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Is Valve ending support for the Dota 2 Arcade?

Aug 20, 2023Aug 20, 2023


Valve, the heralded creators of Dota 2, have sent shockwaves through the gaming community with their recent directive to custom game creators. By August 17, Valve is asking creators to halt all monetization efforts on Valve's platform - a marked but understandable shift.

Historically, its popular MOBA title, Dota 2 has been celebrated for its thriving custom game sphere. Its "Arcade Menu" serves as a bastion for players hunting for unique, user-concocted games. Case in point, Auto Chess was birthed there before it spawned an entire genre that remains popular today.

Unfortunately, Valve's newfound intransigence on the commercial use of their Dota Workshop tools throws a spanner in the works for these ingenious developers. The private company's legal notice pertinently points to a sweeping array of monetization avenues, such as third-party payments, virtual items, and more. This heavy-handed move underscores the non-commercial essence of the Dota Workshop tools’ license.

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, susbcriptions, items, currencies, skins, etc…

— Pavel Djundik (@thexpaw) August 4, 2023

But herein lies the irony. Valve's own story is deeply intertwined with modding. Revered games like Counter-Strike, Left 4 Dead, and Team Fortress began as humble mods of other games. Even Dota 2 itself emerged from the chrysalis of the modding community.

In essence, modding isn't just a technical endeavor but a ride of passage for budding developers looking to hone their craft, building on pre-existing models, sounds, and controls.

By some reckonings, if the Dota 2 Arcade stood alone as a Steam release, it would proudly rank among the top 20 most played games on Steam. This isn't merely a frivolous claim. The prodigious success of Dota Auto Chess - a fixture on the Dota 2 Arcade - engineered an entire gaming genre, as was previously mentioned. But, this meteoric rise has met its fair share of challenges.

Such expansive games grapple with monumental upkeep costs, from continuous game patches, language translations, to regular content updates.

With Valve's decision, the persistent vibrancy and evolution of such games hang in the balance.

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Perhaps what's more poignant is the historical significance of the Dota 2 Arcade. The unassuming GemTD, the precursor to Dota Auto Chess, was a monetized entity, laying the foundation for future developments. Ponder this - what if Dota Auto Chess was devoid of a ranking system, or stymied by language barriers, or became defunct after a patch update? It's conceivable that the gaming landscape might have missed out on an epoch-making genre.

However, this discussion appears to have divided the Dota 2 community. Some call for Valve to reconsider total monetization prohibition and create an official channel. A common solution is to let users use their Steam wallets for transactions in the Dota 2 Arcade. This way, developers can continue to pursue their passion projects, players enjoy a trusted purchase mechanism, and Valve gets its rightful share.

Drawing parallels, Blizzard's initial-but-since-defunct business model with Starcraft 2 shines as a beacon of potential. Blizzard’s collaborative approach with map creators to commercialize offers a blueprint for Valve. Why not expand the existing Steam Workshop framework to incorporate these minor yet impactful changes? It’s a win-win scenario.

Naysayers on the other hand, point that the games on the Dota 2 Arcade aren't all original and many are purposefully designed to be pay-to-win. There's historical precedence for games like Defense of the Ancients, the predecessor of DOTA 2, and many other mods for, among others, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, that didn't thrive on monetization practices.

At the end of the day, this is a delicate issue that needs to be discussed further to come up with a solution that keeps all parties happy.

For now, the Dota 2 Arcade modding community has no choice but to understand where Valve is coming from. It build the Dota 2 Arcade as a set of tools that modders agree to use for the sole purpose of creation - not commercialization. After years of mods trying to make money off of its users and being left to deal with the mess created by modders that should've have happened in the first place, it's decided to clamp down hard.

Make no mistake, the Dota 2 Arcade remains, but numerous games holding the lion's share of the arcade's player base are precariously poised, some teetering on the brink of closure. These games, which are the products of the community of dedicated companies and individuals, have not just been leisure pursuits but livelihoods. It is the collective hope of the community that Valve rethinks its stance, ensuring a symbiotic environment where innovation, entertainment, and fair monetization coexist harmoniously.

Speaking of Valve, the company is currently dealing with a long-running issue between the Steam Deck and FedEx, its preferred delivery partner. Finally, it's rumored to be preparing for a Half-Life 3 announcement but we highly doubt it.

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