The game Dota 2 is a smashing success by any metric for a game, exceeding all expectations. It has 9 million unique players according to the developers of the game and has had the biggest tournament in e-sports history in the summer of 2014 with a prize pool of ~$10.9 million dollars. Nine million of those dollars were crowd sourced from the audience directly.
Dota 2 even had a 30 minute feature air on ESPN about the tournament. A mod for Warcraft 3 has branched out to be a multimillion dollar genre. The genre is so profitable for developers that they’re able to continuously develop for the game off the free-2-play model.
Valve, the makers of Dota 2, have done a lot of right for the community. They made a workshop where artists can submit models to be featured in their digital Dota store. This allows Valve to take a cut to continue development for the game while allowing the artists to profit off a game with 9 million players. Valve has also did a similar thing with player items and branched out to tournaments. Tournaments can get a ticket to allow in-game access for their tournaments.
This lets the players view the tournament match in other venues than Twitch/Hitbox. This option uses less bandwidth while giving more options in-game. You can choose among the different casters for in-game commentary. You can also switch perspectives from Caster to Player Perspective opening up on how you view a match. This allows a tournament an option not to be dependent on sponsors and ad revenue. Players also get to support the tournaments they want to watch directly. Making this an overall victory for all parties.
Valve hasn’t always implemented policies in Dota 2 that were popular. One of the biggest controversies that has started in the last month is the ownership of digital items. Valve runs a marketplace where you can sell your items on their network for Steam cash. This is a closed economic system where you can add money but you can’t take it out. You could sell a pimping hat gotten from one game for $10 and then buy a game in the Steam store. Your Steam wallet could be used for in-game items or to buy games on Steam itself.
This model has been a resounding success but even successful things have problems. Many scammers use stolen credit cards to add money on to their Steam wallets. They then buy game items to launder the money. When the credit company does a chargeback, Valve has to deal with the loss of revenue and hassle. As a company, Valve has decided to implement one of the biggest changes to the Steam service in years—the inability to sell items under a week of it’s acquisition. This has led to some frustration among traders but hasn’t sparked a riot.
Dota 2 was given a beefed up steroid-ed version of this policy. Item chests were given a 2-3 month waiting period before you could trade or sell them. Item chests are a 2-4 USD item that contains a collection of 4-10 bundle sets/items. You opened up the chest and you would get a random bundle set/item from the 4-10 sets/items from the chest. Valve policy for the chests meant that you wouldn’t get a duplicate until you have gotten all the sets in the collection. A lot of players would sell unwanted bundle’s on the steam marketplace. Players could directly buy the set they want or sell off unwanted sets. The new policy changed that.
You couldn’t trade or sell the sets on the marketplace until 3 months after acquirement. If you wanted a guarantee shot of getting the set for a hero you like. Valve’s Dota store would sell the set for $8.99 USD. Valve was in essence increasing the price of their sets by stifling the marketplace. This change has been around for a month but hadn’t hit critical mass until last week.
Valve started to advertise their holiday themed Dota stuff in the past week. You could buy gift wrap for $0.25 USD and give an item to a buddy. This was in effect a trade without the other player needing to approve it. Many people including myself wanted to give out some of the bundles we bought. Valve didn’t publicly say which items could be gift-wrapped, yet when you were in the game and using the gift-wrap item, you couldn’t give away a lot of items including the non trade-able bundles. Many people were mad and this spawned many Reddit threads.
Valve on December 23rd decided to rectify this problem. They gave people tokens and free chests for the people who bought the giftwrap option. They even made the gift wrap option a free tool to use. The best part about this whole ordeal was the fact you could give the non trade-able bundles to your buddies. Many companies would have told gamers tough luck and implemented even more draconian practices, yet Valve decided to bank on goodwill.
Gaming companies can and will make mistakes on monetizing their game, an obvious pitfall of being a company. You’re on a tight-rope balancing customer satisfaction and keeping the lights on at your office. Valve has shown that they do both. Yes, they do make mistakes, but it’s how you rebound from them that define you.