As I find myself playing Hearthstone and League of Legends (and to an extent Heroes of the Storm) again I feel like I’m getting sucked in the “free to play” controversy. I know a lot of people have opinions about how “free to play” certain games actually are and I’m probably somewhere in the middle stance wise.
When it comes to a game like Hearthstone, the buy to win is a relatively simple one: throw in cash, get way more cards than someone who doesn’t pay a dime and play good decks very early on. It’s a way to get a head start over everyone else who doesn’t want to put money in the game and makes sure you always have the newest cards. Be it from a newly introduced Adventure or from an Expansion set like the Old Gods one that is launching this week. Yet for Hearthstone that is kind of where the advantage stops. You’re able to get a headstart on people yes, but if you have all the cards that are around you will eventually be caught up on by people just playing a lot. Trump (Hearthstone streamer) has done many series about how he’s able to rank up with a random deck without spending a cent and just funneling all the ingame resources into building a good deck for one class. That’s also immediatly the restriction you have to work around: at first you are only able to really focus on building one good deck if you want to be able to compete with others.
In Heroes of the Storm and League of Legends the “buy to win” is a bit more complicated. In Heroes of the Storm it’s mostly being able to buy Heroes with real money, thus building a big roster early on which guarantees champion versatility and earlier acces to ranked play. Other than that money buys purely cosmetic rewards which boils down to just having a cooler mount or a cooler skin for a champion.
In League of Legends it’s the same principle. but with a twist. They have a runepage system which requires you to buy runes with the ingame currency. You could argue this is fair for everyone, however. You can buy boosts to that ingame currency with real money, thus making it easier and faster to earn said currency. This allows people to be able to get good runepages faster and more of them to boot.
It boils down to the same thing as it does in Hearthstone. It gets you a headstart on the people who do not want to pay anything for a game, but eventually you will be caught up on.
You may argue that you can buy an experience boost in both Heroes of the Storm and League of Legends, but again, this is only in getting a headstart. You are max level faster, your heroes are high level faster. At some point you don’t level any further and there goes the advantage.
Does this affect me?
The short answer is no. The long answer is a bit more complicated. I’ve only zoomed in on the games I personally play that make use of real money to get ahead. I know in a lot of games the “buy to win” is very real and damaging to the playerbase. League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone provide the exact same gameplay experience to buying and non-buying players. You dont unlock additional content from funneling money into them that can’t be accessed otherwise. You don’t obtain a fast advantage over the non-paying users, especially over time when these people catch up.
The only thing you really earn is a headstart and, in all three games, cosmetic items that can only be bought by money.
So for these particular games I am of the opinion that people can throw money at them all they want, for whatever reason they want. It does not affect me or how I experience the game.
And that’s really the way it should be no?