Another year brought another slew of hits to the free-to-play game market, and we here at MMOBomb want to showcase the best of the best! The games on this list are the editors’ picks for the most successful F2P games of 2013, whether measured in players, profits, or just overall buzz and excitement. If your favorite didn’t make the list, well, cry moar noob!
To qualify for this list, a free-to-play game must have been made available to the general public in 2013. That counts not only brand-new releases, but games that had a widely available beta or pay-to-play MMOs that converted to a F2P model. So you’ll have to wait until next year to see EverQuest Next Landmark. We think it’s got a pretty strong shot of making the list.
MOBA fans looking for a top-flight alternative to League of Legends finally got their wish when Valve formally launched Dota 2 in July after a two-year beta testing period. Touted as a more mature and hardcore title than LoL, Dota 2 is the most-played game on Steam by a wide margin, with half a million-plus players during peak hours, compared to around 70,000 for the #2 title.
In the “Year of the MOBA,” Dota 2’s clearly got the edge over the rest of 2013’s new releases. Not only has Valve been consistently adding new content for hardcore players, they’ve focused on assisting new ones too. An intuitive new player map helps new players grasp core mechanics, while Valve has added extensive collectable customization options for returning players. Valve has even made it super easy for veteran players to coach newbies in-game without having to play alongside them. Can Dota 2 carry that momentum into 2014 and beyond – and perhaps challenge Riot’s dominance in the e-sports field? Only time will tell.
As if conquering the MMO, RTS, and RPG categories wasn’t enough, Blizzard took aim at the collectible card game market this year, announcing Hearthstone and making the game available through a wide-open beta test. Early returns are positive, and the game seems to offer a solid experience comparable to Magic: The Gathering. In 2014, look for Blizzard to expand the gameplay with more and bigger tournaments as they strive to make Hearthstone a major player in the online CCG space.
Dota 2 wasn’t the only big new player in MOBAs in 2013. Turbine unleashed Infinite Crisis in beta form this year, melding the MOBA formula with the heroes and villains of the DC Universe to create a compelling, action-packed new game. Competitive play and cash tournaments are already underway, and Twitch integration will help spread the game to the masses even more rapidly.
While lacking the depth of its more mature counterparts, Marvel Heroes continues to chug along nicely since its June launch. Gazillion addresses balance issues and provides new content and new heroes on a regular basis. The tedium typically associated with an ARPG is perhaps exacerbated a bit, considering the game’s relative simplicity, but Gazillion isn’t really aiming for Diablo fans. It’s a solid, casual game made more for superhero fans than for the hardcore clicking crowd.
While it may not have done anything revolutionary, Perfect World Entertainment’s Neverwinter hit all the right notes with Dungeons & Dragons fans starved for adventure in the fabled Forgotten Realms. A few early mishaps notwithstanding, the MMORPG looks to have a long shelf life, as fans have flocked to the Foundry content creator, crafting their own adventures to supplement the dev team’s storyline.
Path of Exile
No “out of nowhere” success story of 2013 would be complete without a mention of Grinding Gear Games’ Path of Exile. The ARPG won a legion of fans during beta and launched properly in October. It was considered by many the true successor to the most iconic title in the genre, rather than the underwhelming Diablo III.
Seven classes, different gameplay modes, and a gargantuan skill tree, reminiscent of Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid, makes sure that players will always find new ways to play. As if the game itself wasn’t good enough, the game is unabashedly free-to-play, offering very little to pry dollars from gamers’ wallets – a general boon to players, but mildly perplexing to players wanting to support the game.
Rift isn’t a new title, but Trion Worlds saw new life injected into the two-year-old MMO when it converted the game to free-to-play in May. While it does offer all-but-top-tier gear for sale – a sticking point for some – most of the game is offered for free, instantly placing Rift near the top of the F2P MMORPG food chain. Couple that with regular updates (including an upcoming water expansion) and you’ve got yourselves a F2P MMO winner.
If you thought only one company could make a good WWII-era air-combat game, think again. Gaijin Entertainment surprised everyone with War Thunder, and, while the game could use a little more polish, it’s well on its way to establishing itself as a top-flight (heh) destination for novice aviators and double aces alike, both on PC and PS4. If Gaijin can pull off its ground and naval battle systems with similar aplomb, it could be huge.
Who could have guessed that people would be drawn to cybernetic space ninjas? Besides everyone, that is? Developer Digital Extremes took the not-too-chancy chance and crafted a game that’s long on action if a tad grindy. Fans aren’t complaining, though; the hack-and-slash shooter has garnered a legion of dedicated fans. Our favorite comment? The guy who said he’s “just getting into the game” after 500 hours.