Team Fortress 2 offers two main account types: 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 thereafter. Free and Premium accounts only differ in the restrictions of the item drop system, and as such, no restrictions for either type affect gameplay or offer particular players any advantage over others.
The Free account type is defined as players who have activated the game on Steam after June 23, 2011, on their respective accounts. In comparison to Premium accounts, Free accounts offer players less capability to trade, craft, and store items in their backpack. Free accounts reduce the player's backpack size to only 50 slots and disable some cosmetic crafting blueprints that are available to them. In addition to this, while Free players can receive all items through trading, they can only trade away items that were traded to them and Tools that they have found. Formerly, Free accounts could not trade away any items at all. Additionally, the item drop system, with a Free account, will only drop standard items such as weapons and paint cans. Although typically gameplay restrictions are not placed on free accounts, dedicated server plugins have been developed to block players who have Free accounts from connecting to the server at all. Some cosmetic Item sets are also unable to be crafted. Premium accounts used to have access to the Team Fortress 2 Beta; this was later removed on June 7, 2013. When a Free account is upgraded to a Premium account, the player will be asked who helped them. Doing so will give the selected player the Professor Speks.
The Premium account type is an account that had a copy of Team Fortress 2 purchased prior to June 23, 2011, obtained by:
- Buying a retail or digital copy of The Orange Box.
- Activating the game by making a purchase from the Mann Co. Store or Mann Co. Online Store.
The Premium account type does not have newer restrictions on obtaining and storing items, nor does it on standard gameplay. Players who purchased Team Fortress 2 prior to June 23, 2011, or activated the retail version of The Orange Box, were also rewarded with the Proof of Purchase, a cosmetic item for all classes.
Item system restrictions
|Items||Standard||Standard, Rare, and Cosmetic|
|Crafting||Limited blueprints||All blueprints|
|Gifting||Can receive gifts||Can send and receive gifts|
Upgrading account type
Players with Free accounts can upgrade their account to a Premium account by making a purchase of any amount from the Mann Co. Store or by using an Upgrade to Premium Gift given to them by another player. Upon completing the purchase or using the Gift, 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.