Heroes of Newerth goes free-to-play, keeps freeloaders separate

The increasingly crowded Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre (MOBA for you acronym junkies) has one standout star: the free-to-play League of Legends, whose developer just announced it's surpassed 15 million registered players, with 1.4 million of those playing daily. In an effort to boost its player base of "460,000 unique active players," fellow MOBA title Heroes of Newerth will also be adopting the free-to-play model, says the game's developer S2 Games. "With the transition to free-to-play we're opening HoN up to new audiences as our players can now easily introduce the game to their friends," S2 Games CEO and co-founder Marc DeForest told a press release.

The HoN model will feature three account types: Basic, the most, uh ... basic account, is what new players get immediately upon signing up; Verified status is reserved for players who drop real coin on Goblin Coins, the in-game currency, or surpass "a certain threshold of play time" if that's how you roll; and lastly, Legacy status is reserved for users who've already purchased the game prior to today's free-to-play announcement. "These accounts receive a lifetime of free access to all HoN heroes and are able to play in Verified Only games, to ensure that experts and beginners are separated." Want in on that Legacy action? Sorry, "Legacy accounts can no longer be purchased."

Of course, being free-to-play means there's the requisite microtransaction business model under the hood. While Legacy players get all the characters for free, Basic and Verified players will have access to "a rotating pool of 15 free heroes" with the option to purchase more. S2 is also segregating the player base (similar to what the Team Fortress 2 community is doing itself): "Players with Basic accounts are only eligible to participate in one mode of matchmaking," the press release states, while "Verified and Legacy accounts are eligible to queue up in matchmaking for Verified Only games allowing them to play in higher quality games with more experienced players."

With MOBA titles coming from Valve (Dota 2), Blizzard (Blizzard Dota), and Petroglyph (Rise of Immortals), the genre is about to either greatly expand or bear witness to a lot of failed project launches.
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Get Your Free Game HoN! S2 Games' Heroes of Newerth Goes Free-to-Play HoN Goes Free-to-Play to Expand Community and Improve Gameplay Experience (Kalamazoo, MI) – July 29, 2011 – Heroes of Newerth (HoN), the session-based, multiplayer, action- RPG developed by independent game developer S2 Games, is now free-to-play, operating under a new model designed to both expand the HoN community and enhance the game play for its existing dedicated fan base. The game mechanics and style of play will remain intact; however, existing player accounts and new accounts will be separated to create a smooth transition as novice players enter the game.

There are now three account types under the new free-to-play model:
• Basic – The standard, free account new players will receive upon sign up.
• Verified – Basic accounts that have been upgraded through a show of commitment to their account, by either purchasing Goblin Coins or surpassing a certain threshold of play time.
• Legacy – Paid user accounts that existed prior to the free-to-play model. These accounts receive a lifetime of free access to all HoN heroes and are able to play in Verified Only games, to ensure that experts and beginners are separated. Legacy accounts can no longer be purchased.

"With the transition to free-to-play we're opening HoN up to new audiences as our players can now easily introduce the game to their friends," said S2 Games CEO and co-founder Marc DeForest. "S2 has a serious level of commitment to our players to continuously improve both the game and their experience. With the new account types and match-making standards in place, both novice and existing players will benefit from the upgraded structure."

Basic and Verified accounts will have access to a rotating pool of 15 free heroes while Legacy accounts will have free, permanent access to all heroes after a short waiting period as initial access to a newly released hero is limited. Basic and Verified accounts can choose to purchase a new hero upon release, which permanently adds it to their personal pool of heroes. Legacy accounts may choose to purchase early access to the hero at that time before it is released to them for free.

To ensure that all HoN players have a positive gameplay experience, each account type will have a different level of access to the matchmaking system. Players with Basic accounts are only eligible to participate in one mode of matchmaking which assigns them to All Pick games. Verified and Legacy accounts are eligible to queue up in matchmaking for Verified Only games allowing them to play in higher quality games with more experienced players. This system creates a level playing field so Legacy and Verified players can be confident the matches they participate in will be high quality games.

"In just over a year's time we've grown to be a community of 460,000 unique active players and over 90 percent of all accounts are active, which is a direct testament to the game's quality," said DeForest. "We have gone to great lengths to ensure that the superior experience HoN delivers will remain untouched for our loyal fan base during and after the free to play transition.

" HoN is downloadable session-based, multiplayer, action-RPG available on Mac, Linux and PC. To learn more about HoN or to create an account and download the game, visit www.heroesofnewerth.com.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.