Gabe Newell: Premature Monetisation Is The Root Of All Evil

Gabe Newell: Premature Monetisation Is The Root Of All Evil
Gabe Newell: Premature Monetisation Is The Root Of All Evil

Will DoTA 2 be free-to-play? That’s a question that Valve boss Gabe Newell smoothly dodged when he was asked by a Gamasutra journalist. But he did share some his strong opinions on companies that focus on the bottom-line.

“So the primary focus for us at this point is not worrying about monetisation, and it’s instead worrying about getting the game right,” Newell said in an interview with Gamasutra.

“…Our focus is really much on building something that’s cool, and then we’ll worry about monetisation. So we’re not going to worry about that until later. Premature monetisation is the root of all evil.

“I think not sucking is way more of an important thing to pay attention to first. I think every gamer can point to shipping too early, or sucking, as being a way more dominant story in our industry than, ‘Oh, it was slightly cumbersome to give the company money.’ I mean look at Minecraft, right? Notch wasn’t thinking through his incredibly precise monetisation strategy.”

With no official word on how players will be charged for the game, we’d like to know what you think: Would you prefer if DoTA was free-to-play, followed a traditional subscription model, or something else entirely?

The Valve Way: Gabe Newell and Erik Johnson Speak [Gamasutra]


  • Once off payment.

    Avoid cash shops.. if they need to add one in.. maybe just for cosmetics; definitely not to break the balance.

    • League of Legends has a pretty good cash shop system.

      You can buy heroes and skins with RP (paid for with real money) but you also earn IP by playing which can be used to buy heroes.

      There’s a weekly rotation of heroes as well.

      So that means that everything is available to everyone, but people willing to pay the money can get more while grinding less.

      • Yep, LoL has the best f2p model out there. Only requiring you to spend money on skins was a great move.

        That being said I’ve probably spent more money in my time with LoL than I would of with a one time purchase but I don’t feel ripped either.

        • All of this.

          Spending money on new champions in LoL feels like spending a couple of dollars on a small expansion pack. You get some new toys to play with earlier than you otherwise would’ve and because the transactions are small it’s no big deal.

          Per hour LoL is far cheaper than basically any other game I’ve played, but overall I’ve still spent more on it.

          Perfect free to play model.

      • LoL is the worst F2P model because it unbalances the game.

        The metagame shifts every week because of the free hero pool, stopping it from becoming a competitive game (unless you dump hundreds of dollars into the game or play thousands of games to buy all the champions)

        If you don’t understand why this will break DotA then you have never played a balanced game before.

        Prior to going F2P, HoN had the best monetization model. One off payment to access full gameplay content, then being able to earn all cosmetic extras through regular gameplay.

        Now it has the worst, with a pitiful and poorly chosen free hero pool (destroying the balance for non-legacy accounts) and early access ruining the balance for legacy accounts

        • It’s pretty obvious you haven’t played it for any significant length of time because by the time you hit 30 you have a healthy selection of heroes purely earned through playing the game.

        • @phaded

          The metagame does not shift every week and is not influenced by the free champion rotation. So you either don’t know what “metagame” means or you haven’t played much LoL – if at all.

          Competitive gaming implies playing seriously. You can’t say you’re playing this game seriously if you’re not willing to either invest your own time or money. Otherwise, you’re just a wannabe pro who would never do well in the competitive scene anyway – and a tightarsed one at that.

          The only thing you ever actually need money for is custom skins. If you’re actually any good at the game you can get to high level (competitive) matches and never spend a cent on the game.

          You don’t need to unlock every champion either – this isn’t Pokemon you know. Most competitive matches revolve around a small subset of the total champion lineup.

          Also, as of posting the free champion rotation has available Alistar, Janna, Ashe, and Lee Sin who are all considered strong picks in competitive matches. With the rest of the champions available you can pick a more than viable team. Most of those champions are cheap to permanantly unlock as well using the free in-game IP point system.

    • Agree with Sukari.

      An exclusive one-off payment, with NO OPTION of a free to play model – it attracts too many trolls.

      When HoN went with it’s weird free-to-play model the player base really took a blow and the quality of the community fell even lower (if that’s possible) then it previously was. I haven’t played LoL so I cannot vouch if it’s money model is effective.

      Have cash items for cosmetic reasons, but no game breaking stuff.

      • LoL’s community is pretty good.

        Having a pay gate to ward of the trolls doesn’t seem to always work. Just look at Xbox Live or any subscription based online game.

      • I didn’t get my first one of those until I reached level 13 or so, by then I just didn’t care cuz I know how to play at least and learn from my mistakes. With LoL I got the chance to enjoy the game first before putting up with the arseholes of the community. With HoN, that was the other way around and I had to put up with arseholes during the trial before it went F2P and before I even managed to get a feel for the game, and I just couldn’t bring myself to make the mandatory payment, I just couldn’t. First impressions make a big difference.

        With LoL’s F2P model, at least if I didn’t end up liking it, I didn’t waste any money to bring myself to that conclusion in the first place

  • If they set up something similar to League of Legends, I think that could work well. Where it’s free to download the client, free to play but you pay for skins of champions and you can purchase champions (but also have an option to earn the points to purchase a champion by playing matches).

    Otherwise, maybe just $20 or something to purchase the game initially and then free to play after that. I would hate the idea of a monthly subscription fee.

  • I like the cut of Gabe’s jib.

    Make sure your product is good, then work out how best to make money from it. Too many games worry first about how to make money (DLC being part of standard production cycle instead of post-release etc) and it can affect the end product.

    This does result in us relying on Valve time (or Blizzard time) but that’s a price I’m willing to pay.

    As for the pay model for DotA 2, I’d expect it to be similar to League of Legends. Free to play with a cash store for those that want to use it.

  • It’s a bit of a tough call. I think it’s important to have an idea of what payment model you want before making a game. If they wait until after they’ve developed it, and decide to go F2P, they’re going to have to ‘Tack it on’, so to speak.

    However, it’s irrefutably Valve knows what it’s doing. My money is it being in line with their other games, pay up front, extra for cosmetics, which has been proven to work with like likes of League of Legends.

      • Perhaps there is one payment model they would like to use, but can’t due to choices made by other titles in the genre.

    • I’d be willing to believe that the final decision hasn’t (or won’t) be made until towards the end of the production cycle.

      When you look at the options available: upfront payment, subscription or cash store, none of them immediately seem like something developer intensive.

      They probably had a good idea of how they wanted to do things before they started but might be waiting to see where the market stands before committing to one option.

  • One off purchase that contains all player skins (if there are any) and all other content that I would otherwise have to make micro transactions for.

  • As much as I agree that you should make the game good and fun first and worry about paying for it later, I can’t say I’m happy with these words coming from Gabe Newell. To me the monetisation of Team Fortress 2 is a joke. I generally don’t like the stores where you can buy game items for money, whether they are cosmetic or not but for small indie games, or free to play games I can understand. Otherwise I just find it really tacky.

    • I understand where you coming from, but considering how long TF2 has been around, its popularity, how dated the graphics can look and the ability of newer players to keep up with those who have been playing it for years the change makes sense.
      Besides, the price had dropped so low over the years making the game free wasn’t much of a change, you can find most stuff and the custom-made stuff feeds money back to the people who made it.

  • Reoh’s 4 point guide to selling a lot of games.

    1) Make a good game. (don’t suck)
    2) Don’t rush it out early. (don’t be buggy)
    3) Do this every time. (build respect)
    4) Support the game after launch!

  • Valve is swimming in cash so they can take all the time they need to perfect their games and worry about monetisation later. Most other studios must create a revenue model early in development to satisfy investors and publishers.
    Let’s face it they are definitely going to adopt a f2p model (or at the least an upfront payment/f2p hybrid) in light of the success of League of Legends.

  • In several interviews, I’ve read that Gabe considers being a private company a positive thing for Valve.

    It’s made me wonder if his time spent with Microsoft left him a little jaded, possibly because of the sacrifices that could come with trying to cater for both shareholders and customers.

  • it will be free and they will make there money off hats i say.

    Or they will charge for it Gabe gets his recent bill for the construction of his volcanic doom fortress.

  • I think releasing it for no more than $20 would be fare to customers, profitable to the developers and stay true to players of the original game, so long as all characters are available at launch and any microtransactions implemented are only cosmetic/novelty in nature.

  • either once off payment for the WHOLE thing including updates or all free to play for everything (including updates)

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