DOTA Underlords has gone from 200K to 18K Peak Players in six months

By Joe Robinson 07 Jan 2020 3

It seems y’all have stopped playing DOTA Underlords. A reddit thread on r/Games has pointed out the Steam Charts listing for Valve’s own Auto Chess take, which shows the game as lost over 80% of its player base since launching mid 2019.

In June peak players were just over 200K, where-as of the last 30 days that’s dropped to around 18,000. It’s worth bearing in mind though that Underlords went from 200K to 100K peak players in the first thirty days, with the decline getting more gradual in the months that followed. The average number of players is around 11K for the last 30 days, which while nothing to sniff at still indicates not as many people are playing as there used to be.

I’m not 100% sure if Steam tracks people who access the game via mobile… I want to say yes, because every-time I bring it up on my phone it then appears in my ‘Most Recent’ played games list within the Steam client, even though I don’t have it installed on my PC. I’d be interested in knowing how many of Underlords’ active players play primarily on their phones or tablets.

Reading the thread in full, you can get some interesting insights as to what core players think of Underlords’ journey since it launched into Beta. Many respect Valve for the experimentation and the better handling of the game versus Artifact, although some haven’t been impressed with the specifics of the updates that have come since. The inclusion of the titular 'Underlords' hasn't really hit home, and the Jailbreak system led to so much confusion that the devs simply dropped it as part of of the December 18th update. Instead they've gone for a more direct rotation system, with 14 heroes currently removed from the game.

dota underlords rotation

Some argue that the development team at Valve don’t really know what they want to do with Underlords. You can look at what Drodo is going with the OG Auto Chess game as one route for evolution, but I think Hearthstone Battlegrounds has shown that Auto Chess games can be much more than what we’ve got currently. Underlords was offering its own 'quick-play' format called Knockout, and it seems they've incorporated the lessons learned from that mode into the Standard and Duo format as well, making all games shorter by default. This will serve as a decent enough short-term solution to help with retention, but I feel like Underlords really needs to step up their thinking.

The ‘Auto Chess Wars’ in general haven’t been as heated as I thought they would be - we had an initial rush of knock-offs and me-toos, but nothing major in the latter half of 2019 apart from Blizzard’s‘ own "Hearthstone but Auto Chess’ experiment. TeamFight Tactics seems to be doing the best out of the ‘big’ auto battler games, and so far no other big-name western publisher has tried to get in on the action.

It will be interesting to see where this new ‘hot’ genre goes in 2020 - I hope it doesn’t die off completely, but a lack of real innovation may lead to stagnation.



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