It’s Wednesday, and you know what that means! Another edition of Games That Changed Gaming!
This week we’re looking at a game that not only changed gaming, but changed how players think about gaming, changed eSports tournaments, and changed how eSports teams were organized. Possibly the game with the most varied history so far, this week on Gimbl’s Games That Changed Changed Gaming: Dota!
Dota used to be an acronym. It stood for Defense of the Ancients (DotA). Originally, DotA was a 2002 mod for Warcraft 3, based on an existing mod for StarCraft called “Aeon of Strife.” (Click here for our piece on the impact of StarCraft!)
Kyle “Eul” Sommer, an active Warcraft 3 modder released the first version of DotA in the summer of 2002. The original version of DotA laid down many of the rules and features that we consider to be standard in MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) games today.
Blizzard Entertainment released their “The Frozen Throne” expansion to Warcraft 3, and with it a major update to their World Editor tool that was used to create DotA. Eul didn’t use the new tools to update DotA, so an array of modders started creating their own spin-offs to DotA. It was at this point that DotA could have died off, a victim of fragmentation.
One version of DotA, though, seemed to stand head and shoulders above the rest: DotA Allstars. Originally the product of custom makers ‘Meian’ and ‘Ragn0r’, Steve “Guinsoo” Feak eventually took over and pushed regular updates, taking DotA Allstars from version 3.xx to 5.xx.
DotA Allstars eventually ended up in the hands of the anonymous modder ‘IceFrog’, who took the game to the next level. IceFrog was an active user of the forum
DotA: From mod to MOBA
While DotA Allstars was immensely popular, and dota-allstars.com was getting more than a million unique visitors a month, there was one huge problem: none of the people who worked on Dota actually owned any of the assets or the game engine. Even 7 years on, Dota Allstars was still a WarCraft 3 mod, so Blizzard Entertainment owned the rights to almost everything in the game, including the name.
In 2009, though, the fans’ wildest dreams all came true. IceFrog was contacted by Valve, the gigantic company behind the Steam platform and the Half-Life IP. Valve gave IceFrog a job to develop Dota 2. The game was finally going to become a standalone title with the backing of a major game development studio.
Valve faced legal disputes from both Riot Games (who had hired other DotA and DotA Allstars contributors to work on League of Legends) and Blizzard Entertainment. They eventually succeeded in gaining franchising rights for commercial use to the trademark.
Dota 2, no longer an acronym, launched into open beta in 2011, and left beta for full-release in 2013.
The great flood (of MOBAs)
It didn’t take much to convince developers to jump onto a bandwagon if there’s profit to be made.
Starting in 2009, MOBAs started flooding the market. The first to be released was Demigod by Gas Powered Games. The inspiration it had drawn from DotA Allstars was more than a little obvious, and the server issues that plagued the game stopped it from every really catching on with gamers.
Riot Games also released their own MOBA that year, League of Legends. Riot had hired a few ex-contributors to DotA Allstars to help them develop the game and had removed or edited some of the game mechanics to make it easier for new players to jump in. The aesthetics were similar to the original Warcraft 3 mod, but were also different enough that it was clearly homage rather than imitation. Riot also coined the term “MOBA” for the first time, cementing MOBAs as their own genre as opposed to a niche within the RTS sphere.
Over the next few years the genre exploded, with titles like Heroes of Newerth, Heroes of the Storm, Smite, VainGlory, and Arena of Valor all following the same formula started all the way back in 2002.
Dota changes eSports
August 2011 was one of the most important months in the history of eSports. Valve
The first International was even the subject of a documentary, available for free on YouTube:
That first event had a prize pool of $1.6 million, which was the largest ever eSports prize pool by a WIDE margin. The first champions to lift the Aegis were Ukrainian team Natus Vincere, who went home with one million dollars.
Suddenly, eSports prize pools began to balloon. According to EsportsEarnings, the total amount of money in eSports prize pools across the entire year of 2011 was under $10.5 million. This had more than doubled by 2013, and stood at just over $160 million by the end of 2018.
As more publishers and tournament organizers realized that teams needed prize money in order to survive, and more companies
By 2018, even placing as low as 10th place in The International would earn teams over $380,000, and last year’s grand prize was just over $11 million.
The International 2019
This year’s event is slated to be bigger and better than ever before. 2019 has already seen the Fortnite World Cup smash records for prizes, and viewer numbers. It looks like The International 2019 might break those records again.
This year’s prize pool currently sits at just below $33 million according to the Dota 2 Prize Tracker. The biggest eSports prize pool the world has EVER seen; narrowly beating the Fortnite World Cup’s $30 million prize pool record.
Regardless of what happens over the next 11 days at The International 2019, Dota 2 is here to stay. Despite being an 8-year-old game, more people seem to playing Dota 2 this year than they were last year. They average between 450,000 and 550,000 concurrent players, with peaks getting a lot closer to the million mark.
For more content like this, as well as Gimbl updates, register your email address here. Also, don’t forget to check out our previous entries in the Games That Changed Gaming series, as well as our recent Co-Founders Q&A, and our most recent Gimbl Monthly Update!