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In years past, Dota 2 has consistently been one of the most popular esports titles in India. Having commanded the lion’s share of prize money paid out in Indian esports, an ardent fan base, and a rising number of professional teams, the game hit the heights of its popularity in India in 2016-2017.
Although the prize pool has continued to increase over the years, there has been a noticeable decline in the overall popularity of the game in the Indian esports ecosystem in terms of tournament participation, viewership, and overall interest. This, in part, has caused tournament organizers and esports organizations to focus their resources on other titles like PUBG Mobile or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). Sentiment around investing in Dota 2 ventures in India has been weak among local esports businesses, especially when the behemoth that is PUBG Mobile continues to grow day-by-day in the country.
Professional Indian Dota 2 Teams That Shut Down in 2019
Early 2019 saw a multitude of esports organizations investing in Dota 2 with teams such as Signify, Entity Gaming, Reckoning Esports, and Global Esports all competing in a number of different Indian tournaments. However, by the end of the year, none of these organizations house Dota 2 rosters any more.
The first to disband was Signify who eliminated its Dota 2 and CS:GO rosters citing concerns of conflicts of interest on account of having directors that shared a position in a tournament organizer, COBX Gaming. Following that exit, Entity Gaming and Reckoning Esports have also seemingly disbanded their rosters without any announcements, despite putting up decent performances in local LAN events.
Finally, Global Esports disbanded its roster on Dec. 15, 2019, with the official announcement citing the declining viewership as the primary reason for this decision.
“Cumulatively based on the response from the community and the state of Dota 2 in general as a viewer esports there has been a decline of the past few months. Taking into account everything we have learned from this experience we have decided that we will be stepping down from Dota 2 in India.”
A number of new organizations have also announced their entry into the Indian esports ecosystem like Fnatic and Orange Rock Esports. However, they too, seem to be focussing on mobile esports titles and do not look like they will be picking up Dota 2 rosters in the near future.
Without a stable monthly income which a professional organization guarantees for an aspiring esports professional, it is difficult to see many Dota 2 players emerge from the country.
The Falling Viewership Numbers
The problem with analyzing the viewership numbers for Indian Dota 2 is the fact that most tournaments are broadcast on livestreaming platforms like Hotstar or Voot, which do not publicly display viewership numbers. Hence, reliable viewership numbers for the biggest Indian Dota 2 tournaments including the ESL India Premiership 2019 and Dew Arena 2019 are not available.
However, a few tournaments like the WESG 2019: South Asian Finals and the Taiwan Excellence Cup 2019 were streamed on platforms Twitch and YouTube, and data for these events is available.
The Taiwan Excellence Gaming Cup 2019 only had a total viewership of 7.7K for both Dota 2 and CS:GO combined, whilst the WESG 2019: South Asian Finals only had a peak viewership of 969 and an average viewership of 317.
Contrast these numbers with those of PUBG Mobile tournaments such as the PMCO 2019 Fall South Asia (249.8K Peak Viewership, 63.6K Average Viewership) or Garena Free Fire tournaments such as the Free Fire India Today League (86.3K Peak Viewership, 7.5K Average Viewership) and it is easy to see that Dota 2 has been dwarfed in terms of viewership.
Frequency of Dota 2 Tournaments in India
With a noticeable shift towards mobile esports in India, the number of Dota 2 tournaments being hosted have started drying up significantly. Although the year kicked off with the biggest ever Dota 2 tournament held in the country, ESL One Mumbai 2019, over the course of the year the frequency of tournaments for the title has declined.
The DreamHack Delhi Invitational 2019 dropped Dota 2 from its catalog, relegating it to a “Bring Your Own Computer” (BYOC) tournament, only featuring an INR 40K ($561 USD) prize pool. Phoenix Gaming and Anime Expo (PGAX) 2019 also didn’t feature Dota 2, unlike last year, instead choosing to feature CS:GO. This, of course, removed significant chunks from the amount of prize money that could be won by Indian teams.
The total prize pool for Indian Dota 2 tournaments in 2019 was in excess of INR 27.2M ($382.2K USD). However, when you remove ESL One Mumbai 2019 from this equation (it was hosted by the ESL Global with only one Indian spot), the total prize pool drops to INR 5.86M ($82.2K USD). This is significantly lower than the net Dota 2 prize pool in 2018 which amounted to INR 12.1M ($170K USD).
These numbers aren’t really that surprising considering the falling interest in the tier two Dota 2 ecosystem globally. Although the Indian Dota 2 scene has been provided numerous opportunities to prove themselves at international tournaments, none of the teams or players have managed to make a mark.
With no new emerging Dota 2 talent, the Indian scene has only seen the same old players reshuffling amongst themselves, for the most part. This has contributed to the decrease in Indian Dota 2 fans and viewership, which, in turn, has lead to the collapse of the local Dota 2 ecosystem.
Unless Valve itself intervenes with a dedicated spot for India/South Asia in DPC tournaments, it is difficult to see the region regaining momentum in the near future. However, this is unlikely to happen since it is not in the best interest of the game by itself.
Vignesh Raghuram is a staff writer for AFK Gaming.
Disclaimers: NODWIN Gaming (the tournament organizer involved with the ESL India Premiership 2019, Dew Arena 2019, and the Taiwan Excellence Gaming Cup 2019 and ESL One Mumbai 2019) is a client of and minority investor in AFK Gaming.
Phoenix Gaming and Anime Expo was a client of AFK Gaming.