Dota 2 tournaments, especially the yearly International, are still the best esports events to watch. The International has the biggest prize pool and an extremely high viewership, setting record after record every year.
Going off of this alone, Dota 2 looks very healthy. So how exactly is the game damaging its competitive scene?
First thing’s first, let’s talk about how unfriendly Dota 2 is to new players.
Valve and IceFrog have gradually been integrating in-game features that make things easier for new players, like Tower Targeting indication and a Creep Stacking timer. There are also many other good mechanics as well as a built-in hero building (skill and item suggestions) guide system. However, the impact is still so minimal that a new player can get lost in the game and drop out easily.
Moreover, the current in-game tutorials are underwhelming and outdated. With stacked layers of mechanics — old and new — Dota 2’s current guiding content for newcomers does not suffice for new players.
The Tutorials section covers very basic topics and does not prepare players well enough for the influx of information that arrives once they have finished all the tutorials. New players will then have to find and use other third-party sources like Liquipedia Dota 2 Wiki, r/dota2 on Reddit and YouTube channels such as PurgeGamers to dig deeper into the Dota 2 world if they want to grasp every mechanic in order to play the game properly.
But not even learning the game will help new players succeed
Learning the game sounds like a hard task, but it’s nothing compared to keeping the desire to come back to it when the reward system — which was once so great — is now very unattractive. New players can lose interest in the game even quicker, even before getting real good at it, when they can be constantly stomped on by ‘smurfs’ (veterans intentionally playing on new accounts).
The fact that Dota 2 has hit its player base cap and player stats have been on a decline since early 2019 might very likely be due to the aspects above. Some other contributing factors are minimal advertising for the game from Valve and a lack of beginner-friendly streams available at big tournaments. For example, The International 2018 had a newcomer stream channel to explain terms and mechanics to new players while casting the matches. This could potentially attract new players, too. But, unsurprisingly, Valve decided to leave it out of The International 2019 for some unknown reason.
It’s almost like Valve doesn’t want new players. If their goal is to alienate new players and see player numbers slowly decline, they’re definitely doing a great job.