A veteran in the industry, Dota 2 has been around since 2013 as a Steam exclusive. Thanks to it, the MOBA subgenre suddenly skyrocketed, and a new interest was born for multiplayer online battle arenas.
Dota 2 centers around five versus five matches where players have to protect their base and the “Ancient” located inside it. Each player controls a powerful character called Hero (and there are 122 of them!) who comes with their set of skills. To fulfill their objective, each team will have to fight the other team’s heroes and utterly destroy them if they want to gain access to their Ancient. Each Hero always starts at level 1 and earns more experience during the game, unlocking more abilities in the process. To balance the stakes and avoid brainless gameplay involving spamming, the game limits the use of those abilities via mana points and a delay between each use.
The title features different variations of the core gameplay, such as “Captain’s Mode,” where only one player will be authorized to select the characters their team will have to use, or “All Random” with the suggestive name. Recognized for its production value and highly strategic gameplay, Dota2 is famous for its steep learning curve, requiring patience and determination if you are a newbie. The game is free to play, and Valve generates profits through battle loot boxes and a battle pass subscription.
So, what can Dota 2 statistics and facts say about an 8-year-old game seemingly still thriving?
Dota 2 user stats
Boy, oh boy, and how hard it is not to notice them. The Dota community is a pretty dominating one in the industry. Fortnite or League of Legends now rivals them, but after almost ten years, the players are still going strong for their favorite game. A lot even grew older alongside the game, and some (a lot) show hours of gaming way above the low thousands.
1. Based on a big survey conducted on Reddit, the majority in the community is male with 93.5%, while women represent 3.5%.
The largest age group in 2021 is 22-25 (23.8%) followed by the 26-30 with 31.2%.
The youngest professional players are 16-year-old, while the oldest is 33-year-old and yes, it is just the one.
In China, the average age in the Dota 2 community is 28.5. 57% of players are male while 43% are female. In both groups, the 21-35 age group is the dominant one (34% for men and 28% for women). Surprisingly, in both cases still, the 36-50 group is more engaged in the game than the 10-20 group: 13% against 10% for men and 9% against 7% for women.
The game has a pretty mature fandom, with adults making up the most significant part of the player base. However, it is clear that they are getting older and have been playing for ages now. In 2016, 30+ players only represented 3.9% of the community, but it’s now up to 14.9%. It is the same for people below 20: they were a majority in 2016, but now that age group represents less than 20% of the population, while people over 20 are the new majority. As one of their biggest markets, China is fascinating to examine. That and the usual secrecy surrounding affairs of numbers. Dota is positively a grownup thing, and Chinese teenagers do not find much appeal to the game. If you look at the hobbies of the Chinese fanbase, most fans are more into board and card games, which suits Dota 2 since the game is also strategy-oriented.
2. In 2020, the number of registered users in Dota 2 was over 72,000,000.
During its beta form in 2012, the game was already tracking 3 million unique users.
In 2021, Dota took the second spot for most toxic game with 78% of players complaining that harassment is way too common. In 2019, it was at the top spot with 79% and in 2020, it was #1 ex-aequo with Valorant.
So it says, but at this point, it should be way more than 72,000,000 unique users. But then again, Valve keeps that information for themselves. If it is true that veterans are numerous, you have a pretty big number of people registering for the first time, even nowadays. However, between the difficult mechanics and the harassment of better players, many newbies leave the game pretty quickly and are disappointed. Plus, it does not look like Valve promotes their game to fresher blood. The marketing strategy is near non-existent.
3. Dota 2 has around 11 million monthly active users in 2021 (November).
(Source: League Feed)
There is actually an improvement as it was down to 7.6 million in February 2021.
In 2015, 2 years after release, Dota had up to 10.3 million monthly active users and 2016 went even higher by reaching 13.2 million.
In early 2019, that number was smaller again with 11.19 million monthly active users.
As of November 2021, the game is said to attract 1 million daily active users.
In Dota’s case, many factors can explain why the game has not been able to sustain its higher numbers. The most obvious is how difficult it can be to learn how to play the game. You need to hang in there to fully understand the mechanics, even for returning players who say it takes time to get used to the gameplay again. There is also the awful matchmaking that will throw newbies with or against veterans; the horrible and clumsy communication from Valve (or the lack thereof, they are not known for engaging directly with the community); MOBAs are not the big thing anymore (if you do not step your game up like LoL); and Valve has drastically reduced the number of in-game events, while those are known to be major vital tools to keep your player base invested.
Dota 2 key stats
With such success, everyone is curious about topics focused on revenues, profits, the number of downloads, and more information around the game itself.
4. In 2017, Dota 2 has generated $406 million through microtransactions.
(Source: Stat Investor)
Two years after launch, in 2015, the game raked up $238 million and saw an increase in profits in 2016 with $260 million.
In 2020, the title amassed a total of $160 million from the Battle Pass alone.
If you are wondering why there are no more recent numbers, Valve is not the sharing type anymore when it comes to Dota 2 and how much the company makes precisely out of it. They must have crossed a billion threshold by now, but we might never know. Even more so when you remember that Valve pockets 75% of the total amount of the profits with 25% going into the prize money for The International. Dota 2 makes money thanks to microtransactions involving ONLY loot boxes and passes. Valve made it a point to leave the game free, even with characters and gameplay elements. Players can mostly buy new skins and new audio tracks. A fact that deserves to be acknowledged as many companies tend to go for the freemium model, whereas Valve decided to stick to the same one after almost ten years, one allowing all players to fully enjoy the game even if they do not spend money.
5. Dota 2 received over 25 nominations and awards over the years.
(Source: IMDB, PC GamesN)
Amongst those, it was nominated 3 times at the BAFTA and twice at the NAVGTR Awards.
The game was continuously nominated at the Game Awards from 2015 to 2019 and it won Best eSports and Best eSports this year.
The whole list would be too long, but you can find it on Wikipedia. Only the most notable have been included. Of note is that it has been nominated three different times at the BAFTA, a highly prestigious ceremony. Plus, the Game Awards keep recognizing its worth year after year.
Dota 2 usage stats
Time to take a closer look at how the community consumes the game. Let’s see which countries are giving some time daily to Dota 2 and the favorite characters of professional players since the franchise is a heavyweight on the eSports scene. Meaning that data from Twitch will be equally important since the platform is a major streaming actor.
6. The countries with the most invested players on a daily basis is the United States with 12.51%.
(Source: Player Counter)
Russia is #2 with 10.33% and is followed by Brazil as #3 with 5.09%.
The rest of that Top 5 is rounded up by Germany (4.44%) and Vietnam (3.90%).
Don’t worry just because you do not see China or Finland, which are part of the top countries in Dota 2 eSports. This ranking includes all players in general, not just the professional scene. Plus, do not stop reading now, as you might be surprised by the countries at the top during tournaments, whether it is about teams or individual players.
7. 50% of Dota 2’s fanbase do not watch eSports and only play the game.
26% of fans not only enjoy playing the game, but also indulge in watching eSports.
24% are “popcorn gamers” because they do not play the games, but actively watch the tournaments.
51.9% of the time spent on Twitch watching Dota 2 content, is spent on watching eSports events (2016).
48.1% is spent on watching casual/normal Dota 2 content (2016).
Usually, companies encourage people to not only play the game but also engage in eSports. In fact, your engagement in-game should be a huge motivation to start watching the tournaments. However, publishers can also count on viewers’ attachment for their favorite teams and players to generate profits thanks to merchandising, even if they do not play the game. The statistics on time spent watching eSports might be from 2016, but the numbers still stand and might even be a bit higher nowadays. This model business has been the most prominent thing with Dota 2 since the beginning, and the viewership is still one of the best.
8. Pudge is the all-time favorite of the community with a pick rate of 34.03% and a win rate of 51.11% over the course of 800,000,000+ matches played.
Phantom Assasin is second with a win rate of 50.19%, over the course of 600,000,000+ games and a pick rate of 24.19%.
Sniper is #3 with a pick rate of 23.32%, 590,000,000+ matches and a win rate of 49.63%.
Invoker is #4 with 570,000,000+ games, a win rate of 47.46% and a pick rate of 22.76%.
Juggernaut has been picked 21.25% of the time. He was in 530,000,000+ matches and has a win rate of 50.60%.
It seems a lot of players are really into the “high-risk high reward” nature of Pudge. His Hook spell is purely RNG-based and might or might not give instant death to the player. If it works though, the other team is going to regret starting that round. He is also a tank with a lot of HP and strength, can use a lot of items and Hook has a shorter cooldown than most spells. All in all, a pretty versatile character.
9. The most used item of all-time is the Power Treads, which has been used 8,000,000+ times and chosen 35.30% of the time.
The Blink Dagger is second with a use rate of 23.51% and was used 5,500,000+ times.
Aghanim’s Scepter is #3 with a use rate of 21.35% and was used 5,000,000+ times.
The Magic Wand is #4 with 4,900,000+ uses and a use rate of 21.14%.
The Phase Boots have been picked 20.69% of the time and were used 4,800,000+ times.
It might not look like much, but the Power Treads is a most excellent accessory as you can freely switch around the attributes, and by doing so, you might even experience a boost in HP, MP, speed or be able to cast a second spell right after the first one, no cooldown. You can see why it would be used so often considering that it will give you a significant advantage if you know how to use it—that and the fact that it works well with a lot of heroes.
10. Dota 2 is ranked #10 on Twitch.
Over 7 days: the average number of viewers is 58,553, the average number of channels streaming the game is 956, the average number of viewers/channel is 61.2 and the average number of hours watched is 9,866,911.
The peak viewers was 1,714,668 in October 2021 and the peak of concurrent channels was 1,939 in November 2021.
On average, the number of viewers is around 57,197 and the number of channels streaming is approximately 715.
The game is streamed by 7% more channels during the weekend, and there are 19% more viewers.
Are we surprised? Dota 2 is THE biggest eSports scene after all. Not only is the game consumed casually at healthy doses, but when the tournaments are on, it is a real tsunami. The record for concurrent viewers has been broken, and it seems like it happens every year: yes, that new record has to do with The International 2021, the biggest event in the Dota 2 League.
11. The highest number of concurrent players on Steam is 1,291,328 players in March 2016, making it the third game with such a record on Steam.
(Source: Steam DB, Steam Charts)
The highest number of average players was 709,178 in February 2016.
Since the beginning of 2021, the average number of people playing at the same time is between 400,000 – 450,000. During peak time, it is between 650,000 – 750,000 players.
Dota 2 is the second most played game on Steam with a total of 315,579,182 hours.
1,632,059 reviews have been received on Steam and are globally lean above very good (83.79% are positive).
The title lived its best life around 2016, with millions of concurrent players month after month. The golden age came to an end in early 2017, and since then, Dota 2 has seen lower numbers. Yet, this shows that the phrase “this game is dying” has taken a casual meaning among players because even if the number of players is lower, it is still really good. Some games could kill for such. They are also pretty consistent, which shows a loyal fanbase. Plus, lately, we have observed an improvement in those numbers.
Dota 2 eSports
And here is the most important part when talking about Dota 2. The one thing you keep seeing when googling the game. The most precious marketing tool of many competitive multiplayer games and surely, the thing Valve relies on the most concerning the franchise—the eSports scene. Dota 2 can even brag that the title has one of the most lucrative eSports circuits in the industry. If not the most, now that I think about it. Get ready for prize money reaching millions and intense viewership.
12. The biggest prize pool in a tournament reached a total of $40,018,400.
(Source: eSports Earnings)
It was the prize money for The International 2021.
In the top 10 of the leading eSports tournaments worldwide, The International snatches 6 spots out of 10 and 5 of them occupy the top of that list.
The International 2014 was the first one to reach a prize pool of over $10,000,000.
The lifetime total of money awarded throughout the Dota 2 circuit amounts to an overwhelming $276,752,226.
One thing that has been consistent since the beginning: Dota 2 tournaments deal with millions. Smaller events on a local scale will have more “normal” amounts, but most Dota 2 events have something big at stake. The International, the biggest championship in the league, has continuously increased that prize money, year after year. Let’s not forget that part of it is even crowdfunded by the community itself through microtransactions in-game. But those sums are also the reason why Dota 2 is considered the most lucrative eSports scene.
13. The Top 5 of the highest earning players is dominated by N0Tail from Denmark with over $7 million earned.
(Source: eSports Earnings)
JerAx is #2 with a total of $6,470,548 (Finland).
He is followed by ana with a little over $6 million (Australia).
Ceb is #4 with $5,700,000 (France).
And the last one on this list is Topson from Finland and his $5,600,000.
Good diversity in nationalities in this Top 5 shows that players come from anywhere and that as long as you have the talent, you might get a chance in the really sought-after Dota 2 circuit. As you can, on an individual level, players get the opportunity to earn really big sums of money. Even those numbers spread across 100+ games, it is still a lot per game. ana decided to retire last year but came back a bit for The International 2021.
14. China is dominating the chart as the top country with $75,044,390 won in total.
(Source: eSports Earnings)
Russia is second with $24,108,789 and Finland is third with $16,848,715.
Ukraine ($16,799,090) and the US ($14,439,056) managed to occupy the last two spots of that Top 5.
The last country is Saudi Arabia with 2 players and $45,56 earned.
Boy, it has been a while since I have last seen the US below the Top 3… On another note, the gap between China and the other countries is simply astronomical and signals that they not only have a lot of teams in the circuit but that they are also skilled. In addition, Dota 2 has an extensive and loyal eSports following in mainland China as it is acknowledged that among all those teams leaving the circuit for good and those others coming and going, China is the one country that never stopped engaging in the discipline.
15. The International 10 (2021) accumulated 2,741,514 concurrent viewers during the finale on October 17th.
The average number of viewers was 857,343 and a total of 107,239,312 hours were watched (from October 7th to October 17th).
The tournament was streamed for a total of 125 hours. It was broadcast on 7 different platforms amongst which Twitch, Facebook and Youtube.
If you think that the number of concurrent viewers might have to do with luck, just know that literally, each day garnered at least 1,000,000 viewers for each match. That is the scale of a Dota tournament.
16. In 2020, it was reported that more than 50,000 professional matches had been played since the beginning of the leagues.
This number includes 13,414 unique players competing for 3269 different teams and only 864 have been in more than 100 games.
17 players stayed loyal to one team only and competed in over 1000+ under it.
A normal pro player: gets a kill every 7min45s, dies every 7min34s and has around 22 hours spent in professional matches under their belt.
On average: Miracle gets a kill every 4min2s, Raven dies every 12min55s and Fly and Fata have way over 1,300 hours each.
Usually, games last around 36min26s, but the shortest match was brought to a conclusion after 6min37s.
It is with stats like these that we get to actually understand why professional players are a whole different group of people. In general, they are way better than normal players, but you have to think that even among those really great players, you will still find some who can be even more impressive.
To sum up
Ok, ok, Dota 2 is simply legendary. It is a game that started a movement, and instead of taking a few steps back to look at all the newcomers taking advantage of that new breeze, it decided to continue sailing. We will soon be celebrating its ten years and the game is still making numbers, be it in views, player count, or money. The franchise became one of the biggest, generating countless merchandising and even receiving two spin-offs that actually did well. Plus, its core mechanics are timeless, especially its counter mechanics that force players to think long and hard about their movements as it is guaranteed that there is a hero in the roster that can actually counter yours.
However, nothing is perfect, and even if Dota 2 is still the best in eSports, it is a whole other story behind the scenes. Valve has failed to manage the players and the sponsors and does not have much to do with the organization in itself (even if they keep saying the opposite). Plus, over the years, the company has been making one-sided decisions concerning the community of independent creators feeding the Workshop with new cosmetics by reducing their cut of the profits without negotiating first with them. Not only that, but the community is only rife with racist, ableist and homophobic individuals: it is not rare to find a team or a player with a really disgusting name. And that is also a problem with the professional players as some of them are known for their abusive language when streaming. However, Valve has never taken any measures against such behavior.
Nevertheless, Dota 2 is still a giant in the industry, even with all those flaws. It would be better and do Valve a lot of good if the company paid more attention to their game. Maybe bring back more time-limited events, Valve? Not just when your numbers dwindle.
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“Dota 2 Live Player Count – How Many People Are Playing Now?”. Playercounter.Com, 2019, https://playercounter.com/dota-2/
“Newzoo: Esports Audiences Vary By Franchise, 71% Loyal To Just One Game – ARCHIVE – The Esports Observer”. ARCHIVE – The Esports Observer – ARCHIVE – The Esports Observer, 2019, https://archive.esportsobserver.com/newzoo-report-august/