Video Games

DoTA 2: Free to Play Done Right

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DoTA 2 is the sequel of the massively popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game, DoTA. In case you weren?t able to read, we have an introduction of DoTA 2 here.

DoTA stands for Defense of the Ancients and it didn?t actually start off as a stand-alone game, but was simply a custom map for Warcraft 3. The game spawned a massive following and Valve, being the smart game makers that they are, recruited IceFrog, the maker and person responsible for where DoTA is today, to join them in creating a stand-alone game as the game?s successor.

DoTA isn?t actually a free game as you still need to buy Warcraft 3 game to be able to play the map. So when Valve started working with IceFrog, this was something that they needed to think deeply about. Should they ask players to pay for the game? Or should they have it as a free to play model, and if so, how do they best go about it?

This speculation on how the game would turn out went to linger on for quite a while. DoTA 2 was released as a closed beta initially in order for professional eSports teams to play on the first DoTA 2 tournament called The International. At that time, the game was only accessible to these groups of people, but later on, the game went into a beta phase where players would wait for beta keys to be handed out. It was then finally announced that DoTA 2 would become a free to play game, much to the delight of the players.

A free to play game is good for the players, but could be very problematic for the game maker, Valve if not done correctly. Since DoTA 2 is played online (the game now supports offline LAN play though), a lot of costs come into play especially with servers. Valve also needed to tread carefully with the free to play model because if a game is free to play, it can fall into the pitfall of becoming pay to win, which in essence, means that people who pay a lot of money can get ahead in the game and that creates disparity between the paying and non-paying audience. DoTA 2 is also built to be made for eSports so the pay to win model wouldn?t be applicable as there shouldn?t be any advantages to be gained by paying more than others.

The solution that Valve came up with was pure genius. The game is free, but you can buy cosmetic enhancements to characters that, in no way, shape or form, give players the competitive edge against others. You want a cool looking sword on your hero? You can buy it and it won?t affect how the game is played, but you?ll look really badass wielding it. The cosmetic enhancements go two ways, first Valve gets the proceeds of the sale, but there is a Workshop where fans can create customized looks for heroes and when those items get approved and put up in the workshop, the artists will get a cut out of all the sales so it helps foster the community and creativity of fans as well.

There are also professional tournaments that players can watch in-game, but viewers will need to purchase a ticket for. Again, this goes two ways, Valve gets a cut of the sales, but a portion of it goes to the game organizers and they usually add those proceeds on to the prize pool of the tournament to give extra incentive to pro players.

Valve has made the free to play model work for them and the DoTA 2 community has been very receptive and supportive of their efforts.

Photo Source: DoTA 2 steam page

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