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?
- 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.