UPDATE: As pointed out by readers, Team Fortress 2's competitive mode has been in beta for several months now (with the game's competitive 6 vs. 6 format having existed for even longer). Matchmaking for the game has been in the works since 2015. The article has been edited to reflect this.
Valve's Team Fortress 2 and Blizzard's Overwatch are similar in a number of ways.
They both feature a large cast of unique characters to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. They both have similar game type objectives. They both have a colorful, cartoon-esque art style. Now, they are about to have even more in common, as Valve has revealed Team Fortress 2's latest update will add be adding both casual and competitive game modes for players to dive into.
Of course, Team Fortress 2 has had a sort-of matchmaking system for a while now. Currently, players who don't want to browse a server list can select a quick-play feature that will place players in an in-progress match. The game's new matchmaking system, coming in the appropriately-titled "Meet Your Match" update, will assemble players and then put them in a brand new match will that will begin only once all players have been assembled.
Matchmaking will be in use for both the game's new casual and competitive modes. Casual mode will be 12 vs. 12, while the matchmaking system will attempt to group players of similar skill levels. Competitive mode will be 6 vs. 6, with players being able to earn exclusive titles and badges for climbing the ranks. Only players who own the "premium" version of the now free-to-play Team Fortress 2 and have a phone number linked to their Steam account will be able play Competitive mode. The update will also add a leveling system to the game.
If 6 vs. 6, a leveling system and both competitive and casual game modes sound familiar, it's likely because Overwatch is also 6 vs. 6, sports a leveling system and also includes casual and competitive matchmaking modes. In fact, Blizzard added a competitive mode to its game just recently, though it does have its fair share of problems.
Matchmaking for Team Fortress 2 has been a long time coming, and the game's competitive mode entered beta earlier this year. With Overwatch's success and its recently released competitive mode causing a stir, now seems like the perfect time for Valve to release the long in-progress features. After all, Team Fortress 2 and Overwatch do share plenty of the same DNA (who knows, maybe Blizzard used competitive 6 vs. 6 Team Fortress 2 as an example?), so it's not that much of a stretch to guess that fans of Overwatch might also enjoy Valve's classic multiplayer shooter.
Valve is more than a little aware that matchmaking in shooters has been a bit of an FPS staple for a while now.
"Before today — literally the moment before you started reading this sentence — the only way you could enjoy matchmaking on your computer was through dating sites," reads a post on the official Team Fortress 2 Facebook page in the game's signature style of humor . "That got us thinking. What if you took the promise of dating site matchmaking, and, instead of getting matched up based on Snapchat's face-reshaping filters and lies about how much you love hiking, it was based on your actual real-face dating performance?
"That's when it hit us: Take matchmaking and apply it to video games. 'But what about ...?' you say, and we cut you off mid-sentence, gently place our fingers on your lips and whisper: Matchmaking has never existed in video games before."
Also coming in the Meet Your Match update are a number of new community-created maps and a new game mode, Pass Time. The mode designed by J.J. Abrams' production company Bad Robot is coming out of beta and will see a full release in the new update. No word yet on when exactly the update will be rolling out, but expect it to be sometime soon.