The recent Dota 2 Player loss might impact the future of the game. Dota 2 reached a concurrent player count above 1 million for the fourth time in its history. However, it is again returning to a level before, shy of 700,000+ players.
This recent spike in players was due to Valve’s release of The International Swag Bag. They promised, among others, a free non-BP exclusive Arcana. This drew the attention of players that departed from the game. Even though Valve’s strategy was successful, it was short-lived.
The Swag Bag
The Swag Bag was Valve’s first attempt at artificially increasing the player count. The previous 1 million player count occasions were marked by planned events. These events included the New Bloom (Feb-March 2015), Manila Major (March 2016), and the release of Mars (March 2019). The swag bag gave players a taste of what could happen if Valve had a more active disposition toward the community. However, it begs the question: Will there be more of these gimmicks in the future?
Valve has had an interesting relationship with the communities of its games over the years. Members of these communities, and even outsiders, have noticed a hands-off trend with the occasional touch now and then. Before that, however, Valve is very hands-on with their games for a couple of years.
However, they hand over the reins to the community, which is where the occasional touch happens. This hands-on then hands-off approach was apparent in Valve’s other multiplayer game, Team Fortress 2.
Dota is different from Team Fortress, and more similar to CS: GO, in which they both get regular updates from Valve. Furthermore, Dota had attention so close and personal that Gabe Newell himself would appear in content pieces made during The International and even made live appearances in-tournament to kick off the event.
Dota 2 receives more content updates and patches than any other Valve title in recent history. The game received a nomination for the 2022 Steam Awards for Labor of Love. It is the oldest game in that category by 5 months right after Project Zomboid.
Why Call It the Dota 2 Player Loss?
Is it gameplay itself that made the number plateau at 600,000 to 700,000 players? That would be improper, as updates are frequent even with the inconsistency of the release date.
Reworks, map changes and new heroes come out, sometimes even without announcement like the release of Primal Beast. It is also disingenuous to blame Valve completely for the steady decline of players since players themselves can be attributed to the negative trend.
Rampant toxicity in all skill brackets creates an unfavorable environment for new players or those who want to have casual fun.
Even for the head developer of Dota, Icefrog, this toxicity was too much. The negativity Icefrog received after a blog post they made convinced them to lessen direct interaction with the community after.
Despite this, there are many attempts from prominent community members to make Dota an inviting place again. While uncoordinated, pro players and high MMR streamers have begun cropping up, and content creation for the game has seen more attention from social media algorithms.
This is good news, as Valve has made very little effort in having marketing strategies to attract new players into the game. Any marketing Dota receives comes heavily from content creators that try their hand at the game with friends, or dedicated channels that post Dota content consistently for a long time.
The future of Dota’s player count is unwell, but that does not mean it will die out anytime soon. With almost a million concurrent players, a passionate community, and continuous developer support, Dota 2 will make its way into the years to come.