While it's no secret that the most successful Team Fortress 2 item designers are making serious money, this is one of those topics that never ceases to fascinate me. PC Gamer has given us some good weekend reading in the form of a profile on a handful of these creators as well as a follow-up interview with Valve's Robin Walker, which is what I'll be focusing on here.
Despite the fact that contributors receive 25 percent of the sales from their items, according to Walker, "The top ten creators are all in that ['six figures'] bucket." He finds this to be "Unbelievably cool, and personally rewarding to a level that defies logic. We get much more excited on the team looking at how much money contributors make than we do about how TF2 itself is performing. Many of us come from modding backgrounds, so we often find ourselves having conversations about how we’re building systems we wish we’d had access to when we started out."
Clearly, Valve is interested in growing the number of participants, whether they be a creator or a consumer. "To help more people get involved," Walker tells the outlet, "we need to address the two biggest problems we currently have. The first is the one I talked about above, that we’re just not able to keep up with the amount of content the community is creating. The second is that there are types of value the community is creating that we haven’t built systems to handle.
Without a system, the distribution of the value they’re creating isn’t there, and that means it’s hard for other players to find their creation and enjoy it. Even once players do find and enjoy it, there’s no way to for them to pay back the community creator." Citing TF2 maps as an example, he continues: "Without that loop in place, creators aren’t getting the feedback they need to improve, nor are they getting the financial reward they might need to be able to spend as much time creating as they’d like."