Two main Account types are offered in Team Fortress 2: Premium and Free. On June 23, 2011, with the release of the Über Update, Valve adopted the free-to-play (also known as "F2P") model for the game, creating a distinction in account types between players who purchased the game before June 23, 2011, and players who downloaded the game for free thereafter. An account is considered Free if a user obtained their copy of Team Fortress 2 on Steam after June 23, 2011, and did not use any method to upgrade their account afterwards.
In comparison to Premium accounts, Free accounts are more restricted in their ability to trade, craft, and store items in their backpack. For instance, Free accounts limit players' backpack size to 50 slots and disable some cosmetic crafting blueprints available to Premium accounts. Formerly, Free accounts could not trade away any items at all. Now, while Free players can receive any items through trading, they can only trade away items that were traded to them by other users. Any items obtained through the item drop system by a Free account (limited to standard items such as weapons and paint cans) will also be untradable, except for Tools. Items received from the drop system before players upgraded their accounts will always remain untradable. Although gameplay restrictions are not placed on Free accounts, dedicated server plugins have been developed on community servers to block players who have Free accounts from connecting. Some cosmetic Item sets are also unable to be crafted. Premium accounts used to have access to the Team Fortress 2 Beta, but this was later removed on June 7, 2013. When a Free account is upgraded to a Premium account, the player will be asked to nominate a user who helped them. Doing so will grant the selected player the Professor Speks.
As of June 16, 2020 Patch, certain TF2 accounts have been restricted in their ability to send messages on official servers, with exception of party chat. As of July 3, 2020 Patch, said accounts are now also restricted in voice chat, including sending voice commands. Accounts may also be restricted for being Limited User Accounts on Steam, which means the player has to spend at least $5 to gain free access.
Item system restrictions
|Backpack||50 slots ()||( )|
|Items||Standard||Standard, Rare, and Cosmetic|
|Crafting||Limited blueprints||All blueprints|
|Gifting||Can receive gifts||Can send and receive gifts|
Upgrading account type
The Premium account type is obtained by:
- Activating a retail or digital copy of The Orange Box.
- Making a purchase of any amount from the Mann Co. Store or Mann Co. Online Store.
- Using an Upgrade to Premium Gift given to them by another player.
Upon meeting one of the requirements above, the player's account is immediately upgraded to Premium, and all previously-imposed restrictions are removed. Players who had previously purchased a retail copy of Team Fortress 2 will have their account upgraded to Premium upon activation of the game on Steam, and will also receive the Proof of Purchase item.