Dota 2 Lost A Ton Of Players In September

Dota 2 Lost A Ton Of Players In September

So here's an interesting statistic: Dota 2, Valve's hugely popular MOBA game, lost almost 16 per cent of its active players in September -- the same month that the game's long-awaited and much-hyped "Reborn" update finally went live for all players.

Dota data (try saying that five times fast!) is easily available on Steamcharts, a third-party site that, like many such sites for MOBA enthusiasts, pulls information from Steam's API and assembles into it more detailed charts and graphs than those offered by Valve. First noted by a member of the influential gaming forum NeoGAF, the site just a sharp drop in Dota 2's active users from an average of 606,944 in August to 510,522 in September:

Dota 2 Lost A Ton Of Players In September

I should point out that Dota 2's player-base dropped in a similar way during the summer-to-fall transition the last few years as well. Never by such a large percentage, however. Here's 2014 -- when it dropped around 2.6 per cent in September:

Dota 2 Lost A Ton Of Players In September

2013, 5.5 per cent:

Dota 2 Lost A Ton Of Players In September

It grew in 2012...but that was so early in the game's life that it's hard to make much of:

Dota 2 Lost A Ton Of Players In September

Why the sudden, sharp drop? It's tempting to see Dota 2 Reborn as the explanation. As many players have griped, Reborn launched with a lot of bugs and performance issues. Scanning through the popular Dota 2 subreddit and the game's Steam forums over the past few weeks, it's hard to miss numerous complaints about technical issues both with the game itself and the revamped (and, to be fair, very good looking) client. People have complained about the game constantly crashing, finding certain heroes unplayable post-update, even saying that it's "a lot harder" to "click on stuff" in-game "since reborn." Here's one meme I came across this morning poking fun at Icefrog, the game's lead designer, for instance:

Dota 2 Lost A Ton Of Players In September

While anecdotal evidence makes Reborn's performance issues a compelling candidate, it's not the only explanation for why Dota 2 suddenly took a turn for the less-popular. Talking to Dota 2 players today, I've heard three other viable theories as well:

  1. People might have simply stopped playing Dota 2 for now since it's the beginning of the fall season. That means that students are all going back to school, people are returning from their August vacations, and everyone's generally busier in many countries where Dota is popular. This certainly fits with the September drop in 2014 and 2013 -- though, again, the drop wasn't as big either of those years.
  2. Dota 2's biggest eSports event, The International, concluded in August, meaning that there's less interest in the game right now. Dota 2's competitors League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm both have exciting things (like the League of Legends World Championship, or the recently-concluded Heroes of the Storm Americas finals and the upcoming Blizzcon tournament), that could be pulling MOBA fans' attention away from Valve's game.
  3. Dota 2 players are feeling burnt out from the fact that the game hasn't received a major gameplay update (or, at least, one that was generally well-liked by the community) since April 2015. The next major update is expected to be coming soon, along with a new playable character, so people could be taking a break and waiting until that happens.

While the first two theories are legitimate, I find the third one most convincing. In my experience playing and covering MOBAs, eSports events might spur interest in watching the games, but new content and gameplay updates are the things that actually get the masses to keep playing them.

Regardless of the specific reason, it's important to note that Dota 2 players leaving the game after the Reborn update is the opposite of what most people expected to happen. There was an incredible amount of hype prior to Reborn's official launch. Players were raving about how awesome the new-and-improved client was going to be. Envious of all the nice things Dota 2 players were supposed to be getting, League of Legends players threatened to leave the game en-masse. Whether or not League players stopped playing Riot's game, they clearly haven't all migrated to Dota 2.

We'll keep track of Dota 2's player activity in the coming weeks and months to see if this recent downturn starts to reverse itself, or if it becomes a more permanent shift.


    Wasn't this the update which moved it onto Source Engine 2? Perhaps the system requirements are now too high for 90,000 players

      Source 2 is supposed to actually runs better on older machines than Source 1.

      It could be that not everyone had the data to download the new client.

      Last edited 01/10/15 1:42 pm

        It runs better at lower settings but there are still a lot of performance hitches for people with older machines. It's a real pain.

        Reborn was not ready to come out of beta.

          True but there simply weren't enough Beta testers for Valve to fix any bugs in Reborn so they had to force us to play it. It took me an average of around 5 minutes to find a match while it was in Beta.

      yes actually, thats exactly what happened, everyone had to download the client, and some cant run it

      Actually, the system requirements havent effected many people at all. Yes some people are claiming to have crashes now, but thats to be expected since they just rolled it out. From what i've read, Source 2 seems to improve the performance on most systems including much older systems.

    Yep. I like this theory. I know a ton of poor people that no longer play Planetside 2 since it's minimum requirements jumped to having a 64-bit system. Yes, everyone should already have one, but we don't live in a computing utopia.
    Very different games, I know, but some people make the most of what they have. If they don't have the hardware, they simply can't keep playing, so they look for games they can.

      I play on an older computer and Source 2 improved the game for me. It was designed to incorporate slower computers but there are still a lot of bugs that can make the game annoying. For example when playing Pub matches (unranked) if I choose my hero within the last 10 seconds of selection so that I cant be counter-picked then the game lags out and I disconnect.

    Dota 2 players are feeling burnt out from the fact that the game hasn’t received a major gameplay update (or, at least, one that was generally well-liked by the community) since April 2015.

    Just a correction, it received a major balancing patch on the 24th.

      And 6.85 finally killed off toxic techies too. It's a good time to play except the broken game queues where you can get queue with high level players that is not your level.

        I dunno about that.... I run a gaming cafe and Techies still gets picked a lot here, heck I use Techies most of the time myself. His lower damage mines cost 50% less mana and cool down so if you were to place 3 mines before, you can place 6 mines in the same time and mana cost for same damage. In fact me and my friend who is another techies player have not had to change our tactics because land mines are for early games only and our bread and butter are Remote mines and stun mines. But now due to unlimited land mines they are actually useful late game, with octarine core you can place a mine every 3.75 seconds so you can easily place 40-50 mines in various choke points, 13000 damage is pretty hard to take even for high hp and physical damage resistance heroes. The enemy can use gem, sentry or zeus but if you have competent team mates they usually do their part in dewarding and killing gem carriers so overall within my section of players we believe that techies actually got buffed. But I dont play much, my mmr is only 2860 so thats only my noob opinion.

    6.85 is not a major balance patch by any stretch, its a minor patch to make some much needed balance changes before the Frankfurt tournament. The next major patch will be after that tournament.

    So far, it feels like the Reborn client is closer to being a Stillborn Client. Way too buggy

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