You read that right.  The “premium” DotA clone ain’t so premium anymore.  Bring on the noobs!!

Heroes of Newerth is FREE TO PLAY.

The game will now have three account types:

  • 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. (Hey, that’s me!)

Well, at least it looks as if they are trying to separate the casual and the hardcore players, something that is always an issue when paid games go F2P.

Anyhow, here’s the lowdown from S2:

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 HoNcommunity 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.

“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.”

Was this decision to turn to a F2P model a result of the constant hacking and downtime of HoN and the fear of losing players due to Valve’s upcoming DotA 2?  The last time we spoke to S2, they weren’t scared one bit, but things have certainly changed for them since then.

Will this free to play model be the end of HoN?… or is it a step in the right direction?  Moreover, will it convert players from the already free to play DotA clone and HoN’s #1 competitor, League of Legends?

Only time will tell.

Stay tuned to RipTen for continued coverage of Heroes of Newerth and S2 games.