A few months ago, VPEsports reported that the Dota 2 average player numbers were the lowest towards the end of 2019 since January 2014 according to the Dota 2 Steam Charts. Well, the average player count for January 2020 managed to dip below the January 2014 value. The average for the month in 2014 was 393,860.
If the numbers in January are compared from 2013 (the first time when the data was available in January), we can see that 2020 saw the lowest January numbers since 2013!
Why is January a good month for comparison? Usually when the season ends with The International, the interest in the game dwindles for a bit for a lot of players. Then comes the holiday season along with the new patch. By January, players have become accustomed to the new patch, the festivities are over and a lot of players who take a sabatical from the game for a few months return. The returning month peaked in 2016 and ever since has been going down. But if you do a percentage comparison, the fall from 2019 to 2020 has been the highest the game has seen in the last 7 years.
What could be the reason for this? I can only hypothesize, but there is a good chance that after The International, the long wait for a new patch drives players away to other games, and a few of them don’t necessarily come back. Another one, specific to this year is the introduction of neutral items with patch 7.23. Novermber 2019 saw a small bump with the release of the new patch, but that went down again in December and January, possibly because players did not like the new patch. A major reason could be the change in the ranked matchmaking system. Valve have been experimenting with it quite a bit for the last few months, but haven’t found the best solution for it. The small ray of hope for Valve is that the number has been increasing if the last 30 days are taken into consideration, but the possible reason for that is the release of Dota 2 patch 7.24. A better time to gauge the effect of patch 7.24 would be to look at the numbers in April or May 2020.
Whatever the reasons might be, the bottomline is, the Dota 2 player base is going down. Maybe slowly, but it is. Valve need to get to the bottom of this to find out what’s wrong in order to ensure that the trend reverses in the near future.