Team Fortress 2's Halloween Event Is Surprisingly Popular, But Plagued By Bots

While Team Fortress 2 was one of the biggest games around in the late 2000s, many gamers probably don’t even give it a second thought in 2020. Yet somehow the classic game reportedly attracted more players than it has in years, thanks to its Halloween event Scream Fortress XII–though observers caution not all of the players logged are real people.

As noticed by PC Gamer, tracking sites such as SteamCharts and SteamDB show TF2 recently hitting a new number of concurrent players–though whether that is an all-time record is unclear. SteamCharts shows a new peak player count of 130,548 logged this October, beating a previous high of 117,917 in August 2012. However, the site’s data only begins in 2012, five years after TF2’s launch.

That’s not to say the numbers are insignificant for a 13-year-old game, but there is reason to view the specific number with some skepticism. While Scream Fortress XII adds a few new Halloween-themed cosmetics and maps, it’s largely comprised of recycled Halloween content from years past. The real answer for the surge, according to Twitter user @Stamosxd, is bots. Of the 130,000 odd players logged, only around 25,000 are real players, as shown by Teamwork.TF’s server-based player tracking.

Bots have become a big problem for TF2 players in recent years, possibly in part due to efforts to farm items that can then be sold on Steam’s marketplace. To combat the problem, some have taken to creating “extermination bots,” which are intended to hunt down other bots to stop them from ruining the game experience for human players.

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