While everyone began hedging their bets on the auto-battler genre in 2019, it seems that maybe the whole thing was just a flash in the pan.
Out of all the strange, weird occurrences in 2019 I doubt anyone thought that the popularity of Chess would grow so exponentially within the sphere of video games. Well, I say Chess but it was…well, I don’t know really know how to describe an auto-battler other than…it’s like tower defense version of chess? I guess? In any case, Auto-Chess saw a huge surge of popularity in 2019 in large part due to the mod of Dota 2 which really took off with streamers around the world. Having noted the success of such a low-budget mod, Valve does what it always has and develops the mod into its own game, calling it Dota Underlords. Competing against similar titles such as Riot’s Teamfight Tactics and more recently Hearthstone’s Battlegrounds, it seemed that the auto-battler was about to be the next big thing.
Yet maybe everyone was a little too hasty to jump on the bandwagon, as Valve is probably noticing that Dota Underlords isn’t exactly performing to the standard it was in 2019. With data available on Steam Charts, it looks as Dota Underlord’s peak player count has dropped by 90%. In June of 2019, Underlords had a concurrent player base of 200,000 which has fallen to a measly 15,000 in the last day or two. The average player count is just over 11,000, so maybe have already grown tired of the auto-battler. Or maybe they’ve just moved on over to Teamfight Tactics, which has reportedly been doing very well according to Riot’s numbers published in September of last year, with a monthly playerbase of 33 million. Although that was four months ago, so anything could have happened between then and now.
This seems to follow a trend for Valve as it was recently noted that Dota 2 had it its lowest average player count since 2014 and we don’t even need to bring up the disaster that was Artifact. While I don’t think it spells doom and gloom for Valve, it is interesting to see how players are reacting to their attempts to maintain relevancy as the years go by. What’s even more interesting is that Dota Underlords hasn’t been monetised in any way at the moment, meaning Valve hasn’t really been making money off of the product. Maybe some good ol’ fashioned skins will be enough to turn it around.
Last Updated: January 7, 2020