Hats. It’s always been hats. Ever since Team Fortress 2 first added cosmetics back in 2009, which was (oh no) a decade ago, they’ve been equal parts a cornerstone of Valve’s oft-forgotten multiplayer shooter and a meme at the hat-obsessed game’s expense. Now, however, TF2's maddest hatters are laughing all the way to the bank.
A glitch discovered early this morning has seemingly caused earnable loot crates to start spitting out “Unusual” quality items—the rarest of the rare—at an alarming rate. As a result, TF2 items have taken over Steam’s community marketplace, where players can list items they’ve earned in games and auction them off for real money. Specifically, everybody’s selling off their crates at inflated prices, and there’s been a sudden influx of Unusual items on the marketplace, causing their prices to drop significantly.
According to the marketplace’s pricing history, crates had previously been selling for a handful of cents in most cases. Now some, depending on their possible contents, are up to as much as $13 per crate. Players are reporting that they’ve suddenly made hundreds or even thousands of dollars on crates that had been, before today, collecting dust. As for individual items, the Unusual Dragonborn Helmet—based on Skyrim—is a good example. In the past week, a grand total of three were sold on the entire marketplace. Today alone, users have sold 122, with the price dropping from between $25 and $44 to between $6 and $7.
This gold-plated hat rush has attracted players from every corner of the internet, boosting Team Fortress 2’s peak concurrent player count from the 50,000-60,000 range all the way up to 93,245 today.
At this point, players are wondering if Valve will roll back recent marketplace transactions or bulldoze the overnight mountain of rare hats out of existence. The company is currently investigating, and for the time being, TF2's Steam marketplace functionality has been disabled.
“Trading, unboxing, and marketing for TF will be down for a bit while we investigate the recent issue with Unusual drops,” Valve said on Twitter this afternoon. “We should have an update in the next few hours.”
Hopefully things will be back to normal before too long. Still, Valve took a while to step in, and regrettably, it now has a hatastrophe on its hands (and/or head).