Day One

Every fortune starts small. You’ve just gotta start somewhere.

In Team Fortress 2, there is a system called the item drop. Weapons, crates, and hats are dropped at random to players, with a weekly cap. Each type of item has a wide range of values based on availability—hats being the least common, and most expensive. Think of it as the minimum wage, with a little luck involved. 

When starting from nothing, it can take a while to get running. So you’ve got to accumulate whatever you can, and get started trading. The first dollar is fairly easy to get. What really determines your success is what you choose to do with it. Let it sit, and it’ll stay a dollar. Put it to use, and it can grow into a fortune.

In Team Fortress 2, the most commonly dropped items are weapons. Because they are in such high supply, their market value is very low—namely, one unique (non-special) weapon is almost always worth either one scrap metal, one weapon (only in an exchange for another equally desired weapon), or two random weapons. For reference, one scrap metal can be crafted with two weapons. It may seem peculiar at first that a weapon is almost always exchanged for double. But really, a person needs some kind of compensation for the services s/he provides. A weapon’s value is low, and so the addition of another covers the cost of convenience.

One service a person may provide is called scrapbanking, where a person may exchange two weapons for one scrap metal. The scrapbanker then sells each of the weapons for a scrap each, making a 100% profit. Putting in a little time this way allows a person to quickly build up enough of a backpack to enter into higher risk/reward trades. Unfortunately, scrapbanking is almost entirely automated these days, making it difficult for a trader to compete. Therefore, as scrapbank bots provide the least amount of convenience in-game, you’ve got to go to your customers. And so, as I ventured into the in-game trading world for the first time in over a year, I set out to sell the first items I received. 

But there are so many people doing the same thing, selling the same items. How can one possibly stand out from the hat-hungry masses?

Back in the day, I ran Chimalpopica’s Collaboration Shoppe w/ the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I entertained with a distinct mixture of wit and comedy. Because it didn’t cost me much to do so, I gave out free items here and there to renew interest whenever it got quiet. People who didn’t even want to buy took their time to join in and have some fun, thus acting as a brilliant advertising campaign. It’s important to invest in some form of advertising, in order to get yourself out there—whether by putting in more time and effort, some money, or both.

Unfortunately for my shop, disaster struck: at one point, the Steam Powered Trading Forum moderators decided that it would be a good idea to extend  “bumping” (posting to bring a thread back to the front page) rules to the trading forums, disallowing anyone from bringing their threads back to the front page. They then changed the automatic forum layout to show only the newest threads. But there was an arbitrary limit for the amount of threads which could be posted each day. Because of all of this, trading threads would only last 10-30 minutes before disappearing completely from sight, thus effectively ruining any kind of shop or service, and drastically lowering anyone’s chance at trading anything. The moderators even deleted threads, wherever they found some rendition of the dreaded word “bump.” Everyone still boosted up their threads because it was the only way they could keep trading on the forums. I was permanently banned for bumping one of my threads—for trying to run a shop. Then 70% of my threads were deleted for seemingly no reason.

But I digress. My point still remains: go out there, and make a name for yourself. Check out what other people are doing and do it better, or concoct something original. 

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