Dota 2 hits lowest player count since January 2014

It seems like Dota might be hitting a rough patch.

Image via Valve

Very few games can sustain a massive player count like Dota 2 has over the last eight years. But since the game peaked at 1,064,377 players in September of 2016, it has been a battle to keep the numbers from slowly falling off.

Overall, 2019 was a strong year for Dota. The game managed to break the one million player mark again for the first time in three years. But with the start of 2020, however, those numbers are continuing to dip. Dota 2 has logged its lowest player count since it hit 673,496 in January of 2014. 

Over the last 30 days, the average player count has fallen below 385,000 and the peak player count has continued to drop, reaching 627,790—the lowest total since the gradual rise that started at the end of 2013.

Valve has constantly struggled to keep players around and playing the game with big patches and new characters always bringing people back. The cycle has continued for the better part of three years and has seen the average concurrent player count settle at a median of around 480,000 from the start of 2017 until now. 

But even though that’s still a lot of players coming back every day to play Dota, it shows that there are some serious issues regarding the content of the game if that number continues to rise and fall that often. 

Here are the exact numbers from the peak of March up until the end of December last year from Steam Charts

Month (2019)Average Player CountPeak Player Count
March586,505.81,033,925
April520,219.0971,545
May548,523.2997,341
June507,528.4865,374
July464,787.6779,160
August467,148.3826,690
September421,971.2753,996
October388,355.9739,924
November401,931.8708,517
December384,179.8685,165

The numbers have slowly trailed off as the year progressed, with a few bumps causing the numbers to stabilize overall. But with the last 30 days showing a continual decline, it doesn’t spell a strong start to the year for Dota. 

Many of the problems going on in the Dota community can stem from the decrease in players; without players the matchmaking time will get worse in the higher levels of ranked and will force more players to make smurf accounts to consistently find games. This will eventually cause newer players to grow frustrated and quit, making the problem worse and artificially keeping the player count up due to constant smurfing. 

If the numbers keep falling, the creative people in the community that make content like videos or workshop add-ons could also be pushed to leave, which could then cause streamers and YouTubers who cater to the players to move on too. 

If Valve doesn’t do something to stabilize and improve Dota 2, then the player base and community will break apart, which will then start the slow decline of viewership and advertising opportunities for the competitive circuit. This feels reminiscent of Team Fortress 2 and how things have gone for that game after Valve seemingly moved on to work on other projects with a few updates bringing some people back.

Hopefully for Dota 2 fans, Valve will do something to keep the game in a healthy state. But if the Outlander’s Update and two new heroes couldn’t bring people back, then it might be time for a different strategy altogether.