Ever since the Dota 2 Gamescom tournament was announced — creating huge buzz in the esports scene — I’ve been carefully considering if Dota 2 will be a success both in Singapore, Asia and internationally. While the original Dota was hugely popular here, it does not follow that Dota 2 will automatically enjoy the same success. Here are three reasons why I think Dota 2 might fail to gain traction with gamers.
1. Dota 2 could divide the community
The recently released Gamescom trailer is a very good sign that, at least at launch, Dota 2 will be more of the same. Despite the graphical update and not having played Dota for almost three years, I had almost no issue identifying most of the heroes which appeared in the trailer. This deliberate design decision and art direction implies that Valve’s focus was to maintain continuity between Dota and Dota 2. Lead developer IceFrog more or less confirmed this in his answers to questions from the PlayDota.com community.
According to IceFrog, Dota 2 has been kept up to date with the latest version of Dota Allstars and there are no major differences between the two games. The only changes have been minor correction of bugs that were the result of the limitations of the Warcraft III game engine that the original Dota ran on.
While the game mechanics might be the same, this does not necessarily mean that Dota 2 will feel the same as the original Dota. Valve’s attempt to update Counter-Strike 1.6 for the Source engine serves as the perfect example. While Counter-Strike: Source kept to the same formula that made CS 1.6 so popular, the change in weapon fire, in-game physics and movement caused by the Source engine caused the feel of the game to change drastically. Ultimately, the Counter-Strike community, forced to choose between the two games, split into two weaker, smaller communities. If Valve isn’t careful, the same could happen to Dota 2.
2. Valve may not commit enough to Dota 2
Putting up US$1.6 million in cash for the prize pool of Dota 2’s debut tournament might seem like a strong message of commitment to the game and to the community from Valve, but balancing a game and building a community is not something that can be accomplished in four days. It will take years of time, money and engineering resources to develop content that will keep the game fresh and the community hyped for more.
The good news is that Valve is no stranger to supporting its games in the long run; Team Fortress 2 is almost four years old, still receives major content updates and has a vibrant community to match. The bad news is that TF2 also shows where Valve has failed: they’ve only made token efforts at tweaking the game for competitive play, causing the competitive community to stagnate and die off.
Furthermore, while Valve might be a top-notch game developer, they have relatively little experience managing the competitive community that is so central to Dota. Blizzard has had regular big-ticket tournaments at its annual Blizzcon for years now, and they are actively involved in the GSL professional StarCraft II franchise in South Korea. Valve seems to be aiming to replicate at least part of SC2‘s success in the esports arena with Dota 2; whether they will be successful is unknown at this stage.
3. Dota 2 may not able to compete against other free games
Dota 2 is in the unique position of having to compete against its predecessor… which, at this point, costs absolutely nothing to play since most people already have Warcraft III. Making matters worse, two popular Dota clones, League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth are free-to-play. It’s very difficult to compete against free, and it’s unclear if Dota has achieved the kind of blockbuster status where people will pay any price to play the game. If Dota 2 is too expensive, most people might just decide to continue playing the original Dota, or give LoL or HoN a try instead.
Of course, Valve could make Dota 2 free-to-play too…
On a personal level, I hope Dota 2 will be a big success. Dota is one of the few games which Singapore excels at and have made our mark, with several Singapore teams winning major international tournaments. In addition, I have strong faith in Valve as game developers and trust that they will produce yet another quality game.
Do you think that Dota 2 will be a success? Or do you think it will fail? Let me know in the comments!