Heroes of Newerth splashes into the Free to Play pool

Heroes of Newerth, Action Real-Time-Strategy game based on a famous modification for Warcraft 3 custom map known as DOTA (Defense of the Ancients), went free to play today. This is largely due to two main sources of competition, LoL (League of Legends) HoN’s counterpart really as their both based on DOTA, and then DOTA 2 which is a game currently being developed by the original DOTA guys under Valve’s roof.

LoL currently has 1.4 Million daily players and a subscription of over 15 million where as HoN has an average of around 30,000 a day. It’s easy to understand why HoN is adopting a similar model as LoL but unless they can offer LoL players something better will they want to leave the game they’ve become accustomed to?

Whilst DOTA 2 is still being made it’s being developed at a AAA studio, by the original DOTA creators and it might even launch as free to play meaning any existing gamer interested in this genre could switch over. I know that I’m dying to play this game regardless of owning a HoN account.

HoN underwent a change in December of 2010 with the implementation of an in-game shop and being called HoN 2.0. This shop allowed players to purchase several things including alternative character skins, account icons and alternative game commentator voices. These extras were able to be bought by goblin coins, which were earnt in-game by meeting certain criteria during matches such as winning, longer kill streaks, winning a game within a certain amount of time but were also purchaseable with real money. These goblin coins then became silver and gold coins, the latter being a premium coin only obtainable through real money. Items in the shop were cheaper if using gold coins, some items would be gold coins only. This major change to the game felt more like a Free to Play model rather than an actual upgrade for players as it slowly made it clear that some things were unable to be bought without paying further money. From my perspective I’d paid the entry fee and expected the rides to be free (Free to Play being the reverse), it felt like HoN was having its cake and eating it.

As a HoN player myself I was interested in finding out what changes I’d encounter in the game, and what was being given away for free. Sure enough I was greeted by an explanation when logging into the game. So what to players get?

Free to Play players:

  • Access to 15 heroes which will be on rotation
  • Ability to purchase heroes for an account permanently

Current HoN account owners:

  • Access to all character in the game
  • Ability to purchase new characters prior to full release
  • Ability to play in ‘Verified Only’ games (free to play players are unable to join)

As a current HoN player I feel somewhat annoyed, whilst Free to Play gamers are limited to the amount of heroes they can pick they get a new game to play, I’ve been given nothing new except the ability to beta-test a character before it’s available for everyone. I was always allowed to play ‘Verified Only’ games prior to the Free to Play aspect. I ponder why HoN hasn’t granted existing members of the game an amount of gold coins so that they could purchase some extras, it wouldn’t surprise me if we don’t have this happen sometime soon.

Only time will tell if the Free to Play model will make much of an impact on its player base and only time will tell if any DOTA-style game will survive against DOTA 2 when released.

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4 responses to “Heroes of Newerth splashes into the Free to Play pool

  1. What is it with these MMO’s going free-to-play lately? Seriously are we all so stupid as to honestly believe, “Oh it’s free! Whoopee!”? Anyone with half a brain knows that “free” rarely means FREE! I find it a little disingenuous of companies to lure people into a “free” game where they can’t fully enjoy any aspect of it without dishing out. Even a brand new full release game like Dirt 3 has a pay to play component. What gives? I would love to hear further comment on this topic.

    • From my perspective MMO’s are moving onto a free-to-play model because older and bigger MMO’s (i.e WoW) are offering higher quantities and often quality of content for the same price as their MMO’s. We’ve seen numerous MMO’s turn free to play during the past year or so including Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan and Champions Online. I anticipate that several MMO’s including Rift and Star Trek Online will go free to play during the next year for various reasons, but namely because of the emergence of Star Wars: The Old Republic, the newest ‘blockbuster’ MMO on the scene.

      I feel that more often than not that free-to-play games are less fun when you find yourself needing that additional paid content in order to enjoy the game. This is usually the ability to play fairly against those who have paid money for an advantage against non-paying players. One of the newest free-to-play games Age of Empires Online literally allows players to buy ‘Star Techs’ which will give an advantage against opponents who do not have them. You can read more about Age of Empires Online‘s free-to-play/pay-to-play aspects in a review by the Video Game Writers.

      (here’s my additional content ^.^ it’s free…unless you count the time you take to read it!) Virtually any game today, not just free-to-play MMO’s, feature additional content for an additional price. The reason companies are doing this is because of advancements in technology, namely the more intimate relationships with customers. A long time ago (in a galaxy far, far, away) a consumer would buy a game from a store and play it. A little while later if the game was successful they’d be able to buy a sequel. Today a company has the opportunity to literally talk to the consumer after they have bought their game. Now they will develop smaller amounts of additional content and sell them for a mere fraction of the original game in order to maximise profits. Why wait to make money over long periods of time when you can trickle extra cash between individual titles? It’s all about the money, that’s business.

      • Okay so you got me there, but that still doesn’t explain why a game like Dirt 3 has pay to play content at release. So you can’t actually finish the game without paying another $20-30 for additional content.

      • I don’t think there’s any further explanation for the game Dirt 3 having pay-to-play content at release other than their desire to maximise profits at launch. A lot of games are practicing this method of DLC now. I’m in two minds about DLC. I don’t like the idea of having to pay additional fees in order to play the entirety of a game; however I do enjoy additional content that in some cases would not exist in a world where DLC did not exist.

        What’s your favourite game prior to the implementation of DLC as we know it today? (because DLC has usually existed in some sense, if only as expansion packs). I know that I’d pay money for additional levels of Knights of the Old Republic right now if they were released as I’ve played through the game several times over and still love it. You might like to read my article from last year on DLC and a follow up parody on Classics getting DLC.

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