It cannot be denied that Dota 2 remains one of the most successful esports games in the world. The proof, The International always breaks the record for the largest number of prizes in the world every year. Not only that, even though it was officially launched eight years ago, Dota 2 still has monthly active players of up to hundreds of thousands of people.
The Story of DOTA 2
Aeon of Strife
Actually, this all started from Aeon of Strife. Everybody knows this game as the first MOBA game. This game became very popular so that Blizzard put it into Warcraft 3. When you play this game, the feel will not be the same as you play the other MOBA games that exist today. However, basically that game still has the same gameplay concept with the other MOBA game. For instance, the main purpose of Aeon of Strife is also destroying the enemy’s base. In addition, you will also find three lanes on the map. However, the one that make it different is the amount of member. Aeon of Strife consist of four members. Moreover, the enemy to face is AI, not the real players like the other MOBA game.
Defense of the Ancients (DotA)
If MOBA game came from Aeon of Strife, Defense of the Ancient (DotA) is the beginning of the formation of DOTA 2. Similar with Aeon of Strife, DotA is also a mod. DotA was created by Kyle “Eul” Sommer for Warcraft 3. DotA mod is very similar to DOTA 2 game that exists now. There are also five members in one team. The winner team is a team that can destroy the enemy’s base, first. Even though DotA is quite popular, Eul decided to leave it. Eul tried to create a sequel of DotA itself. Unfortunately, he failed. At the end, Eul handed over ownership of dota to Valve.
The success of the DotA mod inspired many people to create similar games. Of all the games that appeared, only DotA: Allstars was successful. DotA: Allstars is also made by a modder, namely Steve “Guinsoo” Feak. Later, this game became the basis for Dota 2 as we know it today. In fact, Allstars is also often considered the original DotA. The reason is that the game is not only the basis of Dota 2, but is also used in professional matches.
After the success of Allstars, Guinsoo and Steve “Pendragon” Mescon — who created the DotA community center — decided to get into Riot Games and help them grow League of Legends. They left DotA: Allstars in the hands of IceFrog. In the history of Dota 2, IceFrog has an important role. Granted, he didn’t create Allstars from scratch or overhaul the game, rather, he was the one who created new content for Allstars after Guinsoo and Mescon left. Not only that, he also ensures that the Allstars gameplay remains balanced and that no characters are overpowered.
At that time, DotA’s success was purely thanks to the fans. The game was made by fans and made it big because of fans. However, things changed when League of Legends was launched in 2009 and Heroes of Newerth in 2010. The release of these two games showed that the MOBA genre has great potential. If DotA wants to exist and be able to compete with other MOBA games, it needs help from big game companies.
In 2009, IceFrog with Valve started to make a game. At that time, everyone knew that Valve was collaborating with IceFrog to make a MOBA game. However, Valve recently revealed that the MOBA game they were developing was Dota 2 in 2010. One year later, in 2011, Valve released a beta version of Dota 2. Before that, they also provided access to several media. The beta version of Dota 2 received a positive response from the beta testers.
Problem started when Valve registered the word “DOTA” as a trademark in 2012. The decision marked the beginning of Valve’s legal battle with Blizzard in the coming months. Blizzard is not trying to register the word “DOTA” as a trademark. However, according to them, DotA, Dota: DOTA, and Defense of the Ancients are part of Warcraft. Blizzard argued, saying DOTA has always been associated with Warcraft. They also mentioned that, as a mod for Warcraft 3, DOTA is based on the mechanics of the game made by Blizzard.
Even though it took several months, the legal battle between Valve and Blizzard was finally resolved. The two of them decided that they could equally use a variant of the name “Defense of the Ancients” according to their individual needs. Valve will use the Dota name for their commercial products, including the Dota 2 game they are currently developing. Meanwhile, when Blizzard uses the word Dota, it refers to the maps players created for Warcraft 3 and Starcraft 2.
Valve hosted the first The International in 2011, in conjunction with Gamescom. Interestingly, at that time, Dota 2 had not been officially launched and was still in the beta stage. So, why did Valve create The International? As a marketing tool. Valve provided a total prize pool of US$1.6 million, making TI the biggest prize-winning esports tournament of its time. With this, Valve hopes they can introduce Dota 2 to the wider community.
Valve launched Dota 2 on Steam in July 2013. This made the number of Dota 2 players skyrocket. In June 2013, the average number of Dota 2 players only reached 210 thousand people. This figure rose to 237 thousand people in July 2013 and to 330.7 thousand people in August 2013. This year, Valve also started crowdfunding to increase the total prize pool from The International. Valve’s tactic was a success. The total prize pool for The International 2013 was US$2.8 million, US$1.2 million more than the previous two tournaments.
The average number of Dota 2 players peaked again in April 2020, reaching 430 thousand people. The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the reasons why the number of Dota 2 players has increased in the first quarter of 2020. Meanwhile, throughout history, the trend for the number of peak players from Dota 2 has also been the same as the trend for the average number of players. The record for the most peak players was recorded in March 2016. At that time, the number of peak players reached 1.29 million people.
Many years after its launch, Dota 2 is still played by thousands of people around the world. This proves Valve’s success in keeping Dota 2 popular. Developing an esports ecosystem is one way for them to realize this. Even though The International’s audience numbers are still less than that of the League of Legends World Championship, TI’s huge prize pool has never failed to attract the attention of the public and the media.