Heroes of Newerth goes free-to-play

Developer S2 Games is joining the growing free-to-play trend with its DotA-esque Heroes of Newerth. "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 Marc DeForest said in a press release.

The developer promises "the game mechanics and style of play will remain intact," and detailed how the community will evolve based on today's decision.

S2 previously offered free access to HoN during its "HoNiversary." This, however, is a drastic change for the game.

There will be three tiers of accounts under the new free-to-play model. All users that have already paid for the game will become "Legacy" users. The premium users will be to play in "Verified Only" matches, "to ensure that experts and beginners are separated." Starting today, Legacy accounts cannot be purchased.

Newcomers will be able to access two tiers of accounts. "Basic" is the standard, free account that all new players will receive. Once a player purchases Goblin Coins or reaches a "certain threshold of play time," the account will be upgraded to "Verified," where players will be able to play against Legacy users in the Verified Only matches. Basic players will be locked out of games designed for Verified and Legacy matches.

HoN will monetize the game by charging for characters. Basic and Verified accounts will have access to a rotating selection of 15 free characters, while Legacy accounts will get permanent access to all heroes. Whenever new characters are released, they will be available to purchase. Legacy members, however, will get new characters for free after a short waiting period. Should Legacy members want early access to a hero, they'll have to pony up money as well.

Free-to-play has been a popular offering for developers as of late. Recently, Valve turned popular online game Team Fortress 2 into a free-to-play shooter. S2 is hoping that current fans will continue playing, even as it transforms the game's business model. "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," DeForest added.