Dota 2, of all games, looks to be on the rise again thanks to a player-created mode. The new mode is called "Auto Chess" and puts the focus more on strategy than reflexes, a welcome change for many fans. And while Auto Chess is bringing back the bulk of players, another helper comes in the form of Blizzard's sudden announcement to end esports support for Heroes of the Storm. With a fresh new mode and one less rival to worry about, Dota 2 is poised for a comeback.
Back before this current age of battle royales, the gaming world's attention was largely focused on MOBAs, Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas. Games like Dota 2 and League Of Legends actually did a lot to popularize the idea of games that don't charge upfront and instead profit from cosmetics. They also did a lot to establish esports with many livestreamed events and huge international tournaments. So it's no surprise that during that time, Dota 2 was Steam's most popular game.
Then the PUBG nation attacked.
In 2016, GitHyp reports, Dota 2 could reach over a million concurrent players. Then PUBG burst onto the scene and captured Steam users' hearts. Despite its many bugs and documented history of issues during tournaments, PUBG is still so popular that it won 2018's Steam Game of Year. Meanwhile, Dota 2 has been struggling to maintain over 400,000 players.
While 400k players isn't anything to scoff at, it's still a far cry from being Steam's #1 game. However, the latest numbers are showing a rise in Dota 2 players, with 200k frequently playing the new map Auto Chess.
Auto Chess was created by Chinese developer Drodo Games, and puts players on an 8x8 field that resembles a chess board. The smaller battlefield also comes with different settings that put emphasis on unit placement and resource management. This makes Auto Chess more of a strategy game than standard Dota 2, which prizes fast thinking and even faster reflexes.
It turns out that a good number of fans like this new take on MOBAs, enough to boost Dota 2's player count from January's 491k to the current 573k. It's still nowhere near #1, but it is approaching those healthy 2016 numbers.
And while Auto Chess can take most of the credit, Dota 2 got some unlikely help from Blizzard. The recent announcement that Blizzard is canceling major Heroes of the Storm events and pulling developers from the game was essentially asking its following to leave. With few places to go to get that MOBA fix, many players probably went to Dota 2. Just in time to try out the exciting new Auto Chess.
While it's too early to make bold claims like Dota 2 is taking back the throne, especially when battle royale just got a huge jolt in Apex Legends, it is nice to see the game going strong again.