Since its release back in 2013, Dota 2 has remained one of the biggest and most successful MOBA games, drawing in thousands upon thousands of new players each year, however, it seems like Valve's prized game is going through tough times as it battles to keep its player base, which last month hit the lowest count since December 2013.
Very few games can boast with the success Dota 2 has had since its launch in both the esports scene and in its ability to sustain a massive player count over the last eight years. But while the Dota 2 competitive scene still reigns supreme above all other esports titles in terms of its prize pool, its player count has seen some better days.
Dota 2 player count reached an all-time high back in February 2016, when we saw an average of 709,178 active players in the game, while the peak number for that month showed 1,262,612. Since then, however, its player base has been on a steady decline, as it never managed to surpass 700,000 average player count in any given month.
Between January 2016 and February 2017 Dota 2 saw a boom in the number of active players, keeping the peak numbers at over 1 million for 13-months straight, however, the average player count has seen a massive drop from 709,178 in February 2016 down to only 591,567 in February 2017.
Since March 2017, Dota 2 peak player count has constantly failed to reach 1 million, with the sole exception being March 2019 when Dota 2 unveiled Mars as the new champion, which boosted the average player count to 586,505 and peaked at 1,033,925.
From March 2019 onwards, however, the player count continued to drop from 586,505 to under 500,000 in July and just recently reached a new low at just 382,861, which is the lowest it has been since December 2013, when Dota 2 averaged 366,606 players and had a peak player base at 685,503.
Keeping players interested in Dota 2 been a constant struggle for Valve, who are doing their best to retain its players but to no avail. Their updates and releases of new champions seemingly manage to lure people back, however, as soon as the hype dies down, Dota 2 returns to its old ways. That is, unfortunately, a cycle Dota 2 has been in for the last two-three years.
If we look at the player count and its decline throughout 2019, the numbers show:
|Month||Average player base||% change|
As seen, the average player base has declined drastically since the start of 2019, and considering the average of last 30 days sits at only 382,861 (subject to change), it's safe to say Dota 2 is not enjoying the most promising start of the year.
What exactly drives the players away from Dota 2 is anyone's guess, but there have been plenty of complaints about the game, most notably with the MMR system, which was addressed by the former Dota 2 pro Ylli "garter" Ramadani, who talked about Dota 2 flaws in his announcement where he unveiled he is retiring from Dota 2 competitive scene.
While answer as of why more and more players decide to leave Dota 2 remains a huge mystery, we can be sure the repercussion of that trend will have serious consequences on the future of this highly-successful MOBA and its esports scene.
Most notably, this will cause problems in matchmaking, especially for those who are among the highest-ranked players, who had long queues when searching for a match, to begin with. However, those issues will not only occur in the higher MMR matches but will sooner or later spread to the lower-ranked matches as well, which will ultimately frustrate newer players, who might quit the game before giving it a proper chance.
Then there is also a problem with smurfing. Considering higher rated players will have a tough time finding games, they will decide to create "smurf" accounts, for the sole purpose of having a chance to play the game without long queues. That, however, will eventually lead to lower-ranked players quitting the game as they would be forced to play against significantly better players, thus making their experience with Dota 2 unpleasant, to say the least.
Out of all the questions we have here, however, the biggest one is:
How will Valve address the issues, stabilize its player count and conclusively make their game better?
The answer to this question might be a bit more complicated as it seems, as there is no obvious fix that would make players return to the game, and it’s safe to assume the root of the problem is deeply embedded into the game itself.
The continuous decline in the player base can and will also have huge repercussions in the Dota 2 esports scene as well. The lack of popularity won't only cause a decrease in the number of new talent joining the competitive scene, but will also make the competitive scene less appealing for sponsorships, which could result in Dota 2 tournaments offering significantly smaller prize pools.
Despite the decline of Dota 2 player count, this is by no means the end of the road for one of the most successful game titles in history, as we can be certain Valve will sooner or later find the solution for this issue and keep the game in a healthy state.
That being said, they might reconsider their strategy, considering the release of new champions and the Outlander's update failed to have any significant long-term effect on their player count.
Written by KrajnikT
Tit Krajnik (KrajnikT) is an esports writer for onlineesports.com, where he reports news, features and writes other content related to the players, teams, industry and the esports scene as a whole.
He has previously worked as a news and betting-related articles writer in the "traditional" sports scene but later opted to turn his attention to esports, where he managed to combine his love for video games and the growing esports industry with his work.
Krajnik has started his journey as an esports writer by covering Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends, which he also played since its launch, but later broaden his skill-set to include other major esports titles including Dota 2, Fortnite, Apex Legends, Overwatch, Rainbow 6 Siege and Call of Duty.