Valve’s auto chess game Dota Underlords will officially release today after being in beta for almost nine months. Valve will celebrate the launch day with a streaming party, featuring some of the biggest names in the scene, including Jake “SirActionSlacks” Kanner, Henrik “AdmiralBulldog” Ahnberg, Kevin “Purge” Godec, and Jorien “Sheever” van der Heijden, among others.
What comes with Dota Underlords’ official release?
While the launch streaming party is a nice welcome to the game’s official release, as it will also grant Season 1 Battle Pass XP to the viewers, it’s the game’s content that’s important. So what’s coming with Season 1?
Skimming past the various cosmetics like new boards and mini statues that you can earn and decorate your boards with, Valve are planning a massive gameplay update. New items and new rotation are set to come in, aimed at refreshing the whole Dota Underlords gaming experience. Despite frequent patches and hotfixes, the game has had a stale meta for some time now, which even the Daily Jail — a mechanic subsequently removed from the game altogether — couldn’t solve.
The much anticipated and speculated about City Crawl mode is also supposed to launch with Season 1. Nothing is known about what that will look like, but speculations point towards some sort of PvE content to unlock achievements or customization options.
Is Underlords Season 1 coming too late?
Valve’s silence on what the official launch will usher has not helped ease the concerns of the game’s future success or longevity. Underlords has been in Early Access for nine months and Valve only confirmed the release date end of this January. The so-called “Big Update”, which was supposed to lay the foundations for the official release, came out in October and it’s now been four months since its delivery.
Combined with a metagame that gets stale fast, Dota Underlords’ numbers have been dropping constantly, mirroring the decline of Valve’s previous launch failure: Artifact. After it peaked at 202K players at launch, Underlords hasn’t had a single month of player growth. The average players count has shrunk from 76K in June, when Underlords launched in Early Access, to mere 9,500 in January 2020 — that’s 87.5% of the players gone, according to SteamCharts.
Although Underlords has received a much more active treatment than Artifact, with patch and content updates being frequent, none of it has helped even stabilize the game’s player free-fall.
Granted, this decline is not exclusive to Dota Underlords. Its biggest competition, Riot Games’ Teamfight Tactics, has been on a similar downtrend. From average viewership numbers in the six digits last July, TFT is now watched on average by 7-8K viewers each day. When your Twitch viewership alone is as big as your playerbase, however, there’s a clear winner in the autobattler space.
Underlords isn’t losing players as quickly as Artifact did — a game which lost 95% of its player base in two months and struggles to break 100 average daily players on any given day nowadays — it’s clear that Valve needs to do more than just host a launch party and call it a day.