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Dota 2 is free-to-play, but not pay-to-win, says Valve

Valve Software confirmed Thursday evening that its upcoming action-RTS Dota 2 will use the free-to-play business model, supported by the "Dota Store."
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.
Pay-to-win? 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.

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