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Dota Auto Chess Follows in the Footsteps of the Dota Legacy

Dota Auto Chess draws parallels to Dota 2's history, and might even help draw conclusions about the next genre of popular games.

With it's millions of players, Dota 2 is the most popular game on Steam, and it has been for a long time.

Every August, we're reminded of it's record-breaking championship prize pool ($25.532.177 for 2018's championship alone).

TI8 arena

However, many might not know of Dota's humble begininngs as user-created Warcraft III mod.

Defense of the Ancients title screen

17 years ago, Kyle Sommer created a custom game called " Defense of the Ancients" in Blizzard's Warcraft III client.

Defense of the Ancients gameplay

Based on a StarCraft scenario named "Aeon of Strife", this DotA custom game within the Warcraft III game client was simple:

  • 10 players, each controlling one hero
  • 5v5 tug-of-war style gameplay, with each team of 5 trying to destroy the opposing team's "ancient"
  • Gold, experience, and items were gained by farming and fighting
  • Players could choose from 112 unique heroes, each with different abilities, strengths, and weaknesses (no shortage of strategy and gameplay depth)

MOBA top/middle/bottom lane map

If the map looks like this, it's probably a MOBA game.

Within Warcraft III, the DotA mod grew in popularity and evolved exponentially until it became the standalone behemoth that it is today: Dota 2.Dota character Juggernaut evolution

Juggernaut in Dota 1 vs. Dota 2

DotA was the first real MOBA, or "Multiplayer Online Battle Arena" genre, and led to the creation of other MOBA giants like League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, Smite, and Heroes of Newerth.

MOBAs: League of Legends, Dota, Heroes of Newerth

And then in January 2019, within the Dota 2 client, a new custom game arose...

Dota Auto Chess

Call it fate, or irony, or the circle of life, but there's no doubt that Dota Auto Chess draws parallels to it's predecessor's journey, and might even help us draw some conclusions about the direction that games are headed.

Not unlike the original Defense of the Ancients, Auto Chess had a humble start, developed by "Drodo Studio", a team of just 5 Chinese developers.

Auto chess meme: Valve holding Artifact's hand while looking at Dota Autochess

Especially following the lackluster performance of Valve's Dota-based polished TCG-style game, Artifact, Valve is more than likely eyeballing Auto Chess with the intent of making it a fully fledged title, or at least offering in-client support. With all the traction the game has gained so quickly within their Dota 2 client, Valve would be silly to let it the idea take off with another publisher.

The next big genre

Is Dota Auto Chess going to spawn a new genre of games? You could argue that Hearthstone, Magic Online, and Artifact have already done it. But none of those are completely free like Auto Chess is, and none of them have applied the Battle Royale format.

I'd argue Auto Chess is much closer to the recently-released Tetris Online (Battle Royale Tetris), although as my colleague David Cheng explains, Auto Chess finds the right balance of benefits to keep people hooked.

Dota chess meme: car on highway with sign for Dota but swerves onto exit ramp for Dota Autochess

I wouldn't be surpised to see the "Auto Chess" format pop up outside of Dota. It may well be the next evolution of Battle Royale games.

With 5 million subscribers (and growing) in less than 2 months, there's no doubt that Auto Chess will be around for quite awhile. I certainly can't stop playing.