The Dota 2 Arcade will go commercial-free by late August, impacting many custom games including Ability Arena.
The Dota 2 Arcade is one of the biggest elements of Dota 2, pooling more than tens of thousands of daily players - more than many actual Steam games out there. But Valve just imposed an anti-monetization rule which might (or already have) jeopardized the Arcade ecosystem.
On August 5, Arcade game owners shared that Valve's legal team had asked them to go commercial-free, meaning they need to drop any form of monetization in their Arcade games. According to Pavel Djundik, "Valve lawyers sent out emails to Dota 2 custom game creators asking them to stop all monetization by August 17th." This includes third-party payment methods, battle passes, subscriptions, items, currencies, cosmetics, and more.
Custom game makers are pulling the plug
This shocking order rocked the custom game world, understandably. A lot of custom games monetize their products where users can purchase skins, cosmetics, and even in-game perks. With Dota 2 Arcade going commercial-free, some developers have decided to pull the plug on their games. Meanwhile, some opted to protest and voice their complaints on Reddit among many other platforms.
One of the biggest Arcade games, Ability Arena, is going to cease operation. The creator, also a notable Dota 2 talent, Shannon "SUNSfan" Scotten, shared the unfortunate news, "With great sadness, we are shutting down Ability Arena. Thank you for all the great times friends. This was an amazing adventure."
SUNSfan had a more in-depth discussion with Jenkins recently. You can read more about it here.
The popular 12 vs 12 Arcade game opted for a blackout protest on August 5th. "Valve is no longer allowing custom games to have any kind of monetization. Since this game has ongoing operational costs, it cannot stay online for free and is being shut down. Email Valve to let them know you want the game to stay alive." This protest, however, is no longer ongoing.
Another Dota 2 Arcade game creator went to Reddit to explain the situation and pleads for Valve to come up with a solution. They ask for tools to allow players to use their Steam wallet in the Arcade. The post claims that this open letter is signed by many of the top custom game owners including Overthrow 3.0, Custom Hero Clash, and Dota 12 vs 12.
What are the implications of a ruined Arcade?
Custom games play a huge role in not only Dota 2 but the entirety of esports. Dota 2 itself was born from a modded version of Warcraft III. Not only that, the Dota 2 custom game scene also created the hit Dota Auto Chess genre that became so successful, game publishers started recreating it.
Dota Auto Chess started as one of the Arcade games in Dota 2 and it does have monetization for courier cosmetics, map skins, and more. At one point, Dota Auto Chess accumulated more than 200K concurrent players and 8 million subscribers. This popularity led to game publishers making their own games with the same concept. This includes Valve's Underlord and Riot Games' Teamfight Tactics.
Valve blocking monetization in Dota 2 Arcade would discourage custom game creators from maintaining their games. This could jeopardize this ecosystem where new ideas and concepts are introduced by the community. And if more custom games shut down, the Dota 2 player base may just plunge.
The impact of a dying Dota 2 Arcade doesn't only affect the average Dota 2 players. It is worth to mention that even pro players use certain custom games to warm up before matches. In Team Spirit's recent vlog, Magomed "Collapse" Khalilov talked about warming up before tournament matches with Overthrow 3.0.
In response to SUNSfan shutting down Ability Arena, talent Kyle Freedman, shows his appreciation to the custom game community. "My life would be radically different, and quite likely much worse, if not for the custom games created by communities."
A silver lining?
In the midst of strong backlash against the anti-monetization rule, there are also those who are happy with this action. This is mainly because a lot of Arcade games allow "pay to win" (P2W) which gives players an unfair advantage in exchange for payment. And with Arcade going commercial-free, players can no longer pay money to gain in-game advantages.
P2W is rampant in the Dota 2 Arcade and to a lot of the average users, they have ruined the joy and experience when playing these custom games. A Dota 2 player took to Reddit to share his relief with the new regulation, 'I'm glad that I can soon play Arcade again without x things telling me "if you pay money you will have even more fun and gameplay advantages!" Arcade is supposed to be free, truly free, just like Dota.'
Valve's controversial action sees its pros and cons. However, if custom game makers are not supported, they can opt to leave the scene. This may lead to the death of Dota 2 custom games and this will certainly topple the strong playerbase in Dota 2.