Dota 2 is a MOBA by Valve that was released in April 2013. With certain exceptions, ever since it was released on Steam it glided through to the top of the steam charts without any hassle and stayed there. March 2016 saw the game amassing 1.29 million concurrent gamers playing the game. But from there it was all a downhill ride. The game slowly started losing players and started losing to PUBG and even CS:GO. In the last month of March 2020, Dota 2 peaked at around 750,000 players while CS:GO reached new milestones at about 1.2 million concurrent players, almost 60% more than that of Dota.
The reasons accounting for the decline of playerbase being the increasing complexity of the game after every update and lack of new stuff to get players engaged with the game. Now I’d be preaching to the choir if I said that Icefrog isn’t doing a good job to implement new stuff in the game. He is doing a terrific job in bringing new changes to the map and changing the way heroes are typically played by adding huge changes in every patch, especially the ones after every TI. However, this further increases the complexity of the game and newbies tend to get frustrated when the game they spend so much time learning is changed drastically by a single update. Without a steady flow of new players, it’d only seem obvious that the game will gradually lose its player count and eventually die out.
We, along with millions of other fans of the game don’t want this to happen. Dota is a title that has defined an era of MOBAs in the world, seeing it die out would be heart-breaking for any person whose childhood was made up of this game. So we came up with a list of potential things Valve could do that might end up saving this game.
A Campaign based on lore
The lore behind Dota 2 is huge. The backstory of a single hero in Dota is bigger than entire storylines of many video games. However, the lores of the heroes aren’t really focused on much in the game. Players are left in the dark from the interesting stories of the heroes they play. This can be fixed by adding a single-player or co-op campaign to the game. Not only it will attract lots of other players who exclusively play single-player games, but it’ll also be a nice stress-relief for people who get heated by the extremely competitive environment of the game. It can also act as a potential tutorial for beginners, which we’ll get to later.
Item drops are something that were actually present in the game long ago. People could get marketable cosmetics for heroes, even Arcanas which cost over 30$ each just by playing the game. Although the item drops are still present, the drops you get by playing can neither be traded nor be sold in the market. The decline of players in the game might be a direct result of this change made by Valve as some occasional posts still come up on platforms like Reddit where players ask for the old item drop system to be reimplemented. The adrenalin rush from receiving a 30$ cosmetic just by playing a single game might just be enough to get players engaged to the game.
Valve has almost always lost to Riot in terms of advertising. They simply don’t put as much emphasis on advertising Dota as Riot does to League, and this has started posing some serious problems. The absence of advertising cuts the flow of new players to the game, which goes through a loop to make the queue times insanely high on the highest levels of Dota. The butterfly effect is well explained in this post on Reddit.
Fans of the franchise have raised their voices on the lack of marketing by Valve in spite of the huge amount of money they’re making through battle pass sales. Breaking this loop would require bringing new players to the game, and advertising the game through YouTube ads or on websites will efficiently do the trick.
Animated Series / Movies
Once again, the humongous lore of Dota 2 leaves plenty of room for an animated series similar to League, or perhaps a movie? There’s already plenty of storyline to proceed with it, and a series or movie will work wonders in advertisement of the game. There’s already a movie about Warcraft, so the same concept for Dota can certainly be possible. The idea of an animated series also sprung up on Reddit recently, as u/L4wr3nc31 mentions in this post.
A better tutorial
It’s undeniable that the Dota 2 tutorial is subpar at best. The tutorial gives new players only a basic idea of what the game is about. The small tutorial isn’t nowhere close to being enough to give players the information about the hundreds of items and heroes the game possesses. A lot of improvement can still be made on it to get players attracted to the game. The length of the tutorial also needs to be increased to accommodate room for all the complex mechanics that are left out in the current tutorial. Newbies tend to jump into unranked directly after finishing this incomplete tutorial and get destroyed by more experienced players, discouraging them from pursuing the game further.
The smurf problem
Boosters and smurfs throughout history have played vital roles in ruining games, and this problem is especially notable in Dota 2. As mentioned in the loop earlier, lack of new players flowing into the game eventually results in exceptionally high queue times for higher-ranked pubs, forcing some impatient players to create new accounts and stomp newbies in lower-ranked games. While there probably can’t be a complete solution to fix the smurf problem in a free-to-play game, Valve can surely take steps to minimize the number of smurfs and boosters in the game by preventing them from getting matched with new players. One such concept was mentioned by Elwono in his detailed YouTube video.
Previously, Valve mentioned that they had plans for a revised “New Player Experience”, and since they are infamous for surprising their fans by announcing new content out of nowhere, we might certainly see something good in the upcoming months. Also, the International being just around the corner gives Valve even more reasons to bring something new to the table.