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Update: The Founder's Pack is now on sale. It comes with a beta key and several unlockables.
Original article: Blizzard is trying a new approach with Heroes of the Storm's beta test. They're going to allow players to purchase guaranteed access to the test.
The Battle.net Launcher for the alpha version of Heroes of the Storm mentions a "Heroes Founder's Pack." This digital purchase lets you "ride into the Beta Test on a wolf made of solid gold." Presumably the wolf is some exclusive mount also included with the Founder's Pack.
Founder's Packs aren't a new phenomenon. Other companies such as Sony Online Entertainment are quite fond of them. SOE sold three Founder's Packs for EverQuest Next Landmark that included alpha and beta access along with exclusive items.
This will be the first time that Blizzard offers this sort of deal, though. As HeroesNexus notes, they did offer Mists of Pandaria beta access along with the World of Warcraft Annual Pass. However, the beta wasn't the main product being sold. The Annual Pass gave a 12-month subscription to WoW and a free copy of Diablo 3; the beta key was just a side benefit.
At the same time, it's not surprising to see Blizzard selling beta access. They've developed a taste for microtransactions in recent years. WoW players can buy in-game items like mounts and helmets for real-world money. Blizzard even sells instant boosts to level 90 for that game.
Heroes of the Storm itself has plenty of microtransactions as well. The game is free-to-play with optional cash purchases. There's a rotating set of free heroes but players can spend cash to permanently unlock certain characters. Cosmetic items like skins and mounts can also be bought for cash.
HoTS is a free-to-play MOBA title, in the vein of Dota 2 or League of Legends. Two teams of five players meet on the battlefield and try to destroy each other's base. Players choose from a selection of characters culled from Diablo, StarCraft and Warcraft games.
The alpha test for Heroes of the Storm began in March. This test is limited to a small number of testers. Most players will have to wait until the beta for a chance to get some hands-on time. If the thought of buying the beta key repels you, you can also opt into the beta through the settings of your Battle.net account. This method, while free, doesn't guarantee access though.
One important caveat for today's news is that Blizzard hasn't officially announced the Founder's Pack. It's possible that they'll scrap the idea or only use it in select territories. Still, the fact that the Founder's Pack information made its way to the Launcher makes it seem like a sure thing.