GamesBeat: Do you guys see that you do have a lot of players who install the game, play a couple of matches, and either get overwhelmed or maybe they get turned off by the harsh community, and then they just stop trying?
DeForest: Absolutely, and, again, not that I want to shine a negative light on the things that we do, but just being honest in our interpretation of what we’ve done, our major competitors already have bots in their games, and our game has been around for three years and we don’t have bots. It’s grown to the player base that it currently has of roughly two and a half million active players, it’s done that without tools like bots, and we see trends where people see this game, they hear about this game, they log in, they play, and they realize, “Wow. If I don’t know what I’m doing, then I’m not sure I have a place here.” They have a bad experience, and there are enough games out there trying to garner our interest and time that you shouldn’t have to work to have fun. And if they happened to roll the dice and have one of those bad experiences, experience one of those bad eggs in the community, then they’re not going to come back, and that definitely shows up in numbers.
GamesBeat: How big of a challenge is it to wrestle for MOBA players? You have LoL, you have Dota 2, and all of these competitors and, even more so than with other genres, they all appear to be very similar. More than, say, one first-person shooter would to another. You have the same sort of map, the three lanes, five against five. So is it difficult to differentiate yourself?
DeForest: Yeah, I look and I say there are three major players (League of Legends, Dota 2, and Heroes of Newerth), and I say that each of these games have their own qualities. They have their own things that they’re aiming to do. And when you look at, say, League of Legends. League of Legends is a great game. It tries to do different things than what, say, Heroes of Newerth or Dota 2 try to do. Heroes of Newerth and Dota 2 are far, far more similar to each other, believe it or not, than to League of Legends. And while, yes, the map is the same, the objective is the same, you have this concept of playing a hero or a champion with spells, but just in your art style alone, if you look at three games, they’re all pretty drastically different. Some of those are going to appeal to other people more than others. But then you can look and you can say, well, one of the ways we try to position ourselves is by being more true to the original DotA game. Of course, Dota 2 is absolutely the truest, but we look at that and we say, “Well, we’re a game that offers a slightly higher skill ceiling.”
When you learn the basics of how to play these games, you can really learn to excel and achieve the highest level of skill amongst all three of them. But I think that, like with a lot of games — you mentioned shooters. A lot of shooters are very similar. You’ve got multiple Call of Duty games. How do they truly differentiate themselves? But these games, I think, are extremely social, and it is a matter of becoming trendy. It is a matter of finding ways to get people to play with their friends, because that’s what they want to do. They want to log on with their buddies from school or their buddies from work and they want to log on, play together, have a good time, talk about it the next day, and, so, more than just differentiating yourself is offering people the tools so that they can play together.
GamesBeat: You were saying earlier that HoN has actually been seeing growth throughout the last year. I have to say, I would have thought that maybe the game would have been hurt with Dota 2’s entry into the market, because they are seen as more similar, as the more hardcore MOBAs, and more as the real successors to the original DotA as compared to League of Legends.
DeForest: The way I see it is, because I think you’re absolutely correct, you look and you say, “Wow.” This game from the last twelve months has gone from — I don’t know the exact date of when they launched their beta, but they’re seeing massive peaks of concurrency. The way I see it is that if we’ve been able to grow through their entrance into the market, and the amount of players that they’ve been able to get, that just shows how popular this genre is and how much the genre itself is growing, and I think it’s a testament to the game that HoN is. You have this huge, very closely related competitor that comes to market, that’s being developed by the company that owns the largest digital distribution platform on the market (Steam), and we’ve still been able to grow. All I would have to think is that, in the event that if Dota 2 didn’t see the light of day in 2012, we would just be that much bigger. But I take it as an extreme compliment that, better than our player base contracting while that’s happening, that we’re still expanding and we see a bright future in front of us in 2013.
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