… and I’m surprisingly okay with that.
I’m sure someone could pinpoint the moment when “Free to Play” got a foothold in gaming and became a thing but for the longest time, my attitude toward them was firmly on the “who cares” spectrum. Paying for cosmetics in a game I otherwise did not have to buy seemed pointless. Whereas, in other paid games, paid cosmetics was just a bonus feature that I’d just ignore. I was firmly a “I’d never pay for a cosmetic item” kind of guy. Cosmetics, ultimately, didn’t have any impact on me anyway because I didn’t play anything that was free to play anyway. Then I started playing Dota 2 in earnest a couple of years ago. (I think I gave the game a try after listening to a string of Idle Thumbs podcasts where the main topic of discussion was Dota 2. I had tried a MOBA before (League of Legends) but it didn’t grab me like Dota did.) I was now playing a free to play game wasn’t in your face with their microtransaction offerings. Just the occasional “get these cool cosmetic items! Look at this sword for your dude!” My feelings remained unchanged.
Cosmetic items have been, as far as I can tell, always been available for Dota 2 heroes even if they weren’t an option for all heroes.
This is a topic that will probably fork into another post, but somehow I ended up playing and building an affinity to the agility hero Juggernaut. I don’t know if it was because it was the most recognizable name in the list or I liked the idea of a masked, exiled samurai. Either way, Juggernaut has become “my guy”. He looks cool, has a sweet sword and his ultimate is one of the more satisfying ultimates in the game.
I don’t remember how it happened, but one day there was a cosmetic set for Juggernaut in my inventory. It was a simple set called Traveler on the High Plains. All the set items were classified as Common items, meaning they weren’t particularly rare or unique but the next time I played Jugg I equipped the items and a whole new game opened before my eyes:
I had an epiphany. This was my Juggernaut. There are many other Juggernauts like it, but this one is mine.
There are many cosmetic items for Juggernaut, possibly the most out of any of the heroes (maybe research this). Between his mask, his sword and his clothing, the possibilities and combinations of your Juggernaut are endless.
I picked up odds and end pieces for Juggernaut but never could bring myself to pay more than a few quarters to pick something up. That was until the set “The Balance of the Blade Keeper” set became available last year. At the time, it cost $10.99 and as soon as I saw it, I hit the purchase button and haven’t looked back. Because the Blade Keeper set had such a unique look and style I picked it up without hesitation.
The cosmetic items for Dota 2, to me, have been one of Valves most brilliant moves. Opening up the character models to freelance graphic artists basically increased their “workforce” to thousands of people with talent and know-how to customize the game and the personal experience of individual Dota 2 players. Valve lets these freelancers peddle their wares, all the while taking a little cut for being the middle man. This enables artists to develop a brand and a following, creating items for fans of the game.
I have amassed, officially, over 1,000 hours of playtime over the past three years playing Dota 2. Steam tells me I’ve spent over 150$ on the game over that period of time. If there was some formula to determine “value” and if that formula were to be, say, dollars divided by hours, Dota would have delivered on 10 cents an hour, which I would say is a pretty dang good value, considering 1) it’s free and 2) most AAA games are luck to deliver 1.50$ an hour.
I don’t know how much longer I’ll play Dota 2 but they’ve turned me into a Free to Play believer and I’ve most certainly got my money’s worth.