Dota 2’s player count continues to fall, and that’s bad news for both the game’s fans and Valve.
The reveal of new animated series DOTA: Dragon’s Blood was met warmly by fans who were hopeful that the show might bring in new players or lure back those who had left the game behind. And when this was followed by the long-awaited rollout of an improved new player experience for the game, many felt that big things were on the horizon for Dota 2. The cherry on top of all this was the ONE Esports Singapore Major, the first proper international tournament in Dota 2 in over a year.
All signs pointed towards March being a huge month for Dota 2, but that wasn’t the case for the game itself.
Dota 2’s player count dipped last month, with both its average player count and peak player count dropping from February according to Steam Charts. The game averaged 390,412.8 players and peaked at 648,875 in March, down from 404,832.1 and 651,615. It’s a small decline, but given how much was going on for the game it’s a shock that there’s nothing to show for it as of yet in terms of player count.
The good news for Dota 2 fans is that things are seemingly set to improve slightly in April. The game hit over 670,000 concurrent players on April 4, the highest number since January. There is also a big update that includes a new hero set to arrive on April 9.
The big question moving forward is whether DOTA: Dragon’s Blood and an improved new player experience can help the game actually grow, or if it’s just a matter of slowing down its fade into obsolescence.
DOTA: Dragon’s Blood having a minimal impact on Dota 2’s player count is worrying. The show received generally solid reviews and trended on Netflix, even ranking as the top-watched show in some regions, but hasn’t made an immediate impact on the player count. While the improved new player experience is important for Dota 2’s long-term growth potential, the lack of a short-term increase in interest surrounding Dota 2 is a surprise.
The bigger problem is that Valve continues to struggle with maintaining its established player base.
The blueprint for a popular free-to-play game is already out there. Fortnite, League of Legends, and other top free-to-play games have a steady stream of new content to keep players enticed. This was even seen with Valve’s neglected tactical shooter, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, which hit new player count highs after the return of its Operation events.
If Valve can commit itself to regularly delivering fresh content for the game the way it did in years past, it could see the game actually level off after being on a steady decline since 2016. If Valve continues to keep its focus elsewhere, things are unlikely to change.