Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
arrowPress Releases
October 24, 2014
PR Newswire
View All

If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:

 Dota 2  is free-to-play, but not pay-to-win, says Valve
Dota 2 is free-to-play, but not pay-to-win, says Valve
June 1, 2012 | By Kris Graft

Half-Life and Steam house Valve Software confirmed Thursday evening that its upcoming action-RTS Dota 2 will adopt the free-to-play business model.

The confirmation is Valve's latest vote of confidence in the emerging free-to-play model. The company successfully converted its class-based online shooter Team Fortress 2 from a traditional pay-then-play model to free-to-play in 2011. That game is supported by sales of virtual items -- some created by Valve, and some of it created by users.

Dota 2, planned for a 2012 release on PC, will be the first game from Valve that will launch from the get-go as a free-to-play, item sales-supported game. The business model has already seen big success in the action-RTS genre, primarily from Riot Games' League of Legends.

In conjunction with the announcement, Valve also opened the "Dota Store," an in-game storefront (accessible now online) that hosts virtual items created by both Valve and community members, a similar strategy to Team Fortress 2's "Mann Co. Store."

Valve shares revenues from user-generated content with the respective content creators in the community. The company stated today that in the first year after the introduction of Team Fortress 2's user-generated features, Valve paid out $3.5 million to creators.


Being able to "pay-to-win" is one of biggest concerns with the free-to-play business model, particularly in competitive online games. In the Dota Store, players will be able to buy "fancy gear to customize your heroes," but Valve said all items will be purely cosmetic.

All of the strategy game's heroes -- the characters used in play -- will be available to paying- and non-paying players, free of charge. "We believe restricting player access to heroes could be destructive to game design, so it's something we plan to avoid," the company said in an FAQ. "Dota 2 will not be a pay-to-win game. All the items in the store are cosmetic, and don't affect gameplay."

Players who pay for the $40 Early Access item bundle can join the game's in-progress beta. Purchased tems will carry over to the public launch of the game. Players can also start buying items right now, without buying early access, so the items are readily available at launch.

Dota 2 lead designer "IceFrog" in a statement said the opening of the store is "a big part of our final push to launch. With support for the Steam Workshop, the majority of the items made available on day one were created and being sold by members of the community. By making the game Free to Play, we hope to give gamers the ability to decide how - and how much - they want to invest in the game."

"Dota" is derived from the popular Warcraft III mod Defense of the Ancients, which popularized the action-RTS genre.

Related Jobs

Gearbox Software
Gearbox Software — Plano, Texas, United States

Server Programmer
Giant Sparrow
Giant Sparrow — Playa Vista, California, United States

Junior 3D Artist
Giant Sparrow
Giant Sparrow — Playa Vista, California, United States

Lead Artist
Amazon — Seattle, Washington, United States

Event Marketing Specialist, Game Services


Ramin Shokrizade
profile image
Making a game both free to play and "fair" is very difficult. The obvious way to do it is the way Valve is doing it here, by only selling cosmetic virtual goods. My concern is that this method is suboptimal but of course very easy to implement. I have two unique models that allow this but they add substantial complexity on the design side. I would imagine that would not be a big issue for a studio like Valve. In any event I applaud them for seeking to make their game fair even if their wallet suffers a bit in the process. Hopefully the idea catches on. Gamers have been punished of late with a glut of pay to win offerings.

Aaron Haaf
profile image
There is a reason why it's called "Hat Fortress 2".

Cosmetic virtual goods are quite the premium in an environment where being radically different is hard to do when all the models are set in stone (and are seen repeatedly).

Any price will be payed to stand out and be "radical".

Jeremy Reaban
profile image
I remember Turbine saying something similar when LOTRO went F2P. First came the store only healing potions, then the stat tomes, then their fix of the legendary item system that involved the store. Have a lousy weapon? Either grind for hours or use the store.

Ironically, they've produced darn few cosmetic items. No hair, only a handful of new clothing. Lots and lots of horses - apparently people will pay $20 for a horse skin (and that's for one character, BTW)

With that said, Valve is much more credible.

Matthew Hanlon
profile image
TF2 had recouped its costs a long time before they made it F2P

Raja Bala
profile image
Valve's revolutionizing the way games make money via the cosmetic store.
Its a brilliant way, to engage the community and have more fun while playing the game. The steam workshop is going to make many other games use the community to create interesting and new content, while allowing them to earn a cut in the process.

I'm sure custom animations and dialogues will follow soon. Hats off (see what i did there?) to Valve.
Dota2 looks fantastic already.

Dave Long
profile image
It's an interesting take, but it will be interesting to see how more/less successful it is than the traditional pay-to-win (sorry - free to play - not an issue for SP, of course) model.

[User Banned]
profile image
This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Samuel Green
profile image
I used to think that way too, but when I love a game so much that I'm playing it for hours every day... when I have loads of favorite Heroes and can't get enough of their animations, models and superb voicework... yeah, I want to pay a little to buy unique stuff for my dudes. I like giving money to Valve and I like to stand out a bit.

For my favorite Heroes, it also shows my team and the enemy that I'm serious about this dude (for better or for worse :P).

The items are cheap (they all add up, which is why F2P makes so much money) and they're fun/badass/sweet. Once you buy one, you'll tend to become a big spender. It's the Social Game model.

Ingthor Hjalmarsson
profile image
Valve's decision makes perfect sense. They are offering better services to the player than other Action RTS companies by having all heroes selectable from start. The game will most likely give Valve it's share of money, although Valve is in a way different situation than the other developers out there, Valve owns steam and has one of the highest revenue per employe in the world, they could basically give the game away for free without it having a big impact on their revenue.

Eric Kinkead
profile image
Do f2p this way. First part of the game is free, rest is pay. That way you get to try before you buy. Free to play that makes me stop and think about my bank account in the middle of the game when I am trying to enjoy it, rips me from the action/game and ruins it for me.

Darcy Nelson
profile image
It's like the return of Shareware!

[User Banned]
profile image
This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.