talk' started by CommodoreKong, Mar 30, 2017.

  1. CommodoreKong

    aa CommodoreKong

    Positive Ratings:
    On the DOTA2 subreddit there's a discussion about how DOTA2 item makers are making far less money off cosmetic sales due to changes Valve have made to that game.

    On the Neogaf discussion on the topic I spoke with donhonk on the issue with TF2 a little bit and he talks about how he now makes far less revenue on TF2 items with the current key system compared to when items were sold in the Mann Co store.

    I had always thought key revenue was 12.5% to the item creators but apparently it can go as low as 7%
    Getting 8 times less revenue on your TF2 items is a huge amount of money.

    This is something that has been wondering about and worrying about for awhile now. Obviously I know people can't talk specifics but has anyone else here had any similar experiences? Any possible solutions? One thing I think may help is an extra 1% item creators fee paid by a buyer on the Steam community market that goes to the creator of the item sold.
  2. Void

    aa Void Local Man Unable To Map, Sources Say

    Positive Ratings:
    Compensation and allocation has always been an... incendiary... topic. I have personally worked with Donhonk several times, still talk to him regularly, and share many of the same beliefs. While I plan to stick around in the TF2 community for as long as I can, I do hope it can become more sustainable for the people that create for it.

    The recent bouts of "renting" maps for campaigns, and out-right buying others has definitely helped the mapping side financially, but the tier system of cosmetics only creates artificial scarcity at the cost of ultimately lower royalties. It's a hell of a profit for Valve, but due to the percentages allocated with the tiered crates, it's scraps compared to what used to be a thriving system. Certain sales and minor limited tweaks such as the higher unusual rate last Halloween occasionally lend a hand in improving numbers, but issues still remain in lower percentages.

    It's been brought up that members of the community shouldn't be relying on the royalties as their only source of income - and to that, I disagree wholeheartedly. The contributor market is very financially beneficial, and it's perfectly reasonable to take it as a successful source of income. Saying that people aren't "doing something correctly" if they rely on workshop profits and discuss this topic is nonsense and hardly a meaningful way to look at it. People put in work to these items, they get paid in royalties, and you best believe it's taxed. All those fit the criteria for any other source of income, and putting the discussion down just because it's seen as an "incorrect" way of doing things should not be tolerated.

    This community works very hard, and it's good to see people stepping up to talk about change for the better. A lot of the voices being heard are very prominent members of the workshop community, all coming together to say that something needs to be done. They've been doing things just fine for years, but now, it needs fixing. I don't know exactly how, but a raise in allocated percentages is a good start.

    Perhaps emotions are running a little high due to the yearly drought in updates, but I do hope all this feedback is heard for improvements to the workshop and the lives of those that contribute to it.

    Sources: I've been here since 2008. I have 58 self-mades in-game, along with a handful of map contributions. I know how the system works and the numbers behind it, though I'm legally bound to not speak of specifics, as are we all.

    To loop back to the beginning quick, remember that this topic gets a bit heated at times. Keep it civil, guys. We're all in this together.
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  3. CommodoreKong

    aa CommodoreKong

    Positive Ratings:
    I guess one other obvious solution besides my idea of a fee on community market transactions is increasing the cut of key sales. I wonder how much of a difference even a 1 or 2 percent higher cut would make for the revenue people make.

    One other thought would possibly to put cosmetic items on the store some time after the crate has stopped being a normal drop.
  4. fuzzymellow

    Server Staff fuzzymellow

    Positive Ratings:
    Everything that Void has said rings true in every facet that's been talked about so far, without a doubt. Coming from another item contributor, creating items can be a blessing, though sometimes it can be very hard living off the royalties when you look back at how much you make annually, instead of monthly. With big updates, it feels like you're safe with what you make if you get an item or two in alongside it, but compare that to the overall number to someone who, let's say- works part-time at a grocery store- the total in comparison feels very minuscule for all the hard work, dedication, and effort people put in.

    Numbers vastly differ from contributor to contributor, no doubt- some people live just fine and probably don't even have to bat an eye, but that's a very small handful that I can think of. For the rest of the contributor community who may or may not only rely on this as their number one source of income, things can get rough, at times.

    For the longest time, my only self-mades were Halloween-restricted ones, so my income either came from when crates were popular at a Halloween update release, or when they went on sale the only time of the year you could wear them. I barely made enough for groceries, most months. I'm very lucky and very thankful a few things have changed since then, but let's say, depending on what you get in and what system it went through, you either get enough to live alright with not a lot of worries or go several months without anything stable. By system, I mean whether if your item got in a crate, a case, or limited case. In the past I've heard a lot of contributors feel a bit sad when they get their stuff in limited cases. Those things don't last long, so revenue doesn't, either.

    I know living off of item money shouldn't be my only way of living, but coming from someone who deals with a severe case of social anxiety and has been going through heavy bouts of PTSD and depression, it's really, really difficult to get out there and get something as "easy" as a part time job at a grocery store, looping back to what I said earlier as an example.

    I know every contributors' story is different, and I also know others rely on this as their only source of income, as well, for a multitude of their own reasons. While I heavily regret not being able to get out of my home most days and should know better than to rely on something as unstable as item payouts like they have been, I try my -damned- hardest to create new ideas and learn new things everyday with the work that I mentally am able to do.

    I'd feel silly as to even suggest to Valve or the TF2 team for a percentage or two more for all of us since they're a big company with big things of their own, but if they could bring the concept of putting items back to the Mann Co. Store, I'm sure that would help out contributors in a lot of ways, giving them a slight sigh of relief as well. I just know income becomes very dry with the huge drought between the Winter Holidays and the next big Summer update, as they tend to happen.

    After paying taxes from what I do, I always have to be on the very tip of my toes with my money until the next eventual TF2 update arrives and I cross all of my appendages and pray to everything out there that the team sends a little luck on my doorstep. The "update drought" and tax day all fall within the same time range, so believe me, friends- It ain't easy for a good ol' chunk of time.

    Void couldn't have summarized all of this better and I'm sorry if I'm not the greatest with responding to these sort of things, but I just felt like finally throwing in my two cents on how things go, from my perspective at least.

    While I'm a damn lucky bird to have gotten this far, I should honestly start looking into backup plans incase item revenue keeps going the way it does. Again, every contributors' story is different and all of their earnings range from not-so-cozy to Feelin' Fine. Some solely rely on item revenue. Others, do not. If I weren't living with another person doing the same thing (who woulda thunk), I'd probably still be living with my mom, hoping that after years and years worth of the work I've been doing would save up enough to live in apartment on my own for a year or two, at best.

    Source: I've been contributing concepts and textures since the Robotic Boogaloo update and have 27 self-made items in-game, along helping out with a couple of maps also.

    Please read Void's post as his is very much more insightful on how things are, whereas my post is just a bit more on the personal side, to maybe put things in a different light/perspective.

    All of the contributors I've worked with do high-level game studio work that truly deserve nothing but the best. Unrelated, but kinda on-topic, I've worked with donhonk also on many, many items together and he's a swell guy. I hope sales get better to support all that they do, or other means get brought into the mix to help 'em out even just a little bit more.
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  5. Diva Dan

    aa Diva Dan hello!

    Positive Ratings:
    This is exactly what Rust does and it is a very rewarding system from what I can tell. Every skin is ONLY purchasable from the item store, with the price of 1.49 usually. Then, every week it gets more expensive, up to 8 weeks, where it costs 9.99. Then they become sellable on the market the next week. This allows for heaps of profit for item creators, and they add a handful of skins every single Thursday. The skins they choose aren't exactly gracefully chosen but they make an effort to have a good balance of professional skins and amateur skins.

    The 8 week period is incredible for artists because before almost every skin was bought by the market, which meant no money. The idea of also being able to buy what skin you want specifically is very nice because there is no more gambling BS where people are afraid of wasting 2.50 to get a blue item. People just buy what they want and it works wonders.
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  6. fubarFX

    aa fubarFX The "raw" in "nodraw"

    Positive Ratings:
    yeah, mapping is kind of in a rough spot too

    **unfiltered stupid rambling that instantly lowers the quality of discussion**

    The Unnecessary History of Fubar
    Figured I'd chime in since we have not had a mapper's perspective

    My story begins when suijin made it in the game. I was in a pretty bad spot back then, my mapping skills had plateaued and I didn't really see much value in sticking around tf2m anymore. I didn't have time to make maps anyway since university was sucking away all my time and energy. But I eventually got a glimpse into suijin's numbers. Gunmettle numbers were good, very good. The new campaign format was a breath of fresh air and I was excited for the future of tf2. I eventually managed to convince myself to quit university. I wasn't enjoying my school, the classes were awful and the overall culture of the university was disgusting so it didn't take much convincing, quitting was the right move regardless. I didn't have a plan, I just quit and took it from there. I never really counted on getting valve money and living off of that but I went back to mapping because it's what I enjoyed and I wanted to finish the many projects that I had neglected because of school. Through some weird introspective magic, my skills kinda skyrocketed at that moment. I sort of took all the side knowledge I had and incorporated it back into mapping and everything just came together. In my mind, this marked my transition from a mapper to a level designer. Fast-forward one month later and an article about TF2's workshop featuring a map of mine made it in PCGamer. That's when things started feeling a little too real for me. Fast-forward a couple months, on a random november night, I received an email from Valve. They wanted cp Vanguard for the Tough Break update. That came with a feeling of validation that is difficult to grasp unless you've been in that situation. For a moment, I didn't have to worry about anything. I had just cleared all my student loans in one go and I was back on a clean slate. Tough Break numbers were alright, not great but still pretty good, maybe half as good. I figured that I would be able to do this for a while. Worst case scenario, I'd fail to publish an other map but I'd at least end up with more portfolio material so I took the dive. I had nothing to lose.

    "The Plan"
    Have a map for every foreseeable update, there seemed to be so many opportunities.
    1. Have a map ready for the next campaign
    2. Have a map ready for Halloween
    3. Have a map ready for holidays
    4. Have a map ready for every community update that looks like it's too big to fail.
    It seemed reasonable at the time, not all of those maps had to be a success but if any of them were to work, I'd likely be fine for an other year. Rinse and repeat, and mapping looks like it could be sustainable.

    So I made pd SnowVille for the holidays, it was a great success on the workshop but it didn't grab Valve's attention on the two holidays it's been on the workshop, they don't normally do holiday maps anyways so I didn't think much of it.

    Then the Mayann community update gets announced. Having koth Occult in my back pocket, mayann very much felt like a free pass back in april. Koth Occult had a huge lead on any other map that was out there at the time and I didn't see any way it wouldn't get in if Mayann was to be accepted as a community update.

    Then the competitive update rumors started, so I made sure Koth product was ready, it is a comp favorite after all and I didn't want to let the community down. I figured it had reasonable chances of making it in if Valve really wanted to make good on their competitive mode. Didn't quite turn that way.

    Then Halloween comes along, I took a head start to keep myself ahead of the game and released cp DegrootCreep in late September. It was a big hit on the workshop. I started feeling like my luck was finally going to turn around but it never did.

    Now here we are, over a year after cp Vanguard.

    What worked, what has been learned?
    Well, nothing worked out. I ran out of Vanguard money. I'm in the worst case of at least having a killer portfolio. Which is not a bad place to be in but it still blows. A couple things were learned tho.

    Is mapping for tf2 sustainable?
    fat chance.

    Are campaign revenues going to keep going down with each subsequent campaign?
    probably, hard to say but I doubt we'll ever have Gunmettle numbers again.

    As a mapper, Is relying on reskins of valve maps a bad idea?
    Definitely, this may have been my main mistake. Unless you're going to make it really freakin good, mann manor level good, don't bother. It makes pretty good workshop fodder tho, you may increase your follower count but you'll likely not get valve's attention.

    Is workshop success important?
    The workshop is pretty daft in terms of what makes a map good. I think I have a certain flair for giving the workshop what it wants but it's generally not what Valve is going to be looking for. Pandering to the workshop is a mistake. The workshop ends up being a double edged sword, You need the workshop to be noticed but valve doesn't necessarily roll with mass appeal. For a second I believed that the workshop was the key to success but that was a mistake. It's really not.

    Can we count on Valve and campaigns to create a constant flow of opportunities for mappers? Well if 2016 has thought me anything, it's that we definitely can't. I'd hardly call Meat your Match an opportunity at all since all its map spots had probably already been decided long in advance. So realistically, that leaves us with Halloween and that's it. But honestly, if Halloween maps are only going to be a patch note, why even bother. I don't want to relive 2016 ever again.

    Is it done for me?
    Yeah I'm done, I can't justify making maps for TF2 and honestly, I'm kind of happy because I'll have to move on to other things. Koth Occult might eventually be selected for the jungle update, it's still possible but without any words on when that could be the case, It's utterly impossible for me to make any sensible plan for the future. Great if it happens but I'm not holding my breath.

    -Various comments on the campaign monetization model, the place of mappers in tf2's ecosystem and sustainability-
    I consider the money I made out of mapping to be mostly fair, It was enough for me to clear depts and live off of for a solid year. I can live happily with that level of yearly revenue. However, is it enough money to keep talents into tf2 and make sure we have quality content in the long run? I think that's definitely going to be an issue down the road. Mappers generally quit tf2 and head straight for the industry after a map or two. Tf2's pool of experienced mappers is shrinking and we're not really able to keep talents here. I do believe that the day we run out of mappers, tf2 dies. Cosmetics are not a long terms solution for player retention and neither are weapons. It seems we're stuck with maps for now. if Valve has other ideas on how to keep the game fresh, I'd love to hear them (but please, don't let it be an other mvm, mannpower or passtime. We've had enough of those). The campaign model is great in theory, it gives much needed structure to the update schedule and gives something for players to look forward to and return to every 6 months. However...

    The monetization model for campaign maps has a few shortcomings
    The nature of maps makes it so not all maps are created equal. The disparity of effort put into a cosmetic/weapon is far less than it is for different maps. However, The disparity in revenues between the different cosmetic/weapons is far greater than it is for maps. This seems to be backward. The flat % rate works well for items because it directly scales with the performance of that item (in the case of store bought items) so it makes more sense to put a lot of effort in an item. For maps in the campaign model however, you get the same amount as everyone in the group of maps you're bunched with. Unfortunately, the real winner in a campaign, is the person who has put the least amount of effort in their map and that feels somewhat toxic. I consider myself to be an ambitious fella, I want to build bigger and better but the current system has no incentive for me to do so (stamps hardly make a dent in that regard). I don't particularly feel ripped off by this, I'm just pointing out the odd dynamic. It may not really be a problem, I understand that the economy behind maps and items are not really comparable but I just wanted to point that out.

    To add to that, I don't see an incentive to update and maintain maps once they are in. The campaign model of "featuring" maps is still hazy to me and I honestly have no idea what is expected of me and my map in the future. (I figure Vanguard is probably "good enough" and I don't want to bother players with changes that will be perceived as negative because they have to relearn how the map works so I'm leaving it as is).

    Also, while campaign money is pretty okay (it's nothing that will afford you a luxurious lifestyle but you can get by just fine) I've lately found myself avoiding to collaborate with other people because, let's face it, when there's not a lot of money to start with, it would be relatively dumb to split the pot if you can avoid it. This goes back to building bigger and better. I think collaboration is a great way to achieve quality content but the current model discourages it to an extent. Resources are too limited to be split.

    Just a humble tf2 mapper's perspective, still figuring things out

    basically all the monetization models are fucked lol
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    Last edited: Mar 30, 2017
  7. CommodoreKong

    aa CommodoreKong

    Positive Ratings:
    One thing I would still like to see is Valve getting rid of map filters for strange weapons and make 2 strange parts for each community map, one that counts kill and one that counts dominations (or possibly combine them into a single part). Sell them on the store for a dollar each and make ones for official maps as well than have that revenue go into the same pop as map stamp bundles so everyone gets a cut of them.

    I have no doubt they would sell better than filters currently do (and possibly stamps).
  8. EArkham

    aa EArkham Necromancer

    Positive Ratings:
    I have never understood why map filters work as they currently do. A simple strange part that counts kills on that map is all anyone ever wanted... not something that effectively ruins the strange counter for any other map. The name change is cute, but c'mon... we have name tags for that sort of thing.
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  9. CommodoreKong

    aa CommodoreKong

    Positive Ratings:
    Yeah a strange part is a good idea but the filter is the exact opposite of how it should work for it to actually sell. Have you ever sent an email to Valve asking them to change it? I've emailed them the suggestion to change the way filters work some time ago but I imagine they get tons of emails. Since you have a map in the game I'm guessing they'll actually read your email.
  10. EArkham

    aa EArkham Necromancer

    Positive Ratings:
    I don't remember if I have or haven't about that, honestly. Probably not. I tend not to email them unless I feel it's necessary. That might be a mistake -- since I've been focusing on making map props when I do work on TF2 things, it probably looks to them like I have long stretches of being "dead" even though I visit tf2maps, facepunch, etc daily, which might hurt the chances of my existing workshop items.

    I've got a big work project all this weekend, but I'll try to fire off an email at some point if I remember.
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  11. ics

    aa ics

    Positive Ratings:
    This is an interesting topic and there has been good ideas and points brought forward.


    As others have already said, contributors are not allowed to talk about sales data or percentages of the sales and whatnot, but they are allowed to talk the total sum of the money they make, if they want to. This is quote from the "About steam revenue" page that can be found from shorturl

    Everyone who has items, taunts, maps, effects, etc in-game, propably should know this among the other things.

    There's been all kinds of talk over the internet during these years on how much people make out of self made items. More famous are the polycount ones that back in the days were sold on the store page and propably that is one reason why they made so much out of them, as well as they were significant addition to the game itself as usable weapons and such, not just only hats.

    Not to step on anyones toes but I've always thought that if you have 50 or even 100 self made items in a game, you're good for years and years with that money by now. Apparently this isn't the case? In the past a lot of items also came from same creators over and over.

    Now that there is more people getting items in the game with equal chances with valve inviting all and updates are not made in secret (or participation was limited) like before (end of the line, invasion, etc), and the addition of items is different from the old way, there is talk about revenue decrease. Revenue might have been decreased, but is it because of the items not getting added into the store itself or is the revenue really lowered by Valve due to them making less too? Maybe the people who got selected by the group of people familiar to them got to share the pot more by themselves and now that they are back where the rest of us are, the revenue has decreased for that reason? I dont know.


    Most of us are here for making maps for the game, out of interest, as a hobby, out of passion or in serious way to make out of living of them. People also who make stuff that map makers can use in their maps are also valuable part of the community. But as fubarFX mentioned, making maps isn't making a living. You can't expect the map gets in no matter how good you think its chances are.

    Having 2 maps ingame myself, i can say that it doesn't make a living but it has helped me out a lot and i'm quite happy with the numbers except finnish taxations suck, i lose roughly 50% of total revenue due to it. Taxation wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have my dayjob. Dropping that would literally cut out 30% of the tax. But i can't drop that and live off the revenue either. But i just do maps out of as been able and interested to do some. For over 10 years now, i might add. I've never had making money as a goal out of them. I dont mind if someone has goal like that though.


    Unlike fubarFX said, workshop is a key to success. It isn't always best interests of the game that the people with streaming, high followers, lots of social media interaction etc gets their maps the best count of views and subscriptions and favorites. No one knows what are Valve standards for picking maps out of the workshop, it's nice that they dig in the workshop and really take a look on the maps instead of watching screenshots and for example view counts alone. They do matter though, i dont remember any map getting official that hasn't got atleast 5000 views to begin with.

    Some good and bad points of workshop through my own observations:

    - Viewcounts on workshop per items are getting lesser by each day. These days rarely any map surpasses 15 000 views.
    - You have 7 days to get your map shown in most popular this week category untill your map gets buried down.
    - If you submit map at the wrong day of the time, you will lose 1 day off from the 7 days you have to make up most of the views for map.
    - If you are lucky and rank up enough views / subscribers ratio along with enough favorites, you might get your map in the top8 maps that gets shown for 3 months on the frontpage of tf2 workshop.
    - Getting most popular 3 months map category is blind luck of the voters of your map. You might have 10 000 views, 2000 subscribers and 150 favorites, yet a map with 6000 views, 2300 subscribers and 200 favorites gets listed, yours does not. Just saying this out loud so everyone knows how maps end up there.


    There has been talk about having a cut from the market share to the item contributor(s) of that item. As for items getting into market and revenue from sold items shared also by the contributors and not just with valve and steam, in fairness i have to ask how map makers benefit from that change? Sales of strange map filters aren't even near in the level of spread vs items from the crates. If strange filters would be uncrateable, that would be fine i guess.

    Also there is that slight thing that now items have different qualities and Valve decides them. So some item makers would be making a lot more than others and it wouldn't be a random choice from a crate as it is now. I assume "something special for someone" creator is set for life if he/she really gets 25% off from each store sale. So market sells of items would even more put more imbalance to the revenue shares and bad blood between the community item makers.


    Also I wouldn't mind if i could made out more from making maps, but it doesn't seem possible unless getting more maps in which basically would be more than OK to me. Maybe if the map stamp from your favorite map would be wearable on you, instead of it dropping out of the world travelers hat in only the maps you buy map stamps from, it might increase the revenue of having a current map official in the game. Making map stamps wearable was denied or Jill thought he should make whole map wearable, which wasn't my point at all.

    Somewhere there is a middleway to make everyone who makes hats, weapons, taunts, effects, maps etc happy. Well, most of us, anyway.
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  12. Crash

    aa Crash func_nerd

    Positive Ratings:
    There is no contributor "set for life" in TF2.

    Also, Halloween map (and item) compensation is low compared to non-Halloween maps, just a heads up.
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    Last edited: Apr 14, 2017
  13. Fr0Z3nR

    aa Fr0Z3nR Creator of blackholes & memes. Destroyer of forums

    Positive Ratings:
    Since no one else will say their numbers. Snowplow made ~$24,000 during Gun Mettle. That was then split up amongst the team members who made it.

    Of all the campaign maps, h'ween and all that included, the Gun Mettle Maps have made the most, by a fair bit.

    And, what crash said - no one is set for life with TF2 revenue. The closest person to that, the probably highest grossing contributor of all time - is no where near that. They're good for a while, but not life.
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