A new champion has taken the field. And we’re not talking about Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, which is once again in at the top slot overall.
No, the big news is that after a few brief shots at the crown, Valve’s DOTA 2 surpassed Riot Games’ smash-hit League of Legends in both total players and total playtime for the month of August based on gameplay data from Raptr’s 18 million members.
Italicize that last part in your mind if you need to — Raptr’s membership skews more North America-centric than the total gaming audience, so we aren’t saying categorically that more people spent more time playing DOTA 2 than LoL. But among Raptr members, they definitely did, although it was close. Also, this list includes PC and Xbox 360 games only — Sony and Nintendo don’t let players share gameplay data publicly.
LoL vs. DOTA 2 Analysis
League of Legends shot to the top of our playtime charts due in part to its wildly popular spectator modes, tournament livestreams, and world championships. DOTA 2 officially launched (after an extended beta) on July 9 and just concluded its own livestreamed championship event, The International, which ran August 7-11 and offered in-game incentives for viewers.
No doubt that had a strong effect on DOTA 2′s numbers. LoL’s Season 3 World Championships kicking into higher gear last week, giving Riot a big opportunity to recoup.
But Valve’s challenger has nipped at LoL’s heels for months now. DOTA 2 first passed LoL in total players on March 3 — coincidentally, right when LoL servers went down (possibly due to a denial-of-service attack). That gave DOTA 2 a free shot at taking the lead for a day. A few isolated days followed where DOTA 2 came within a few hundred players of LoL’s total…or leapfrogged it by six or seven thousand without warning.
Those events occasionally coincided with Riot releasing major patches — typically a source of downtime for online games. But even with servers up and running at capacity, Riot’s numbers have taken a substantial hit of late. Total LoL playtime hours have dropped 13% in the last 30 days. New members in that same timeframe are up a healthy 27%, but overall unique active members are down 6%.
That suggests older, established players are drifting away, and the new players coming in aren’t engaging as deeply.
By contrast, in the same 30-day window, DOTA 2 saw an 11% increase in unique active members while new signups were down 3%. It’s the exact opposite of LoL’s problem…players are engaging long term, but the influx of new blood is starting to dip.
Pushing into the first week of September, it looks so far like a fairly even split between days favoring League of Legends and those carried by DOTA 2. With the glow of The International pretty much faded and LoL’s incredibly popular World Championships ongoing, it’s likely LoL’s numbers will angle straight up again in the middle of the month. But the recent erosion of its player base should be a serious cause for concern if the trend continues after the World Championships. And DOTA 2′s numbers prove that if Riot Games opens the door, Valve’s increasingly popular MOBA will walk right on through.
Note: This text has been updated to clarify that the World Championships are still ongoing.