How do you take a free game and make it more free – and still make money on it? Heroes of Newerth has an idea, and it’s crazy enough that it just might work.
S2 games recently announced to the subscribership of its MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena), Heroes of Newerth, that it is making significant changes to the microtransaction model. Players are used to change – Just over a year ago, the game was reformed into its Free to Play design, and players who purchased the game prior to the change were guaranteed access to every hero added to the growing list. After over 100 heroes, S2 has decided that all players should also be given access to all of the characters. While some veterans of the hit are more than reasonably frustrated that their early purchase of the game or heroes is now completely free, S2 expects this change to increase the total player numbers and make the game more interesting with new competition.
Though no direct statement is given for the reasoning behind this sudden change by S2 Games, the writing is on the wall: Heroes has experienced loss of active membership due to competitors League of Legends and DotA 2. In the past year, League of Legends has taken a stranglehold control on the professional MOBA scene. As of late, League of Legends tournament events have attained a tremendous viewership that challenges Starcraft 2, which has held the unofficial title of most watched competitive game since its release. League of Legends presented a Free to Play model that Heroes of Newerth quickly transitioned to after the release of the competitor. Defense of the Ancients 2 is currently in beta testing, but is expected to have a public release later this year. Defense of the Ancients 2 is also looking to attract its population by giving players full access to all of the playable characters of the game at release of each hero. This leaves little room for any game that charges for access to characters to gain traction, and the creation of S2 is in need of some reinvigoration.
The commercial success of Heroes of Newerth can no longer depend on character purchases in order to succeed – it relies on players to purchase aesthetic skins and voice sets in order to make any profit as of today. Will this be enough to lure players from League of Legends to invest their time and money into the game? Will new players in the scene select the mature platform of HoN over DotA 2? Will veterans avoid the disappointment that they once again have paid for content that new players now enjoy for free? I have my doubts, but I can’t say I’m not at least slightly tempted to access my old Heroes account and see what’s new.