Valve’s making its free-to-play games a little less free lately. First, there was the announcement that Artifact — which may or may not be a “Dota card game” — wouldn’t be free-to-play last week, and today Valve announced “Dota Plus,” an optional subscription service for Dota 2.
Billed as “an evolution of the Majors Battle Pass,” Dota Plus costs $3.99 per month, with discounts for six- and 12-month subscriptions. For a fraction of the cost of a typical MMO subscription, you can earn badges, hero voice lines via a new hero chat wheel, hero-specific challenges, weekly rewards of 1,000 shards for winning three matches, and Plus-exclusive cosmetic items.
It’s the final component of the package that’s raising some eyebrows. In Valve’s own words, the Plus Assistant:
offers real-time item and ability suggestions—generated from data gathered across millions of recent games at each skill bracket—to keep you up-to-date on the latest trends. Whether you need advice on which hero best fits a draft, or aren’t sure what to build after securing that coveted Blink Dagger, Plus Assistant is in your corner.
In other words, it takes a major strategy of Dota 2 — building out your character properly — and automates it, or at least gives suggestions on what items and abilities to go for, to create the most effective hero for your situation, or for what hero to pick in a draft. It also gives you a death summary, for a “second-by-second timeline of incoming damage, stuns, and other disabling effects” whenever a hero dies, along with offering lane strategies and other analytics.
That’s got a few people, like TotalBiscuit, thinking the Plus Assistant toes the line of pay-to-win. It certainly goes beyond the cosmetics offerings, which seem like they’d be worth four bucks per month on their own and would do decent business even without the Plus Assistant. On the other hand, it probably doesn’t offer any advice that you couldn’t get from a website — albeit not in real time — or from enough experience What do you think?