Yesterday, Valve has officially announced that DOTA 2 for the Personal Computer via Steam will be a free to play game! Oh yes! Not only that, the game will support the Steam Workshop as well! Unlike League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth however, Valve is presenting us with something unprecedented within the framework of the free to play business practice: The only thing they will be selling in the store will be vanity items to customize champions! Not willing to spend real money on those items? You can just accumulate Battle Points, which are granted when you finish a matchmaking game, to do so! Here's the revolutionary statement that will change everything we know:
"All of the heroes will be available free of charge. We believe restricting player access to heroes could be destructive to game design, so it’s something we plan to avoid."
This is huge difference because in those other games, you have to earn in game currency (or use real money if you are impatient) to unlock champions. This will possibly impact how things will be handled by the competitors - just the way Riot Games forced S2 Games to make HoN free to play last year. Let this also be a lesson that real free to play games can work. You just need to make sure that the games themselves are good and when you turn those who play the games into fans, they will spend some money on visual alterations that have no impact on the actual gameplay. Of course the real question now is this: When will DOTA 2 be officially released? From the time I have spent on the game, it's pretty much ready to go. Balance tweaks will always continue to happen so there is no reason why Valve is delaying the official release. I can't wait to see how the competitors will react to this announcement. If you don't have one, create your Steam account now and get ready for the most generous, most beautiful, most exciting, and most intriguing free to play game ever released! The only thing that can kill this game is of course the community so make sure to convince your friends to play with you when the game comes out!
Mix and match items to make your champions pretty or ugly! The choice is yours!
Update Note: Heroes of Newerth has succumbed to this with their Patch 2.6.11 released on 07/20/2012 that grants all players access to all non early-access (newly released) heroes. With this design, I don't think anyone would purchase those early access heroes anymore so they should just allow all heroes accessible immediately. We will see if this will eventually impact LoL.