As time crawls on, games become more and more reliant on the Internet. That's not always a good thing. For every positive innovation, like online multiplayer and Twitch streaming, there's a darker side. Without an online connection, developers would have a much harder time implementing microtransactions or DLC. In the old days, titles were finished before they were released. Now, gamers get products like Assassin's Creed Unity and Battlefield 4 and if the games don't work at launch it's no problem because they'll just get patched later – after everyone's already handed over their hard-earned cash.
Still, without online connectivity, developers wouldn't be able to push out holiday-specific updates like Grand Theft Auto Online's Festive Surprise or Battlefield 4's holiday Easter eggs. These small enhancements don't radically change the games, but they do provide new, whimsical twists on popular titles' tired-and-true gameplay. It's fun for developers, and it's fun for players. Everybody wins.
While Blizzard is no stranger to holiday-themed content – World of Warcraft's latest holiday pet raised almost $2 million for Ebola relief – this is the first time the studio has released seasonally-appropriate content for its online combat title Heroes of the Storm. To celebrate Valentine's Day, Blizzard is releasing a special "love bug" skin for Anab'arak, World of Warcraft's traitor-king. This special skin will cost players $9.99 ($14.98 if you don't already have access to the Anab'arak character), and gives the undead nuberian a ladybug-like shell that's irresistible to the ladies, at least if Blizzard's goofy trailer is to be believed.
Heroes of the Storm is Blizzard's answer to multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games like League of Legends and Dota 2. While Blizzard contends that Heroes of the Storm is more of a "hero brawler" than a traditional MOBA title (meaning that it's more accessible than its complex, highly competitive peers), all three titles play similarly; two teams of five players duke it out on a third-person map, pitting characters with unique abilities against one another in battles that rely on both strategy and reflexes. Like League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm is free-to-play, although extra characters and special cosmetic items (like the love bug skin) cost real money.
The love bug skin isn't the only new content that's hit Heroes of the Storm recently, either. Earlier this week, Blizzard added the Lost Vikings, the heroes of a beloved 16-bit puzzle-platformer, as combatants, joining the likes of StarCraft II's Kerrigan and World of Warcraft's archmage Jaina Proudmoore on the roster.
While the Lost Vikings will stick around for a while, the love bug skin is a limited-time offer, so interested parties should pick one up as soon as possible. While the skin doesn't actually do anything (and is, admittedly, somewhat expensive), it is strangely cute. Even better, with Heroes of the Storm still in closed beta, this sale promises to be just the beginning of the game's holiday-themed content; it'll be fun to see what enhancements Blizzard has in store for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and beyond.