In light of SMITE adding a Doge skin to their game, Valve could do nothing else but respond in kind. Dota 2 will be releasing a Frank The Cat (a.k.a. "Happy Cat" a.k.a. "I Can Haz Cheezeburger") Brewmaster Skin in the coming weeks, sources say.
Recently, SMITE announced that it would be adding a skin to their game themed after the Doge Internet meme. Community reaction to this has been mixed, with sites such as Kotaku chiming in on the matter. Take a look at the trailer for the skin and decide for yourself how you feel about it:
Reception of the skin can best be encapsulated by the nearly-equal like to dislike ratio on the video. Despite this reaction, Valve surprised its playerbase by announcing that they too would be including a meme-based skin in their game. In a stunning move, they've decided to go back even further in time and have selected Frank the Cat as the basis for a Brewmaster skin. I was curious as to why Valve would make such a move, so I hopped on a plane to Valve HQ and spoke them in person.
After making some initial inquiries at the front desk, I was directed to Neil Lake, Valve's recently hired expert on Internet memes. He was gracious enough to sit down with me for a short time in the Valve cafeteria to explain their decision and talk about Internet memes in general.
"I already know what you're thinking, why go so far back in time for picking an Internet meme?" Mr. Lake began with a knowing look on his face. "This is a phenomenon that Internet memeologists have been well aware of for some time: what is old may become new again. Think of it like how bell bottom jeans and Trapper Keepers were suddenly cool again in the '90s. Experts like myself are aware of these phenomena but your average layperson is not. For instance, you might be surprised to know that our Internal meme tracking models predict that Rage Comics will be cool again as early as 2023."
I asked why they selected Frank the Cat in particular for their skin, and moreover why they didn't elect to replace his brewery-themed kit with delicious cheeseburgers. "Well, to be frank, it would have taken a few more hours to swap out the models and that would have hurt our absolutely absurd profit margins. If there's anything Valve is about, it's about maximizing the amount of money we can make with the least amount of work possible. If we can turn something free into a cash cow, then by god we'll do it! I've heard on good authority that we'll be charging for ammo on Team Fortress 3. Our head accountant actually had to go to the hospital over that one, he laughed so hard that he had a mild stroke."
I thanked him for his time and returned home. While Valve's motivations are now clear, what we can't see is how other games will adopt Internet memes into their particular titles. Blizzard was quick to put a new (and expensive) D.Va emote into their game to capitalize on the popularity of Gremlin D.Va, a move that was lauded by many. However, Hi-Rez may have misstepped with their particular selection in this case. The only thing we can be sure of is that the paradigm has certainly changed and we're in for a wild ride.
In other MOBA news, Heroes of Newerth is reported to be working on a dancing baby skin for their game. They expect it to be completed sometime in Summer 2017. Reportedly, the 17 people who still play Heroes of Newerth are excited about the prospect of finally being competitive with contemporary MOBAs.
What do you think of video games incorporating Internet memes as cosmetics or in-jokes? Can it ever be done right, or will it just come off as a sort of "How do you do, fellow kids" level of strangeness? What games have the dankest memes out there? Let us know in the comments below!