Heroes of the Storm: Free to Play? Or Pay to Win?

If you like competitive MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) games, also known as “action real-time strategy” games, then Heroes of the Storm should be right up your proverbial alley.

Pops and I got to try out Heroes of the Storm back in late April or so, when Blizzard opened the game by invitation-only to additional Beta testers. One of the core elements that sets Heroes of the Storm apart from other games is the appearance of Blizzard’s franchise characters from classics like Diablo, Starcraft, and Warcraft. If you’ve been a Blizzard fan since the beginning (like me), the nostalgic pull of the characters is all the reason you need to check out the game.

The economic system of Heroes is similar to other MOBA- type games where you have a basic Free-to-Play (F2P) model, then a freemium model in which you pay for skins, mounts, characters, and or XP/Gold boosts. Many games have gradually moved to this model, and from an economical standpoint, it makes sense. However, this begs the question: is this bottom line-focused model adversely affecting gameplay?

Marketing Mechanics: Supply & Demand

Heroes of the Storm launched on June 2, 2015. In the short amount of time since then, we’ve already seen several new character additions: Kael’thas, Johanna, and now the Butcher. Each time one of these characters is introduced, it seems to be extremely overpowered (OP’d). From a marketing standpoint, I’d say, “Bravo!” — you’ve replicated a model that has proven successful in other MOBA-type of games. The law of Supply and Demand will dictate this, and of course, those who want the best and or the strongest characters will be willing to pay the premium. However, what happens to those that don’t want to pay $10.00 for a new character? Well, they’ll just have to be patient; sooner or later the Nerf bat will come around and open up the gate for new characters. After so much time passes, typically these characters will go on sale. But by then, five or six new characters will have been released!

So there seems to be a large audience segment that Blizzard may be missing: those who refuse to pay.

Where’s the Incentive

The Heroes of the Storm economic system is obviously limiting for those players who don’t want to pay. The cheapskates among us can complete daily quests to earn gold coins. So if a typical character costs 7,000 gold coins, and you’re making between 300–500 coins a day, it’ll take you 2 to 3 ½ weeks to add a character. The catch? That only works if you play every day.

There are other incentives you can use to help boost your earning power, like the stim packs, which speed up the process. Of course, you need to be playing a lot to leverage the stim packs. With new characters (The Butcher) now fetching as much as 15,000 gold pieces, the amount of time it takes to acquire a character can easily double (if not triple).

But let’s take a step back for a moment and focus on the core nucleus of the game. Heroes of the Storm is all about the multi-player action. With that in mind, we’ve included some suggestions that we’d love to see added from a multi-player standpoint, which should also help the core fundamentals of the game.

Multiplayer Suggestions

Heroes League Rewards / Bonuses

  • Tier incentive (based on level — could be an item, boost, or even a character)
  • Win Streak Bonus — (Winning “X” amount of games in row)
  • W/L Ratio Bonus — Having a certain win-percentage ratio (i.e. >85%)

Team League Rewards / Bonuses

  • If it costs 500 gold coins to create a team league, where’s the incentive?

Discipline system for Pickup Groups (Pugs)

  • Enforce the discipline system!

Separate Tier Ranking System for Pugs

Online Scoreboards via Blizzard — ego goes a long way for some players!)

Reward Opponent Players

  • It’s okay to lose graciously and reward opponents who play well! ;)

In-Game Spectator Mode

Skin-Editor (User submission contest)

  • Allow certain skins to be published

Getting Back to the Basics

Blizzard has had a reputation of creating some of the most innovative and creative games in the video game market place. Many of their early games have now become classics (Diablo, Warcraft, Starcraft, etc). Some of the features from these earlier games could also be implemented in today’s video games. For instance, the marketplace has changed and flat-rate fees are becoming a thing of the past. The new model for gaming is still evolving and becoming a disruptive force in the videogame industry.

Our hope is that Blizzard doesn’t lose sight of the consumer experience. With Heroes of the Storm, let’s hope the focus stays on multi-player interaction, and that those who don’t necessarily have the budget to pay for characters can still earn rewards.


Originally published at www.gamingwithpops.com.

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