Well, this is something of a nice surprise. Once upon a time, Heroes of Newerth - a pretty solid MOBA that can't shout quite as loudly as genre giants like League of Legends - cast off its price tag and went free-to-play. Now, though, it's taking things one rather large step further. Following in DOTA 2's footsteps, HoN's sending all of its Newerthian heroes into battle with no strings attached. In other words, starting today, every last one's totally, completely free.
Developer S2 Games explained the sudden about-face in a forum post, chalking it up to the fact that charging for heroes limited players' ability to mix and match strategies - even forcing some to steer clear of entire modes altogether.
"We agree with the community that HoN is best played with a full hero pool available to all players and that both the new and the longtime, dedicated players alike can benefit from the change. We want players to have the freedom to invite their friends and to recommend heroes based on playstyle and not a free hero pool. Players will no longer be limited by which heroes they can afford, so when a line-up calls for a certain hero, you can answer the call and focus on what's important in each game of HoN."
"This change is equally important in our mission to revitalize the myriad of game modes in HoN. HoN offers so many other fun twists, options, and strategies outside of All Pick that any passionate fan can attest to. We recognize this and don't want players to be turned away from these modes due to restriction. With all heroes and game modes, players will have the complete HoN experience at their disposal."
Further, S2 hopes this will keep the competitive scene, well, competitive - instead of lopsided in favor of those with both the most skill and the fattest wallets.
Of course, HoN's newfound freedom does present a slight problem: heaps of people have already converted their precious, precious funds into tiny magic people. So first, the good news: purchases made in the last 15 days will be refunded, and everyone who's ever spent money on the game will get a Mecha Gemini alt avatar. Legacy players, meanwhile, get a lifetime bonus that equates to two extra silver coins per ranked match. If, however, you don't slot neatly into one of those categories, your money's sadly long gone.
Still, though, this is - by and large -pretty great. Business models have been shifting rapidly as of late, and there's certainly a danger of allowing that to torpedo the fundamentals of a game's design. Depending on whom you talk to, though, it's a full-on "Nope, no problems here now or ever pay-to-win isn't real lalalalalala" shutout. It's good, at least, to see some developers really putting effort into dissecting what works and what doesn't - especially in the competitive scene. So then: Et tu, LoL?