For a free-to-play game, Heroes of the Storm is ridiculously pricey.
Heroes of the Storm is Blizzards MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena [Game]). It follows the standard free-to-play model that many of the other big MOBA games out there use. The game is free to download, but the heroes (characters you can play as in the game) are locked. Each week there are five to seven heroes that are unlocked to play for free. The next week the heroes become locked again and a new rotation of heroes becomes unlocked. You can unlock heroes permanently by either spending real-wold money or in-game gold earned by playing the game.
The price of individual heroes depends on a couple of factors. Newer heroes are usually sold at the premium price of $9.99 or 10,000 gold (15,000 for the absolute newest hero). Here is a picture of all the newest heroes added to the game:
Older characters are usually cheaper than newer characters, some dropping as low as $6.49 (4,000 gold) or $3.99 (2,000 gold). But popular or unique heroes, such as Nova below, do not reduce in price. Instead Nova stays at the highest $9.99 price. Most of the heroes can be found at the $9.99 and $8.49 (10,000 and 7,000) price points.
Now let’s consider the price of the game then. For the sake of this article, I’m going to consider the cost of the game as everything that effects gameplay. No cosmetic items or skins, just the price of the pieces to play on the board: the heroes.
As of the writing of this article, it costs $350 to buy every hero in Heroes of the Storm.
$350 to play as 44 different characters. To put that into perspective, Ultra Street Fighter also had 44 characters and cost $30 on launch. Even if you added the launch price of each updated version of Street Fighter 4 together, it wouldn’t cost half of what Heroes of the Storm costs today.
If you don’t want to pay with real money, you can opt to pay for all the characters with 306,000 gold. To put that into perspective, you can earn 14,000 gold by grinding your player level to the level 40 cap. If you grind every single character to level 20 you can get another 187,000 gold on top of that. Keep in mind that this would take even dedicated players months to accomplish, and yet it only covers 2/3rds of the total gold needed.
You can also supplement your income with Daily Quests, as seen on the bottom right of the screen above. Daily Quests are tasks you can complete to gain a little extra gold each day. These tasks can net you 200-800 gold a day. We can assume that a player will make about 3,500 gold a week by this alone. This is about enough to grab one expensive or two cheaper heroes a month. But at the same time Blizzard releases a new hero about every month and sells it at the premium price of 15,000 gold, about the same amount of gold a player averages a month.
The rate you earn earn gold through quests is canceled out by the rate Blizzard produces new heroes. The total amount of gold you can make by other means still a fraction of the total price of every character. As it stands now, it is virtually impossible to buy every hero without paying a single cent. That is factoring in months if not years of work.
It’s not uncommon for a free game to try to incentive the player to pay for things. The best free-to-play games balance making money and giving the player an enjoyable experience, be this a premium subscription or cosmetic gear. The pricing in Heroes of the Storm is skewed much more in favor of Blizzard’s profit than giving the player more meaningful options, such as purchasing the heroes at the heart of the game.
Take for example the bundles in Heroes of the Storm. The beginner bundle seems reasonably priced at $5 and it gives players three “easy” heroes and and a mount. The boxed copy of the game goes for $20 and comes with 5 heroes. It’s not nearly as good a value as the first bundle, probably because it comes with a skin and an exclusive mount. Then there is the Storm Bundle, which offers eight heroes at $40. That bundle comes with four skins and two mounts. The other bundles follow a similar pattern. There is not one bundle for just the heroes. The bundles may be a cheaper way to buy these characters than buying them all separately, but they also come with substantial bloat. To save small amount of money on the heroes, one must spend a bunch of money on other things as well. The total cost of the heroes still stays high even with Storm Bundle’s 67% discount.
Non-optimal is the defining feature of Heroes of the Storm hero unlocking system. There are three options the player has to unlock the heroes; Spend a ridiculous amount of money, spend somewhat less ridiculous amount of money and earn enough in-game currency to (eventually) buy the rest. Both are designed around taking advantage of the player rather than giving the player more options to purchase or support the game.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about Heroes of the Storm’s hero pricing is that other free-to-play games have adopted more player and consumer-friendly payment models. SMITE is the prime example. SMITE is a MOBA with the same hero rotation, microtransactions, and cosmetic items galore. But it also has an option to buy every character in the game, including all characters released in the future for $30. I’m not saying Heroes of the Storm should sell all its heroes for that same price, but a reasonable flat price or subscription model would be miles ahead of the current model.
As it stands now Heroes of the Storm’s monetization and unlocking methods are broken if one wants to simply unlock every hero. It costs an exorbitant amount of money to purchase the characters even with sales, money-saving bundles, and careful rationing of in-game currency. Without offering better payment options to the player, the game is currently designed to drain money and time from its customers. It’s a great game, but it’s a game seemingly built around Blizzard’s profit rather than providing the customer a good value.
Simply put, Heroes of the Storm is way too expensive.