Russians are Messing up Team Fortress 2’s Economy


If you were not aware, Valves crazy hat loving FPS Team Fortress 2 actually has a very large and thriving economy based around the selling and trading of various items in game, some of which are very expensive. To give you an example of this, the item “Earbuds” are worth $32 (or around 25 Mann Co Keys which are about $1.25) each. This item is much loved and is very popular, hence the high price. Therefore, just like in the real world, players can actually make a living out of buying in and then selling these virtual goods.

So now we turn to the website TF2Finance, a site that tracks the values of these in game items, and the sites owner, a user called base1024. This user put up a post detailing that over 5000 keys had been injected into the community over night via some Russian based accounts. These accounts after buying the keys then quickly started to trade these keys for Earbuds leading to four times the amount of Earbud trades occurring the same day. They then started selling the acquired Earbuds on for the equivalent of $22, a full $10 less then the normal price.

Pretty odd right? This is where base1024 did some more digging and traced the accounts and looked at there inventories. There, he found nothing in them other than Keys, Earbuds and Mann Co Packages while also realising that all of the accounts were part of a Steam group called “DIE Friend” (which started up in 2011). He summed it up with these comments:

  • We all know that a Mann Co Package is granted for every USD$20 of purchase from Store. They had 14-17 Packages, so they “spent” USD$280-$340 on Keys using each account.
  • All the involved accounts in this group were created at least months ago.
  • The accounts were Free-to-Play (Per my replication of Valve’s database in May 23, 2012)
  • No weapons/hats stayed in these backpacks.
  • They sometimes open the Mann Co Packages, or just give them away to Buds sellers.
  • Usually no Keys/Buds were left behind.
  • The proven accounts NEVER signed in at TF2 Outpost. However, they do look for Buds sellers there.
  • They refer each other to the largest Buds sellers on Outpost


So what’s the problem then? Not only is this destabilising the TF2 economy but it has been worked out that the users are making a cool 33% return on all money the put on this system. Every $300 they pump in gets them $100 of untraceable cash making this a effective and efficient money laundering scheme.

Valve has yet to comment on this activity but with players adamant that this money laundering scheme is the real deal, they my just have to step in…

But what do you think? Are the Russians abusing Team Fortress 2? Or are the players just barking up the wrong tree?