The original Defence of the Ancients (Dota) was released as a mod for Warcraft III back in 2003. This mod soon found itself arguably more popular than the base game and went on to inspire a whole new genre. Referred to as Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs), this genre eventually became one of the biggest in gaming, both in terms of players and winnings.
According to the Steam charts, the current incarnation of Dota 2 averages around 500,000 concurrent players at any one time. Combine this with the largest prize pool in gaming, with tournaments giving out over $181 million so far, and the progress this genre has made is undeniable.
Aiding in this success is Dota’s surrounding infrastructure. Websites dedicated to Dota 2 news keep players and fans updated on the direct side of things, including all the recent patch and eSports developments. Now also reaching major mainstream attention is Dota Auto Chess, which acts a mod for Dota 2 similar to the original’s treatment of Warcraft III.
For those unaware of this phenomenon, Auto Chess is not actually chess, though it does borrow a similar checkerboard playing field and some terminology. Instead, it a semi-automated strategy game which borrows characters and concepts from the base Dota 2. Players select a team, level up, choose where to spend cash, and upgrade their party in order to be the last of the two teams standing.
This mod was released on January 4 2019 and has hit over 9 million players a mere 6 months later. Public attention and recognition for Auto Chess mark it as a coming force in new gaming genres, much as MOBAs, and more recently, battle royale games, have done before. Auto Chess has proven so popular, in fact, that Valve has released their own version titled Dota Underlords to compete with the unofficial but entirely legal original mod.
An exciting idea here is that this new genre offers opportunities for other games to develop similar spinoffs. As Auto Chess relies heavily on the use of a widely available roster and hero units, it would not be suited for some, but there are certain hit games which we feel would be perfect fits as spinoffs. Overwatch is the first which comes to mind here. Launching in May of 2016, Overwatch started with a roster of 21 characters. As of July 2017, this roster has reached 30 and is still growing. Combined with established lore to draw from and there is no doubt that Blizzard will be looking to explore this option.
Blizzard doesn't think the Overwatch roster is big enough for a pick/ban system… yet. https://t.co/NO9uDouusq pic.twitter.com/gn1ri1Jeic— IGN (@IGN) March 22, 2019
Unfortunately, Blizzard isn’t as open to modding as Valve is, so if Auto Chess does come to Overwatch then the game will have to be an official release. History has shown a few standout cases of game mods leading to a revolution among mainstream developers. Half-Life’s Counter-Strike mod did this, as did Team Fortress. Auto Chess could be a world first, however; an industry-changing mod born from a game which itself started as an industry-changing mod.
So, which established series will be the next to find themselves with Auto Chess spinoffs, and which are you hoping for the most?
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