How’s that for a clickbait title!
Let’s commit clickbait suicide and optimistically answer the question right off the bat: Yes, TF2 definitely has a future. Valve has mentioned more than enough pokers in that fire, whether that future is competitive matchmaking, community updates, or something else. I just don’t think it’s going to be the same as what we’ve been getting up to now.
It’s not hard to see Valve themselves is updating TF2 less and less. Looking at the history of major updates reveals a parabolic arc where 2011 was the heyday and down the line we get less every year. Valve’s recent announcement that Scream Fortress is cancelled fits in with this, since no matter what Valve releases instead, it won’t be seasonal, meaning Valve is phasing out their repeat obligations for one-offs, and one-offs can easily die out.
But unlike most gaming franchises, where developer abandonment puts a hard cap on available content, Valve has always been striving to find ways for communities to shoulder the responsibility for running their favorite game. TF2 has made huge strides in this regard with community updates and a workshop, and Valve has been giving community updates a lot of slack because they’ve stated that they genuinely hope it’ll work out. So far, they haven’t been willing to meet them halfway and let them add anything game-changing, even a map, so hopefully the Invasion Update might change that somehow, but we’ll have to wait and see.
But Valve’s not going away entirely, they’ve also introduced a new form of adding effort-free content that can revitalize the game for the tired veteran who’s looking for something, anything new: contracts. Contracts are brainless in their composition and they can keep people logging in every week to snag some more textured weapons and crates. And that’s fine; they’re optional (Medic and I both abstained from buying a Gun Mettle contract, if anyone who actually did wants to write an article about it, that’d be awesome) and relatively harmless in the long run. They encourage class diversity and branch cosmetic options out from clothing and into weapons. Valve has stated there will be more campaigns incoming, and if they refine the concept enough to the point where it sounds worth six dollars, they might even get me to buy one.
The real kicker’s going to be competitive matchmaking though. After all, football and chess have remained quite successful and popular without any new gameplay mechanics/equipment for centuries.