While DOTA 2 lives in the unique space of being League of Legends’ only true competition in the MOBA landscape [arguably], with the world championship in contention this very moment, are people watching DOTA 2 more because of the game itself, or the 10 million dollar prize pool?
Upon writing this article, professional gaming takes the cake on Twitch.TV, one of the primary outlets for game streaming throughout the world. At any given moment nearly 200,000 people will be watching League of Legends, even as we sit now in the midst of the Evolution 2014 fighting game tournament. DOTA 2 can compete with those figures right now, but we’re sitting in the middle of “The International,” DOTA 2’s world championship playoffs. This being true, DOTA 2 still doesn’t truly meet League’s figures, falling short by nearly 70,000 viewers.
League of Legends has a strong following, with a lesser prize purse, and enjoys more viewers during their regular season than DOTA 2 can muster during the playoffs. After four seasons of professional gaming, it’s easy to see why Riot Games’ MOBA title takes the lead, but what will it take for us to care about DOTA 2 more than League of Legends? Conversely, how can DOTA 2 pick up the hype to surpass League of Legends’ 32 million ‘Grand Finals’ viewers last year?
DOTA 2 is built and moderated by Valve to be the spiritual successor of the original MOBA, Defense of the Ancients. This Warcraft 3 custom game was built much more simply than DOTA 2 or League of Legends. While DOTA 2 expanded on the principals of DotA, and built on the successful stratagem of Riot’s title, they may have come to the game too late with a formula that isn’t varied enough for the people to truly love and get behind it. Like Arena League football to the NFL, DOTA 2 takes a back seat even as this year’s prize purse is ten times that of League of Legend’s Grand Finals. Professional gamers love DOTA 2 for the money, and the community funded The International tournament, but without community viewer support, DOTA 2 may never break out in the professional gaming scene.
What makes a sporting game for the viewing public relates back to a few factors – exciting turns in the action, game play that is easy to understand but difficult to master, and original content. The disadvantage that DOTA 2 faces against League of Legends lies in that their product is not original enough to justify a strong following. DOTA 2 enjoys moderate success in the same way that Smite, Infinite Crisis, and Heroes of Newerth do. All of these titles are very similar in their design – kill minions, acquire gold, buy items, destroy towers. This model, though it was created in Warcraft 3, was perfected and popularized by Riot Games’ League of Legends, turning all others into imitators and only moderately interesting to those invested in League. DOTA 2 enjoys the most robust of this moderate popularity because it is one of Valve’s signature free-to-play titles, and as Valve owns the world’s largest share of the English speaking PC game sales market, it’s natural to see any game they make become popular.
What DOTA 2 needs, or maybe “DOTA 3,” is to change the game from the standard format in order to bring the title to the forefront. Maybe at 10 million dollar prize purse could attract the best talent, which may attract more viewers, but that’s a gamble against Riot Games’ dedicated fans who can watch their favorite champions that they’ve known and loved for years in open competition. Though DOTA 2 is taking a fine chunk of the action, it seems as though their market share will be easily beaten out in the long run, and their second-place share will be chipped away by Blizzard in the coming months.
Blizzard is going to change the atmosphere in the MOBA space, and with an equally competitive client, featuring all of the extremely popular Blizzard titles, as well as a history in eSports, Heroes of the Storm has a real chance at fighting off not only DOTA 2, but League of Legends itself. DOTA 2 feels like a re-hash of Riot’s successful formula, but Heroes of the Storm features varied and balanced map styles, dropping the reliance on a single map for professional level play. Heroes features familiar characters, allowing for players to invest themselves in the fight on a more personal level – something that lacks severely in DOTA 2. Game play in Heroes will also actually be EASIER than that of League of Legends and DOTA 2, allowing players for an easy entrance, but a competitive environment remains.
The question that remains for DOTA 2, why are we playing. Why are we watching? Without a huge variance in the game against League, and without a marketplace touting DOTA 2, why do we care? If not for a 10 million dollar prize pool, do you care about DOTA 2? Sound off in the comments below, and let us know what you think about the future of DOTA 2 and eSports.