Hat Trick, Part 2: Crate Expectations

Add that to a long list of titles I’m not proud of.

I’d decided on a Team Fortress 2 hat to pursue through trading, the mighty Towering Pillar of Hats. Unfortunately my collection of goods available to trade was somewhat on the thin side.

Time to start shifting some goods. First thing to get rid of: Crates.

“Phil, I’ve not played TF2 in a good few months. What in the holy heck are crates all about?”

Simple answer: crates are evil bastards. They are, surprisingly enough, crates. They contain things. When you find one in game (and the crates use a separate item-drop system from other items so you will find one if you play the game) it sits in your backpack and does absolutely fucking nothing. Not entirely true; it taunts you with a gamble of items ranging from weapons you probably already have to hats to A CHANCE OF AN EXCEEDINGLY RARE SPECIAL ITEM!!!!! The only way to get at these items is with a key. There are two ways of getting a key: pay money for one or trade with someone who has paid money for one.

Here is a video of someone who has paid money to unlock a crate:

This is a far more likely outcome than unlocking a hat or AN EXCEEDINGLY RARE SPECIAL ITEM!!!!!

Economics time! There are lots of crates. I’d amassed 6 just from a few weeks of playing the game for a few hours here and there. In other words there is a large supply of them. There also isn’t much in the way of demand because, again, most people will already have some sat in their backpack doing nothing much at all. Keys are much in demand but the supply is limited to those people who are able to spend £1.99 on an in-game microtransaction without being sick a little. In trading terms; keys are worth something, crates are not.

Still, as the famous saying goes, when the world gives you crates, make a series of sound strategic trades to enhance your prospects of value. It was time to go to market.

Whenever Valve add a new element to gaining items in TF2 it isn’t long before specialised servers and maps crop up to take advantage of it. Before we’ve seen achievement and idling servers, attempting to take full advantage of the item-drop system, and now there are trade servers. Here’s how trade servers work:

  1. Spam chat channel
  2. ?

After some observation I discovered the basic going rate per crate was one weapon. I could work with this, I understood weapon trading, so started to carefully craft some chat messages to entice potential crate buyers. Within seconds those messages had disappeared from the chat channel, replaced with spam from other traders attempting to flog their shit. More worrying was that no chat messages were appearing from the game to signal a successful trade. It was a circlejerk of advertisers with not a buyer in sight.

Disheartened I went for a walk up a seemingly endless staircase, somewhat pointlessly placed in the corner of the map, and found a pool.


Clearly this was the wrong setting for actually getting shit done. I moved on to the Steam Trading Forum. The general purpose of the trading forum is to post a hat you’re looking to trade, invite offers and then carefully explain to each person why their offer is an affront to God. Fortunately there are also some stickied ‘Market’ posts where shit seems to get done. I visited the conveniently named crate market and got ready to flog the life out of some crates.

Instead I noticed another post: “Selling purple paint for 5 crates!” After doing the maths on my somewhat basic knowledge of the value of paint this seemed like a trade that could benefit me. More importantly, people want paint – it lets them change the colour of their hats – it would be a shitload easier to shift paint than crates. I fired off a message to the poster, telling him to meet me in game so we could get down to business!

Now I was getting somewhere. With only one crate left, I decided to borrow a technique I’d seen employed by big issue sellers and QVC hosts alike:

Down to my last crate! Get it for just one weapon! Hurry, before it’s gone!

Amazingly, it worked.

My backpack was now looking a little healthier.

All those weapons could be crafted down for precious metal, TF2 trading’s basic currency, but, with a bit of effort there was a more lucrative route to the scrap.

Next time: Arms dealing.


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