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Team Fortress 2 hat economy wrecked by crate glitch

UPDATE: Valve moves to limit damage.

UPDATE 7.58pm: As the shadow of hatmageddon continues to loom over Team Fortress 2's trading economy, Valve has taken early steps to prevent players from securing more rare head adornments using the game's current loot box glitch.

In a bid to stop further Unusuals from flooding the market, Valve has now (as detailed by TF2 reddit mod wickedplayer494) disabled the display of Team Fortress 2 inventories on the Steam Community, preventing trades and listings on the Community Market. Player items can, however, still be used in-game.

Valve has yet to issue an official statement on the glitch - or indeed what, if anything, it plans to do to restore order to the TF2 trading economy - but at least the community will be impeccably attired while the whole thing sinks into the mud.

ORIGINAL STORY 4.40pm: Hats. Team Fortress 2 players are obsessed with them. While the game itself hasn't received a huge amount of attention from Valve in recent years, the TF2 hat economy has remained a core part of the community, with many players seeking to trade their way to rare "Unusual" hats with pretty particle effects - the mark of a truly elite TF2 player.

They look like this, fyi.

Normally, the most basic of these could cost you around £20 via the Steam community marketplace, with the alternatives being to trade your way there with materials, or chancing it via opening hundreds of crates. But thanks to a new glitch, many of TF2's crates have shifted their Unusual drop rate from one per cent to 100 per cent, making the items rather more attainable and completely upending the TF2 social hierarchy. How will I know who to pocket medic now?

The problem began following TF2's latest summer update, which introduced a number of new cosmetic items and, seemingly, the Unusual drop rate glitch. The bug seems to apply to certain lines in the Mann Co. Supply Munition Series, with prices for Unusuals from said crates dropping, and the price of the crates themselves soaring. I tested this out, and indeed found myself opening four Unusuals in a row. One hat I received, which cost £18.26 before the crash, is now being sold for £4.95. Equally, the crates I bought cost £0.03 a few days ago (with only one sold per day), but have been sold 3418 times today at around £2.04.

Crate prices go up...
...Unusuals go down.

It's a full-scale economic disaster, and it seems to be causing a fair bit of panic amongst those in the trading community. "What is going to happen? Should I unbox crates? Can I get banned?? OH MY GOD!!!!", reads one post on Reddit.

According to a post currently at the top of the Team Fortress 2 subreddit, third-party trading site Scrap.TF has closed its doors until the glitch has been fixed, while the moderators have warned players to avoid trading TF2 items until Valve has introduced a hotfix. Many players are speculating that Valve will simply prevent item trading until the issue is resolved. Now all these items are out in the wild, however, it's unclear how Valve will provide a more long-term solution.

Some tin foil hat-wearing cynics believe Valve changed the drop rate to sell more keys, although given the damage this incident has done to the market (and the fact Valve takes commission for each item sold), this seems rather unlikely.

Of course, because this is Team Fortress 2, the memes have started rolling in - ranging from a fake newspaper headline to creative sketches and comparisons to the 1929 stock market crash. Truly, the bug has been a great leveller, and possibly one of the most dramatic events to ever hit the TF2 community.

Stock Market Crash (1929, colorized) from r/tf2

Hat traders and collectors can at least be comforted by the news that the Dancing Doe hat - based on the truly ancient Ricardo Milos meme - has been introduced via the new summer 2019 pack. Unless the glitch expands to that one, at least.

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Emma Kent avatar

Emma Kent


A former Eurogamer intern and reporter, Emma loves delving into communities and modding scenes in search of the weird and wonderful. Oh, and be prepared for puns. Lots of horrible puns.