|Release date(s)||Microsoft Windows
|Genre(s)||Multiplayer online battle arena|
Dota 2 is a free-to-play multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game developed and published by Valve Corporation. The game is the stand-alone sequel to Defense of the Ancients (DotA), which was a community-created mod for Blizzard Entertainment's Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its expansion pack, The Frozen Throne. Dota 2 is played in matches between two teams that consist of five players, with both teams occupying their own separate base on the map. Each of the ten players independently control a powerful character, known as a "hero", that each feature unique abilities and different styles of play. During a match, a player and their team collects experience points and items for their heroes in order to fight through the opposing team's defenses. A team wins by being the first to destroy a large structure located in the opposing team's base, called the "Ancient".
Development of Dota 2 began in 2009 when IceFrog, the pseudonymous lead designer of the original Defense of the Ancients mod, was hired by Valve to create a modern sequel. Dota 2 was officially released on Steam in July 2013 for Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux-based personal computers, following a Windows-only open beta phase that began two years prior. Despite some criticism going towards its steep learning curve and complexity, the game was praised for its rewarding gameplay, production quality, and faithfulness to its predecessor. The game initially used the original Source game engine until it was ported over to Source 2 in 2015, making it the first game to use it. Since its release, Dota 2 has been the most played game on Steam, with peaks of over a million concurrent players. The popularity of the game has led to official merchandise being produced for it, including apparel, accessories, and toys, as well as promotional tie-ins to other games and media. The game also allows for the community to create custom game modes, maps, and cosmetics for the heroes, which are then uploaded to the Steam Workshop.
Dota 2 has a widespread and active competitive scene, with teams from across the world playing professionally in various dedicated leagues and tournaments. Premium Dota 2 tournaments often have prize pools totaling millions of US dollars, the highest of any eSport. The largest of them is known as The International, which is produced by Valve and held annually at the KeyArena in Seattle. Valve also sponsors smaller, but more frequently held tournaments known as the Majors, which lead up to the International every year. For larger tournaments, media coverage is done by a selection of on-site staff who provide commentary and analysis for the ongoing matches, similar to traditional sporting events. Broadcasts of professional Dota 2 matches are streamed live over the internet, and sometimes simulcast on television networks, with peak viewership numbers in the millions.
Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game in which two teams of five players compete to collectively destroy a large structure defended by the opposing team known as the "Ancient", whilst defending their own. As in Defense of the Ancients, the game is controlled using standard real-time strategy controls, and is presented on a single map in a three-dimensional isometric perspective. Ten players each control one of the game's 113 playable characters, known as "heroes", with each having their own design, benefits, and weaknesses. Heroes are divided into two primary roles, known as the "carry" and "support". Carries, which are also called "cores", begin each match as weak and vulnerable, but are able to become more powerful later in the game, thus becoming able to "carry" their team to victory. Supports generally lack abilities that deal heavy damage, instead having ones with more functionality and utility that provide assistance for their carries.
All heroes have a basic damage-dealing attack, in addition to powerful abilities. Each hero has at least four abilities, all of which are unique, which are the primary method of fighting. The most powerful ability for each hero is known as their "ultimate", which requires them to have an experience level of six in order to learn and use. In order to prevent abilities from being spammed without consequence, a magic system in the game exists. Activating an ability costs a hero some of their "mana points", which regenerate slowly over time. Using an ability will also cause it to enter a cooldown phase, in which the ability can not be used again until a timer counts down to zero. All heroes have three attributes: strength, intelligence, and agility, which affect health points, mana points, and attack speed, respectively. Each hero has one primary attribute out of the three, which adds to their non-ability basic damage. Heroes begin each game with an experience level of one, only having access to one of their abilities, but are able to level up and become more powerful during the course of the game, up to a maximum level of 25. Whenever a hero gains an experience level, the player is able to unlock another of their abilities or improve one already learned. Heroes also have an ability augmentation system known as "Talent Trees", which allow players further choices on how to develop their hero. If a hero runs out of health points and dies, a timer begins to count down until they respawn in their base.
The two teams—known as the Radiant and Dire—occupy fortified bases in opposite corners of the map, which is divided in half by a crossable river and connected by three paths, where are referred to as "lanes". The lanes are guarded by defensive towers that slowly, but frequently, attack any opposing unit who gets within its line of sight. A small group of weak computer-controlled creatures called "creeps" travel predefined paths along the lanes and attempt to attack any opposing heroes, creeps, and buildings in their way. Creeps periodically spawn throughout the game in groups from two buildings, called the "barracks", that exist in each lane and are located within the team's bases. The map is also permanently covered for both teams in fog of war, which prevents a team from seeing the opposing team's heroes and creeps if they are not directly in sight of an allied unit. The map also features a day-night cycle, with some features and mechanics being altered depending on the time of the cycle.
Items known as "wards" are able to be placed in most locations on the map, granting line of sight vision in a small area around it for the team who had planted it. Wards last for six minutes after being placed, and will disappear once time runs out or if discovered and destroyed by the opposing team. Also present on the map are "neutral creeps" that are hostile to both teams, and reside in marked locations on the map known as "camps". Camps are located in the area between the lanes known as the "jungle", which both sides of the map have. Neutral creeps do not attack unless provoked, and will respawn over time if killed. The most powerful neutral creep is named "Roshan", who is a unique boss that may be killed by either team to obtain an item that allows a one-time resurrection by the hero that holds it. Roshan will respawn around ten minutes after being killed, and becomes progressively harder to kill as the match continues over time.
In addition to having abilities becoming stronger during the game, players are able to buy items that provide their own special abilities. Items are not limited to specific heroes, and can be bought by anyone. In order to obtain an item, players must be able to afford it with gold, which is primarily obtained by killing enemy heroes, destroying enemy structures, and killing creeps, with the latter being an act called "farming". Only the hero that lands the killing blow on a creep obtains gold from it, an act called "last hitting", but all nearby allies receive gold when an enemy hero dies. Players are also able to "deny" allied units and structures by destroying them, which then prevents their opponents from getting full experience. Gold can not be shared between teammates, with each player having their own independent stash. The player also receives a small, continuous stream of gold over the course of a match.
Dota 2 also occasionally features seasonal events that present players with alternative game modes that do not follow the game's standard rules. Some of these included the Halloween-themed Diretide event, the Christmas-themed Frostivus event, and the New Bloom Festival, which celebrated the coming of spring. In October 2015, a Halloween-themed "capture point" game mode was released, titled "Colosseum". The move to the Source 2 engine in 2015 also saw the addition of community-created custom game modes, with the more popular ones having dedicated server hosting by Valve. In 2016, Valve introduced the "Custom Game Pass" option to custom game modes, which allows content creators to add exclusive features, content, and other changes to their game mode.
The Dota series began in 2003 with Defense of the Ancients (DotA)—a mod for Blizzard Entertainment's Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos—created by the pseudonymous designer "Eul". An expansion pack for Warcraft III, entitled The Frozen Throne, was released later that year; a series of Defense of the Ancients clone mods for the new game competed for popularity. DotA: Allstars by Steve Feak was the most successful, and Feak, with his friend Steve Mescon, created the official Defense of the Ancients community website and the holding company DotA-Allstars, LLC. When Feak retired from DotA: Allstars in 2005, a friend, under the pseudonym "IceFrog", became its lead designer. The popularity of Defense of the Ancients increased significantly: it became one of the most popular mods in the world, and, by 2008, a prominent eSports title. IceFrog and Mescon later had a falling out in May 2009, which prompted the former to establish a new community website at playdota.com.
Valve's interest in the Defense of the Ancients property began when several veteran employees, including Team Fortress 2 designer Robin Walker and producer Erik Johnson, became fans of the mod and wanted to build a modern sequel. The company corresponded with IceFrog by email about his long-term plans for the project, and he was subsequently hired to direct a sequel. IceFrog first announced his new position through his blog in October 2009, and Dota 2 was publicly announced by Game Informer in October 2010. The resultant surge of traffic crashed Game Informer's servers.
Valve adopted the word "Dota", derived from the original mod's acronym, as the name for its newly acquired franchise. Johnson argued that the word referred to a concept, and was not an acronym. Shortly after the announcement of Dota 2, Valve filed a trademark claim to the Dota name. At Gamescom 2011, company president Gabe Newell explained that the trademark was needed to develop a sequel with the already-identifiable brand. Holding the Dota name to be a community asset, Feak and Mescon filed an opposing trademark for "DOTA" on behalf of DotA-Allstars, LLC (then a subsidiary of Riot Games) in August 2010. Rob Pardo, the executive vice president of Blizzard Entertainment, similarly stated that the DotA name belonged to the mod's community. Blizzard acquired DotA-Allstars, LLC from Riot Games and filed an opposition against Valve in November 2011, citing Blizzard's ownership of both the Warcraft III World Editor and DotA-Allstars, LLC as proper claims to the franchise. The dispute was settled in May 2012, with Valve retaining commercial franchising rights to the "Dota" brand, while allowing non-commercial use of the name by third-parties.
An early goal of the Dota 2 team was the adaptation of Defense of the Ancients's aesthetic style for the Source engine. The Radiant and Dire factions replaced the Sentinel and Scourge from the mod, respectively. Character names, abilities, items and map design from the mode were largely retained, with some changes due to trademarks owned by Blizzard. In the first Q&A session regarding Dota 2, IceFrog explained that the game would build upon the mod without making significant changes to its core. Valve contracted major contributors from the Defense of the Ancients community, including Eul and artist Kendrick Lim, to assist with the sequel. Additional contributions from sources outside of Valve were also sought regularly for Dota 2, as to continue Defense of the Ancients's tradition of community-sourced development. One of the composers of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, Jason Hayes, was hired to collaborate with Tim Larkin to write the original score for the game, which was later conducted by Timothy Williams and performed by the Northwest Sinfonia at Bastyr University. Valve had Half-Life series writer Marc Laidlaw, science fiction author Ted Kosmatka, and Steam support employee Kris Katz write new dialog and background lore for the heroes. Notable voice actors for the English version include Nolan North, Dave Fennoy, Jon St. John, Ellen McLain, Fred Tatasciore, Merle Dandridge, Jen Taylor, and John Patrick Lowrie.[note 1]
The Source engine itself was updated with new features to accommodate Dota 2, such as high-end cloth modeling and improved global lighting. The game features Steam integration, which provides its social component and cloud storage for personal settings. An in-game fantasy sports and digital trading card system also exists, which is modeled after traditional sports and feature professional Dota 2 players. In November 2013, Valve introduced a coaching system, which allows experienced players to tutor players with special in-game tools. As with previous Valve multiplayer titles, players are able to spectate live matches of Dota 2 played by others, and local area network (LAN) multiplayer support allows for local competitions. Some of these events may be spectated via the purchase of tickets from the "Dota Store", which give players in-game access to both live and completed matches. Ticket fees are apportioned in part to tournament organizers. Players are also able to spectate games in virtual reality (VR) with up to 15 others, which was added in an update in July 2016. The update also added a hero showcase mode, which allows players to see all of the heroes and their cosmetics full-size in virtual reality.
Dota 2 includes a matchmaking system, which is measured by a numerical value known as "matchmaking rating" (MMR). MMR is updated based on if a player's team won or lost, which will then increase or decrease respectively. The game's servers, known as the "Game Coordinator", attempts to balance both teams based on each player's MMR, with each team having roughly a 50% chance to win in any given game. Ranked game modes with a separately tracked MMR also exist, which differ from unranked games by making MMR publicly visible, encouraging players who want to play in a more competitive environment, among other changes. The highest ranked MMR players are listed by Valve on an online leaderboard, which lists the 200 highest for each region. The game also includes a report system, which allows players to punish player behavior that intentionally provides a negative experience. The presence of this system pre-emptively discourages individuals from offending. Other features include an improved replay system from Defense of the Ancients, in which a completed game can be downloaded in-client and viewed by anyone at a later time, and the "hero builds" feature, which provide integrated guides created by the community that highlight to the player on how to play their hero.
As part of a plan to develop Dota 2 into a social network, Newell announced in April 2012 that the game would be free-to-play, and that community contributions would be a cornerstone feature. Instead, revenue is generated through the "Dota Store", which offers for-purchase exclusively cosmetic virtual goods, including custom clothing and weapons for their heroes. It was also announced that the full roster of heroes would be available at launch for free. Until the game's official release in 2013, players were able to purchase an early access bundle, which included a digital copy of Dota 2 and several cosmetic items. Included as optional downloadable content (DLC), the Dota 2 Workshop Tools are a set of Source 2 software development kit (SDK) tools that allow content creators to create new cosmetics for the heroes themselves, as well as custom game modes, maps, and bot AI scripts. Highly rated cosmetics, through the Steam Workshop, are available in the in-game store if they are accepted by Valve. This model was fashioned after that of Valve's Team Fortress 2, which had earned Workshop designers of cosmetic items of that game over $3.5 million by June 2011. In January 2014, Newell revealed that the average Steam Workshop contributor for Dota 2 and Team Fortess 2 made approximately $15,000 from their creations the previous year. In 2015, sales of Dota 2 virtual goods had earned Valve over $238 million in revenue, according to the digital game market research group SuperData.
In December 2016, Dota 2 was updated to gameplay version 7.00, known as "The New Journey" update. The update was notable due to the fact that the Dota series had been in version 6.xx since IceFrog originally took over development of the original mod in the mid 2000s. The New Journey update added and changed numerous features and mechanics of the game, including adding the first original hero not ported over from Defense of the Ancients, a reworked map, a redesigned HUD, a pre-game phase that allows for players to discuss their team strategy, and a "Talent Tree" hero augmentation system.
Dota 2 was first made available to the public at Gamescom in 2011, coincidence with the inaugural International championship, the game's premier eSport tournament event. At the event, Valve began sending out closed beta invitations, with the first few being sent out shortly after Gamescom. During the event, Newell speculated that Dota 2 would likely ship in 2012, despite original plans for a full release in late 2011. In September 2011, Valve scrapped its previous development and release plans, which would have kept the game in its closed beta phase for over a year. The new plans, which IceFrog revealed via an online announcement, were to begin beta testing as soon as possible and to implement the remaining heroes afterward. Simultaneously, Valve announced that the non-disclosure agreement for the beta was being lifted, allowing testers to discuss the game and their experiences publicly. After nearly two years of beta testing, Dota 2 was officially released on Steam for Microsoft Windows on July 9, 2013, and later for OS X and Linux on July 18, 2013. The game did not launch with every hero from Defense of the Ancients. Instead, the missing ones were added in various post-release updates, with the final one from the mod, as well as the first original hero, being added in 2016. Two months following the game's release, Newell claimed that updates to Dota 2 generated up to three percent of global internet traffic. In December 2013, the final restrictions against unlimited global access to Dota 2 were lifted after the game's infrastructure and servers were substantially bolstered.
In order to abide by the standards set by the economic legislation of specific countries, Valve opted to contract with nationally-based developers for publishing. In October 2012, the leading Beijing-based video game publisher, Perfect World, announced the acquisition of the exclusive rights of Dota 2 in China. The Chinese version also has a region-specific "Low Violence" mode, which censors and changes most depictions of blood, gore, and skulls in order for the game to follow censorship policies of the country. In November 2012, a similar publishing deal was made with the Tokyo-based company Nexon to distribute and market the game in South Korea and Japan. In November 2015, Nexon announced they would no longer be operating servers for Dota 2, allowing Valve to take over direct distribution and marketing of the game in those regions.
Transition to the Source 2 engine
In June 2015, Valve announced that the entirety of Dota 2 would be ported over to their Source 2 game engine in an update called Dota 2 Reborn, making Dota 2 the first game to use the engine. Reborn was first released to the public as a beta update that same month, and officially replaced the original client in September 2015. Reborn included a new user interface framework design, ability for custom game modes created by the community, and the full replacement of the original Source engine with Source 2. Largely attributed to technical difficulties players experienced with the update, the global player base experienced a sharp drop of approximately sixteen percent the month following the release of Reborn. However, after various updates and patches, over a million concurrent players were playing again by the beginning of 2016, with that being the largest amount of users in nearly a year. The move to Source 2 also allowed the use of the Vulkan graphics API, which was released as an optional feature in May 2016, making Dota 2 one of the first games to offer it.
To ensure that enough Defense of the Ancients players would take up Dota 2 and to showcase the game's capabilities, Valve sponsored sixteen accomplished Defense of the Ancients teams to compete at The International, a Dota 2 specific eSports tournament, for a $1 million prize in 2011. The International became an annual championship tournament in 2012, with the venue changing to Seattle. In its third year, The International allowed crowdfunding to add to its prize pool through an interactive, in-game item called a "compendium". Compendiums, which are optional and must be purchased separately, allow players who buy them to directly raise prize money for The International by spending money on unique compendium cosmetics and other in-game items, with 25% of all the revenue made going directly to the prize pool. Sales from the 2013 compendium helped raise over $2.8 million, making The International 2013 reclaim its previous title as having the largest prize pool in eSports history from the League of Legends Season 2 World Championship. Since then, each annual tournament of The International has broken the previous one's prize pool record, with the fourth iteration of the tournament raising over $10.9 million, exceeding the prizes pools of the Super Bowl, Masters Tournament, and Tour de France. At The International 2015, the prize pool exceeded $18.4 million, earning the champion team, Evil Geniuses, over $6 million.
Following the inaugural event of The International, several other eSport events began to transition from Defense of the Ancients to Dota 2, including the Electronic Sports World Cup. DreamHack would also support Dota 2 in 2011, following a year without support for the original, on account of other MOBA titles such as Heroes of Newerth and League of Legends. By the end of its first year in its beta phase, Dota 2 was one of the highest-paying eSport titles of 2011, second only to StarCraft II. In 2012, Dota 2 began as an official title for the World Cyber Games annual event at World Cyber Games 2012. The Electronic Sports League (ESL) began a seasonal tournament for Dota 2 called the RaidCall EMS One in 2013, which was the largest independent tournament for Dota 2 by the beginning of 2013. Beginning in September 2013, the Association for Chinese eSports began a league, called the WPC ACE Dota 2 League, which had the largest third-party prize pool in Dota 2 eSports history at the time. At Electronic Entertainment Expo 2013, Nexon announced the investment of two billion South Korean won, (approximately $1.7 million), into amateur and professional leagues in South Korea for 2013, to coincide with the launch of their distribution agreement in the fall of that year. Modeled after the interactive compendium for The International, Valve introduced a compendium third-party tournament organizers could sell, beginning with the ASUS ROG DreamLeague in February 2014. In February 2015, the Valve-sponsored Dota 2 Asia Championships was held in Shanghai with a prize pool of over $3 million, raised through compendium sales.
In total, professional Dota 2 tournaments had earned teams and players nearly $65 million in prize money by June 2016, which was more than twice the amount of League of Legends tournaments, making it the highest earning eSport game at the time.
Starting in 2015, Valve began sponsoring smaller, but seasonally held tournaments with a fixed $3 million prize pool, known officially as the Dota Major Championships. The format for the tournaments are based on the series of the same name that Valve also sponsors for their first-person shooter game, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The first of which, hosted and produced by ESL, was the Frankfurt Major held in November 2015 at the Festhalle Frankfurt in Frankfurt, and was won by OG. The next Major was hosted and produced by Perfect World, and was held in March 2016 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, and was won by Team Secret. The third and final Major of the 2015–2016 season was hosted and produced by PGL, and was held at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila in June 2016. The tournament was won by OG, becoming the first team to repeat as champions of a Dota 2 Major.
Following the introduction of the Majors, The International championships were then considered to be the cumulative "Summer Major", with the 2016 iteration being the first one under the new format. Still using the same crowdfunding system for the prize pool as previous Internationals, the tournament broke the record for the highest prize pool in eSports history at over $20 million, surpassing the record that the event had set the previous year, and was won by Wings Gaming. At a player's meeting at the same event, Valve announced that due to scheduling issues they had prior to the International, they would be reducing the number of Majors from three to two for the following season, with the next tournament taking place in Boston at the Wang Theatre in December 2016, which was won again by OG. The second and final Major of the season will be held in Kiev in April 2017, with The International 2017 following in August.
The primary medium for professional Dota 2 coverage is through the video game live streaming platform, Twitch.tv. For most major events, tournament coverage is done by a selection of dedicated eSports organizations and personnel who provide on-site commentary, analysis, and player interviews surrounding the event in progress, similar to traditional sporting events. Live Dota 2 games and coverage have also been simulcast on television networks around the world, such as ESPN in the United States, Sport1 in Germany, TV 2 Zulu in Denmark, Xinwen Lianbo in China, Astro in Malaysia, and TV5 in the Philippines.
Dota 2 received universal acclaim, according to review aggregator Metacritic. In a preview of the game in 2012, Rich McCormick of PC Gamer thought that Dota 2 was "an unbelievably deep and complex game that offers the purest sequel to the original Defense of the Anicents. Rewarding like few others, but tough". Adam Biessener, the editor who authored the announcement article for Dota 2 for Game Informer in 2010, praised Valve for maintaining the same mechanics and game balance that made Defense of the Ancients successful nearly a decade prior and Quintin Smith of Eurogamer described Dota 2 as the "supreme form of the MOBA which everyone else working in the genre is trying to capture like lightning in a bottle". The most frequently praised aspects of the game were its depth, delivery, and overall balance. Chris Thursten of PC Gamer described the gameplay as being "deep and rewarding".
Martin Gaston of GameSpot complimented Valve for the delivery and artistic design of Dota 2, citing the execution of the user interface design, voice acting and characterization as exceeding those of the game's competitors. Phill Cameron of IGN and James Kozanitis of Hardcore Gamer praised Dota 2 for its free-to-play business model that was not affected by cosmetic items, with Kozanitis stating that Dota 2 was "the only game to do free-to-play right". Nick Kolan of IGN also agreed, comparing the game's business model to Valve's Team Fortress 2, which uses a nearly identical system. Post-release additions to the game were also praised, such as the addition of virtual reality (VR) support in 2016. Ben Kuchera of Polygon thought that spectating games in VR was "amazing", comparing it to being able to watch an American football game on television with the ability to jump onto the field at any time to see the quarterback's point of view. Chris Thursten of PC Gamer agreed, calling the experience "incredible" and unlike any other eSports spectating system that existed prior to it. Sam Machkovech of Ars Technica also praised the addition, believing that the functionality could "attract serious attention from gamers and non-gamers alike".
While the majority of reviewers gave Dota 2 highly positive reviews, a common criticism was that the game maintains a steep learning curve that requires exceptional commitment to overcome. While providing a moderately positive review that praised Valve's product stability, Fredrik Åslund from the Swedish division of Gamereactor described his first match of Dota 2 as one of the most humiliating and inhospitable experiences of his gaming career, citing the learning curve and players' attitudes as unwelcoming. Benjamin Danneberg of GameStar alluded to the learning curve as a "learning cliff", calling the newcomer's experience to be painful, with the tutorial feature new to the Dota franchise only being partially successful. In a review for the Metro newspaper, Dota 2 was criticized for not compensating for the flaws with the learning curve from Defense of the Ancients, as well as the sometimes hostile community, which is commonly criticized in multiplayer online battle arena games. Peter Bright of Ars Technica also directed criticism at the ability for third-party websites to allow skin gambling and betting on match results, similar to controversies that also existed with Valve's Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Using Dota 2 as an example, Bright thought that Valve had built gambling elements directly into their games, and had issues with the unregulated practice, which he stated was often used by underage players and regions where gambling is illegal. Australian senator Nick Xenophon had similar sentiment, stating that he wanted to introduce legislation in his country to minimize underage access to gambling within video games, including Dota 2. In response to the controversy, Valve and Dota 2 project manager, Erik Johnson, stated that they would be taking action against the third-party sites, saying that the practice was not allowed by their API or their user agreements.
Comparisons of Dota 2 to other MOBA games are commonplace, with the game's mechanics and business model often being directly compared with League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm. Contrasting it with League of Legends, T.J. Hafer of PC Gamer called Dota 2 the "superior experience", stating that he thought the game was "all about counterplay", with most of the heroes being designed to directly counter another. Hafer also preferred the way the game handled its hero selection pool, with all of them being unlocked right from the start, unlike in League of Legends. Comparing Dota 2 to Heroes of the Storm, Jason Parker of CNET said that while Heroes of the Storm was easier to get into, the complexities and depth of Dota 2 would be appreciated more by those who put in the time to master it. Further comparing it to Heroes of Newerth, players from the professional Dota 2 team OG said that most Heroes of Newerth players were able to transition over easily to the game, due to the strong similarities that both games share.
Awards and accolades
Following its first public showing in 2011, Dota 2 won IGN's People's Choice Award. In December 2012, PC Gamer listed Dota 2 as a nominee for their Game of the Year award, as well as the best eSports title of the year. In 2013, the year the game officially released, Dota 2 won the eSport of the year awards from PC Gamer and onGamers. GameTrailers also awarded the game the award for Best PC Game of 2013, with IGN also awarding it the Best PC Strategy & Tactics Game, Best PC Multiplayer Game, and People's Choice Award. Similarly, Game Informer recognized Dota 2 for the categories of Best PC Exclusive, Best Competitive Multiplayer and Best Strategy of 2013. The same year, Dota 2 was nominated for a number of Game of the Year awards by Destructoid, including the award for the best competitive game. While the staff selected StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Dota 2 received the majority of the votes distributed between the nine nominees. Dota 2 was later nominated for the best multiplayer game at the 10th British Academy Games Awards in 2014, but lost to Grand Theft Auto V, and was nominated for eSports Game of the Year at The Game Awards at both the 2015 and 2016 events, while winning the award for best MOBA at the 2015 Global Game Awards. The game was also nominated for the community created "Love/Hate Relationship" award at the inaugural Steam Awards. Some publications have also called Dota 2 one of the best video games of all time, with Game Revolution, Time, and PC Gamer including it in lists of their top games.
Two months before its official release, Dota 2 had reached almost 330,000 concurrent players, and held the record for the game with the most concurrent users in Steam history, breaking its own record set in March of the same year. Simultaneous with this benchmark, the concurrent number of Dota 2 players in May 2013 outweighed the number of players for the rest of Steam's top ten most-played games combined. Dota 2 was the first game in Steam's history to have over one million concurrent players, and was the third most watched game on Twitch.tv in 2015, after League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Since its official release in 2013, Dota 2 has been the most played game on Steam, with over 630,000 average players per hour in 2016, which was nearly double that of the game in second place, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Viewership and followings of professional Dota 2 leagues and tournaments are also popular, with concurrent numbers of some events reaching upwards in the millions.
Promotional tie-ins to other video games and media were added to Dota 2 post-release, including custom Half-Life 2, Bastion, Portal, Defense Grid: The Awakening, Trine, The Stanley Parable, Rick and Morty, Fallout 4, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided announcer packs, which replace the game's default announcer with ones based on those franchises. In addition to announcer packs, notable third-party musical artists have written music packs that replaces the game's default soundtrack, including electronic music artist deadmau5, Singaporean songwriter JJ Lin, and video game composers Chance Thomas, Jeremy Soule, and Lennie Moore. To coincide with the Windows release of Square Enix's Final Fantasy Type-0 HD in August 2015, a bundle containing a custom loading screen, a Moogle ward, and a Chocobo courier were added the same month. In April 2016, Valve announced a cross-promotional workshop contest for Sega's Total War: Warhammer, with the winning entries being included in the game later that year.
The popularity of Dota 2 led Valve to produce apparel, accessories, posters, and a number of other products featuring the heroes and other elements from the game. In addition, Valve secured licensing contracts with third-party producers; the first of these deals concerned a Dota 2 themed SteelSeries mousepad, which was announced at Gamescom 2011. In September 2012, Weta Workshop, the prop studio that creates the "Aegis of Champions" trophy for winners of The International, announced a product line that would include statues, weapons, and armor based on Dota 2 characters and items. In February 2013, the National Entertainment Collectibles Association announced a new toy line featuring hero-themed action figures at the American International Toy Fair. After the conclusion of The International 2015, Valve awarded the Collector's Aegis of Champions, which was a 1/5th scale brass replica of the Aegis of Champions trophy, to those with compendiums of 1,000 levels or more. Valve awarded the Collector's Aegis again the following year for The International 2016, as well as selling a limited edition Dota 2 themed HTC Vive virtual reality headset during the event.
A documentary on the game and its professional scene was produced by Valve and released in March 2014. Known as Free to Play, the film follows three players during their time at the first International in 2011. American basketball player Jeremy Lin, who was a media sensation at the time, had a guest appearance in the film, where he called the game "a way of life". Lin later compared the game and the professional gaming scene in general to basketball and other traditional sporting events, saying that there was not much of a difference between the two, while also comparing various NBA all-stars, such as Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James, to different heroes in the game. In 2016, Valve began releasing an three-part episodic documentary series followup to Free to Play, titled True Sight. The series followed the professional teams Evil Geniuses and Fnatic as they prepared for and played in the Boston Major tournament, which took place at the end of that year. Valve have also officially endorsed cosplay competitions featuring the game's heroes, which take place during downtime at professional Dota 2 tournaments and feature prize pools of their own. Creation of Dota 2-themed animations and CGI videos, mostly created by the community with Source Filmmaker, also exist. Similar to the cosplay competitions, Valve holds short film contests every year at The International, with winners of the competition also being awarded prize money. In addition, Valve have created free webcomics featuring some of the heroes, further detailing their background lore.
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