Good news for gamers. Heroes of Newerth is now free to play. Until now, the popular multi-player online battle arena game has had a free-but-limited-gameplay model. This meant that you could play for free, but if you wanted one of the cool characters, you had to buy one. Not a very welcoming start for a newcomer, especially if his friends could afford better characters. The characters – or Heroes – of HoN are not mere avatars. The hero represents the player’s skills and abilities. With 107 heroes to choose from and customize, it’s a very personal and strategic decision. Therefore, it is imperative to the player’s enjoyment to have as many options as possible up front. Before the change, new players had the choice of only a handful of random heroes for free. The free heroes rotated from week to week, so even if you found one you liked, you might not have had access to it the following week. This really put a damper on gameplay. Even the paid players were at a disadvantage. What if they pay for a hero and wanted to change it later? It could get pretty costly.
Fortunately, the creators of Heroes of Newerth, S2 Games, understand gaming and gamers. Noting that “games are more fun to play with friends,” HoN director, Pu Liu said that providing free heroes will make it easier for friends, both new and old, to play together. On July 20, the company unlocked all 107 heroes for everyone to play at no extra cost. To be fair, players who purchased characters within the previous two weeks will get a full refund. Prior to the two week cutoff, Legacy gamers who purchased a character will get a Mecha Gemini avatar. Now that everyone gets to start off on the same playing field, there will likely be fewer dropouts of players who don’t want to rebuild a new character every week. It’s much more fun to nurture your favorite into greatness before choosing another. The free to play model has the potential to bring in many new gamers and hang onto existing players longer.
Another great change that is currently in development is what Liu calls “Gated Mode.” If you’ve ever tried Heroes of Newerth without a slew of friends, you might have noticed that HoN is not very noob friendly. It’s a fast-paced, all-or-nothing battle, and your teammates expect you to know what you’re doing. The game has a lovely little matchmaking system to pool you with other lone players. But if your teammates don’t like your stats (or they see that you’re brand new), they can boot you out before the battle even begins. Talk about a stab to your self-esteem! It can be a total turnoff to gamers who are used to MMO style games, where you can play at your own pace, or offline games where you don’t depend on anyone at all. With Gated Mode, Liu says that new HoN players will be paired with a small group of similarly skilled heroes, and the battles will take place in a more controlled environment. This gives new players time to get accustomed to the game and build up skills and strategies before jumping into battles with seasoned teammates. Hopefully, with the launch of Gate Mode, new players can avoid the humiliation and frustration of getting booted from a game without due process.
S2’s Heroes of Newerth changes are definitely a step in the right direction. There are too many games that suck their players dry with bait and switch tactics, dangling carrots in front of newcomers and then charging them for the air they breathe. It’s also hard to start a new game when you haven’t come out of the womb with gameplay expertise. HoN’s free to play model and their upcoming Gated Mode are clear indications that the S2’s primary goals are to serve the gaming community and to provide wholehearted, unrestricted fun.
==== About the Author ====
C. A. Frost is an avid gamer and posts at popcultgeek.com, a blog that covers geeky, gadgety, gamey things. Frost is also the author of 2 young adult novels with a supporting blog at camethystfrost.blogspot.com.