In a recent email to server operators, Valve declared that they will soon be actively policing servers that they feel are falsifying information from the master server list.
This war on faked data was declared in 2009 in a posting on the Team Fortress 2 blog. Valve argued that servers with faked stats, showing for example a player count of 20/24 when the reality is 2/24, provide a pretty bad player experience. I think that’s a stance with which most of us can agree. So they started giving servers invisible scores and having this affect the listings in the master server browser.
However, it seems Valve will now be taking a more active approach, directly contacting some of the biggest offenders and giving a warning to all, stating they “will take the actions needed to maintain a positive environment for our players.” What these actions could be are up to speculation, the person that posted this news to the Steam forums certainly seems to think this will mean a server’s removal from the master server browser. This wouldn’t completely close off a server, you can still connect directly, but it would stop random players being lured into servers with few or no players.
I would speculate that this crackdown comes as part of TF2’s major boost in popularity since its Free2Play release early this year, as well as Valve moving forward to release Counter-Strike: Global Offensive next year.
Thanks to Tiller for the tip.