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Dota 2

Looking Back on 2022 in DOTA 2

Nikhil Kalro

Along with League of Legends and Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2 has formed the big three of the esports world. That is still the case in 2022, but there are concerns that Dota 2 as a game might be slipping in popularity. Do the math, and it is discernible that this is having an adverse effect on Dota 2 esports as well.

looking back 2022 dota secret

Image Credit: Valve

The slip in popularity isn’t the only issue. There are alternatives like streaming for those who have spent years in competitive Dota 2. This is not just a competitive Dota 2 issue, but a larger issue for the esports industry. Of course, the popularity of video game streaming will also help expose audiences to esports – but the trend is currently heading the other way.

Before expanding on this, it’s important to have a look at how things went off this year.

Recovery Mode

Like most industries, the esports industry has also been figuring itself out in this post-pandemic reality.

Valve had been criticized heavily for their handling of the Dota 2 esports scene, and the cancellation of the Winter Major 2021-2022 was another blow to their reputation as organizers. There was no real clarity from Valve on what the situation around prize pools was going to be, and this led the likes of Wildcard Gaming’s Samuel “Sammyboy” Anderson being very vocal in their displeasure.

Players like Sammyboy have now got the alternative of moving to live streaming, which is a less stressful alternative to competitive Dota 2. Streaming also allows players to be in control of their finances, which makes it an attractive proposition.

The shoddy organization of esports events isn’t an accusation thrown at the likes of Valve alone, but they’ve had a real rough year and players seem to be running out of patience. The lack of communication from Valve was the greatest grievance that players had, and this is something that seems to have been throughout the year.

Concerns Around T11 Viewership

TI11, which is the biggest event in Dota 2 esports, also saw a drop in viewership compared to previous years. TI11 didn’t just see a drop in viewership compared to TI10, but also TI9. This is concerning, because Dota 2 esports was on an upward curve as far as viewership was concerned prior to TI11.

The production values weren’t up to scratch, and the complaints didn’t just come from the fans, but also from teams like Aster. Most notably, soundproofing wasn’t optimal at the event, which led to a general malaise around the tournament.

This is never a great feeling, and there was an air of disgruntlement throughout the tournament from various parties. Part of that must have seeped in from the events from earlier in the year, but to see that seep into the most prestigious tournament in Dota 2 esports was an especially worrying sign.

On the one hand, Dota 2 esports isn’t really in survival mode, with viewership stats better than most other esports, but with esports becoming an exponentially bigger industry every year, it’s important that the games that are synonymous with the industry show the same progress. 

Part of the drop in viewership seems to have come from a decline in the game itself by the looks of things.

Is Dota 2 in Decline?

Janne “Gorgc” Stefanovski, perhaps the most popular Dota 2 streamer, had some choice words for Dota 2 recently. “I would pick up VALORANT or Fortnite right away, you know some simple games, Dota is way too complicated. It is for us nerds who have been playing it for a few years now. We’re too pot-committed to get out,” he said.

This is another issue that Dota 2 and Valve need to be mindful of. There are other options now, and loyalty can only work for so long. Gorgc’s words also influence others who might be trying to get into the game or are thinking of alternatives.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that Dota 2 has been averaging around 450,000 unique players at given time. The decline in the game itself has been taking place since 2016, but that wasn’t the case with the esport. But it was, of course, a matter of time before the game’s decline in popularity would collide with the esports scene.

Dota 2 also hasn’t been able to attract a new audience the way League of Legends has to widen its reach. The Netflix show Dota: Dragon’s Blood has its fans, but it isn’t the sort of hit that Arcane (another Netflix show based on the League of Legends world) was.

Arcane transcended its origins to become one of the most popular shows on Netflix, and one of the best animated shows in the last couple of years. It isn’t imperative that Dota 2 has other properties like a television show become a hit to do well, but it goes to show that the game and its significance within larger pop culture is not what it once was.

Tundra Esports Were the Story of the Year

Away from all the doom and gloom, it’s important to acknowledge the achievements of Tundra Esports, who were participating in TI11 for the first time, and won the big championship by getting the better of Team Secret in the final.

The team was only formed in 2021, but that didn’t stop them from building great chemistry within a short period of time, and taking home $8,383,782 in prize money. They climbed in the rankings from 11th to 1st, and will go into the next year as the team to beat. The TI11 win was also a great moment for their coach Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling; he became the first individual in Dota 2 esports history to win this competition as a player and coach.

They were utterly dominant throughout the competition, and were worthy winners. Team Aster and Team Secret were great in their own right this year, but they weren’t capable of matching Tundra Esports when it came down to it. One of the disappointments this season was Team Liquid, who will need some time to reflect on their performances.

What Does the Future Hold?

One thing that can’t be denied is that despite all the complaints from fans and players, which are often well-intentioned, there are a lot of people who care for this community and this competitive sector of Dota 2.

It is now up to Valve to acknowledge this, and work towards repairing the relationship with the community. There are suggestions that Valve will never take the Riot Games approach, which is tailored towards marketing, but Valve has to realize that the product might be dipping a little bit as well.

This won’t be easy, of course. Dota 2 has a steep learning curve, and this is part of what makes the game so rewarding to those who play it, but there might be something to the reports of people today having shorter attention spans in an extremely busy world. Valve has to do their research on all of this and find a solution that doesn’t compromise the product.

The finger can’t be pointed entirely towards Valve either. The likes of Riot have been accused of monopolizing the esports market by some esports enthusiasts, but this is a weak defense of Dota 2 when it comes down to it.

For now, Dota 2 remains a popular and profitable sector in the esports scene. The likes of Valorant, Fortnite, FIFA, and others have still got a way to go before they can catch up to Dota 2. However, there was a time when it was assumed that Dota 2 catching up with League of Legends was likely, and those days look long gone.

League of League esports has gone from strength to strength, while Dota 2 esports seems to have plateaued, and maybe even stagnated a bit. Next year is going to be massive for Valve. They need to set things right, by fixing some of the issues that the competitive scene currently faces, before looking to advance things.