Neslyn A. March 21, 2020
Steam as a whole has enjoyed a swell of players since millions of people worldwide began self-isolating to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Dota 2 is no different.
Dota 2 hit a peak player count of more than 700,000 early in the month of March and has had an average of over 415,000 players during the last 30 days, per Steam Charts. These are the best numbers the game has seen since September 2019, after which the game's player count plunged following the closure of The International 2019's battle pass.
Several major cities around the globe have been on lockdown, which has left tens of millions at home with little to do. With a lot of time on their hands, gamers dove into their favorite games. Even some of those who quit Dota 2 seem to found their way back to the game.
The news should be welcome for Dota 2 fans. The game posted worryingly low player counts in January, despite the winter season historically being a strong time for the game. This uptick in Dota 2's player base is expected to continue, as the launch of The International battle pass typically comes in May and sees players become significantly more active as they grind for the associated rewards. Although the current world’s health situation threatens The International 2020, the game itself can still reap the benefits of a battle pass.
This rise has happened despite the cancellations of the ESL One LA Major and the 2020 Epicenter Major.
Are Dota 2 fans playing to save a "dead game"?
Dota 2’s player base peaked in 2015 and 2016, but the game has bounced up and down several times over the years. In 2019, the game enjoyed some of its all-time best numbers thanks to wildly popular mod Dota Auto Chess. The end of the TI9 battle pass and creation of separate, stand-alone auto-battler games in Auto Chess, Dota Underlords, and Teamfight Tactics saw a mass exodus from Dota 2 later in the year.
Dota 2 dropped as low as averaging 378,000 players and peaking at 616,000 in January, mirroring the numbers of Dota 2's days in closed beta. This inspired a viral video made by YouTube content creator Elwono, who cited several issues with Valve's handling of the game. Elwono also called Dota 2 players to save the game by creating memes and talking about it on different social media platforms.
Dota 2 fans took part in the movement. Fans flooded the comment section of YouTube sensation Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, popularly known as Pewdiepie. They encouraged the vlogger to try and review the game.
With or without Pewdiepie, Dota 2 could enjoy a resurgence if Valve can capitalize on this upswing.