Is Dota 2 Dying? – Verdict from a decade-old fan and some stats

Is Dota 2 dying? – The decade-old debate for the renowned game might have reached its verdict after Valve’s underwhelming presentation of the International 12. It’s a shame, considering the Dota 2 community’s love for the game dwells much longer than its decade-old journey. Its predecessor, Defence of the Ancients (Dota), has long been a fan-favorite among MOBA fans.

Dota 2 maintains a healthy and consistent player base of two-thirds of its peak average players of all time. Most of the best Dota 2 players are getting older and retiring from the scene, alongside passionate fans. However, age isn’t the only reason why the player base is dwindling.

Team Spirit wins the International 12 (Image credit: Valve)

Is Dota 2 Dying?

Hence, is Dota dead, you might be wondering? Well, the optimistic me would love to proudly say that it’s still as thrilling and alive as the day we installed Dota 2 Beta.

For what it’s worth, Dota 2 still survived the test of time for the most part, but seasonal fluctuations in active players happen year-round. Most notably, when Icefrog drops a significant update on the game that reworks the fundamental game mechanics itself, or when Valve generously gave away one free Arcana to all players in November 2022.

Of course, Valve has consistently worked on bringing Dota 2 to the general public’s appeal. Earlier in 2021, Valve collaborated with Netflix to release an entire Dota 2 series featuring the Dragon’s Blood, which has three seasons to date with season 4 in production. Needless to say, it was just the publicity Dota 2 needed to get more fans on board.

Unfortunately, that’s plausibly all we can appreciate from Valve’s efforts in keeping the Dota 2 community satisfied. On the esports side of things, Dota 2 fans are disappointed with Valve’s treatment of their best-selling franchise.

The abolishment of Battle Pass last year led to an overwhelming reduction in the International 12’s prize pool. According to Valve, they wanted to focus more on features in the game that benefit every player instead of merely the exclusive skin enjoyers. Apparently, only a small percentage of the Dota 2 player base actually buys the Battle Pass, so even with the ludicrous amounts generated via the Battle Pass annually, Valve decided to not develop Battle Pass cosmetics.

Instead, they promised frequent updates in the game that will improve the player experience. While this was the initial promise that garnered reasonable support from the community, the updates weren’t as frequent enough to appeal to players.

Nevertheless, the Dota 2 developers have also attempted to spice things up with occasional festive events, such as Frostivus and The Dragon’s Gift events. It brought a peak player count of 802,000 in December 2023. However, perhaps what Valve really nailed right throughout last season was the ban waves.

Alongside the events, Valve shipped ban waves, targeting smurf accounts, toxic players, and even third-party cheat users. The ban waves were so impactful, such that many culprits got what they deserved, which the rest of the player base happily enjoyed.

Dota 2 stats (Image credit: SteamDB)

Is Dota 2’s Competitive Scene Dying?

Every year, the Dota 2 player base waits eagerly for Valve to release the Dota 2 Battle Pass. In 2020, the Dota 2 Battle Pass raked in 160 million USD of revenue from sales. It’s that one time of the year when Dota 2 players pump in cash to fund the Internationals series.

While advertisements and sponsors from betting sites aren’t uncommon among tournament organizers, it’s the fact that TI11, a community-funded championship, shouldn’t require any third-party sponsors. TI11 prize pool was 18 million USD, which means Valve raked approximately 56 million USD for themselves. This should have been enough to cover the TI11 production cost wholly.

It was the first time a TI Championship collected a lower prize pool than its predecessor. In fact, TI11 was so horrible in terms of value, that it performed worse than TI6, which was five years ago.

Just when Dota 2 players thought it couldn’t get worse, TI12 broke yet another record for all the wrong reasons. TI12 only had a mere 3.4 million USD prize pool last year, making it the worst TI since TI3. However, many fans believed that Valve wanted to prove a point to the Esports players and teams, who might have complained about the unfair proportions of prize pool distribution. Regardless, TI12 still hosted one of the most beautiful TI venues to date with its painted glass décor across the Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle.

With TI12 finally returning to Seattle, the original venue of the Internationals Championships, perhaps future TI venues will have top-tier production quality. It’s certainly better than what we had at TI11 hands down.

How many people still play Dota 2?

Dota 2’s all-time peak is still 1.29 million players, which was long achieved in the year 2016. As of March 2024, Dota 2 has a monthly average of 428,568 active players. Not too shabby, considering the trend hasn’t plummeted in a year. Sure, these numbers pale in comparison to its competitors, but true Dota fans will tell you that the experience is unlike any MOBA out there.

Will these numbers improve as we creep closer to the highly-anticipated Crownfall update? – Yes, we can at least expect a surge when we potentially get two new Arcana cosmetics and the new hero, The Ringmaster.

Is Dota 2 losing players?

No, Dota 2 is not losing players, if anything they are doing well enough to maintain it.

Let’s not forget the fact that the surge in popularity of mobile games such as Genshin Impact has sparked a trend toward mobile gaming within the gaming community. Additionally, the demographic of Dota 2 players is aging, becoming older than those of other games.

Dota 2 is primarily holding onto its old-school players, but the disinterest among younger gamers remains worrisome. As time progresses, it may become crucial for Dota 2 to attract new, younger players to sustain its community. Relying solely on fans in their late 30s isn’t a viable long-term strategy for maintaining the game’s player base.

On the flip side, more players are leaving Dota 2 than are joining, although it’s noteworthy that Dota 2 experiences a cyclical pattern of player engagement, with many returning seasonally during events or TI.

Do the best Dota 2 players still play?

In 2023, we witnessed a new class of best Dota 2 players rise to our expectations. New competitors claimed the top spots in DPC 2023 rankings, but Team Spirit, shocked the community by winning TI12 and becoming a two-time champ.

Traditional powerhouses like Evil Geniuses, Alliance, and Nigma Galaxy all struggle, but there are plenty of new organizations to replace these old-timers, notably Gaimin Gladiators, Team Falcons, and, even Xtreme Gaming.

Hall of Famers and the best Dota 2 players still play in various teams across the ecosystem. However, we have to shine the spotlight on Team Spirit, especially Illya “Yatoro” Mulyarchuk.

Dendi B8

Dota 2 and Icefrog are listening

Dota 2 is a beloved MOBA genre with diehard fans throughout its decade-long establishment. Even so, fans have often criticized the developers and Icefrog for not listening to suggestions and feedback as much as we wanted. Well, truth be told, they have been listening, at least when it comes to the gameplay and the rampant cheaters with third-party software.

In 2023, we saw a change in how the Dota 2 dev team operates, notably in how they prioritize updates for the entire community rather than the glitters and exclusive cosmetics locked behind the Battle Pass’ paywall. Many features that have been on many players’ bucket lists finally got implemented, which improves the game’s quality-of-life experiences and a better showcase of one’s profile.

While there are still room for improvements in terms of how Valve should run the Esports side instead of relying on third-party organizers, unfortunately, they have finally abolished the DPC system.

In hindsight, nobody knows whether the Esports scene, now a wild west for any tournament organizer to host their own events, will become. For better or worse, we can only hope that at the end of the ESL Pro Tour (EPT), we will have our leaderboard of the world’s finest teams to compete at the International 2024 once again.

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