Sports betting has been around for as long as money could be thrown around really, but the idea of betting on video games never really made headlines. Of course in the past decade the rise of streaming platforms like Twitch and the accessibility and incredible growth of the video game market has completely changed this.
Now, huge tournaments take place all over the world with the top players competing for prize pools of over 40M usd for a single DotA2 tournament. Online sports betting sites have exploded in the past decade, in no small part due to eSports – which is already worth over 1 billion according to Statista. And since the USA overturned their ban on online sports betting in 2018, this huge market has only just started adding to the potential and popularity of eSports.
So what makes DotA2 such a popular eSport?
There are quite a few reasons that make DotA2 so popular for gamers and viewers – and why it has been one of the most popular games since its release in 2013.
It’s free. This non-existent barrier to entry is a massive factor in why so many people have tried the multiplayer online battle area game. Similar to other free to play games like Fortnite, Dota2 also offers in-game purchases for cosmetic items, but with no change to the actual gameplay, you cannot buy advantages.
Streaming and betting. Arguably the most iconic eSport ever, DotA2 has received a huge boon from streaming platforms like Twitch, which has helped to grow popularity by spreading the exposure of competitions and top level players. Coupled with the growth in sports betting in recent years, DotA2 has managed to stay in the limelight for nearly a decade.
Gameplay difficulty. DotA2 is a fairly complex game when you really start diving into maximizing your characters stats and abilities, which can push some new players away. However, with notoriously difficult games like Dark Souls becoming cult classics and winning numerous awards, the notion of difficult games pushing people away has pretty much been dispelled – if anything this strategic and challenging gameplay is a serious draw.
Multiplayer magic. It’s abundantly clear that strong gaming communities keep the excitement around titles going far longer than they may have otherwise. And as a team game that doesn’t work without good communication, players from all over the world are always chatting tactics and builds, which has maintained the buzz and always brings in new people who may want to watch, bet, or play!
Not many games can stay so popular for as long as DotA has, and these factors all come together to make DotA2 such a popular eSport.
In the mainstream… for now
Of course any savvy company is always looking for new ways to grow their fanbase and generate excitement – so it’s really no surprise that both DotA and League of Legends have their own Netflix series. These two eSports giants will undoubtedly capitalize of the media buzz around these shows, and pull in new interest from gamers and non-gamers alike. But at the moment we’re seeing a steady decline in player base for the MOBA, down almost 50% from its all time peak according to Steam charts.
While DotA2 is still on top when it comes to audience engagement on Twitch (ahead of CS:GO and LoL), the total hours watched has dropped behind its main rivals this past year, possibly due to the lackluster reception of the Netflix series compared to the LoL counterpart which was incredibly well received.
What does the future hold for DotA2 and eSports?
We highly doubt that DotA 2 will fall off the top of the eSports charts anytime soon, and the prize pools for major events are still expected to grow as more and more fans continue to bet on the tournaments. On the whole, eSports are growing at a staggering pace globally, and especially following the pandemic and rise in online gaming at a casual level, games like DotA or CS:GO are becoming household names.
It’s only a matter of time before eSports eclipses even some major sports like basketball in popularity.