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League of Legends vs Dota 2 – A comparison of titanic proportions

The Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre is being dominated between two titans, namely Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2) and League of Legends (LoL). Today, early in 2014, I bring you some of the statistics and updates on these two great games, comparing them with each other in relation to player base, prize pools, spectator numbers, longevity and game updates.

Keep in mind that this is by no means a “which game is best” article and is only meant as a comparison between some important aspects of the two games.

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Player Numbers – Completely Astonishing

In both these games, you will always find a match, as the player bases are immense. However, one of them leads with quiet a large margin, taking the player number aspect easily and without mercy.

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Valve, creators of Dota 2, announces: “As we have recently completed a set of server management upgrades as well as released a huge number of enhancements to the new user experience, we’re going to remove all restrictions to playing Dota 2. Signups are no longer required to access the game, and we encourage everyone to join the 6.5 million active monthly users currently playing Dota 2.” – Source

Dota 2 is now at 7,126,569 unique players this month at the time of writing, the player base grew with 600,000 since December 2013.

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Riot Games, creators of LoL, states: “Players continue to make League of Legends the most played video game in the world with: 67 million playing every month, 27 million playing every day, and over 7.5 million playing at the same time during each day’s peak play time. That's a lot of Teemo kills.” - Source

Even though Dota 2 has amazing numbers while only recently opening the floodgates to everyone who would like to play, LoL outnumbers Dota 2 almost 10 to 1, which is an astounding feat. Both these games continue to grow and I am excited to see if Dota 2 will be able to close the gap in 2014 and if LoL will surpass the 100 million players per month benchmark.

  • January 2014: 67 Million LoL players versus the 7,126,569 Dota 2 players

Tournaments – Massive Prize Pools Abound

With a big player base and a highly competitive scene inevitably come big prize pools and the MOBA genre is no exception. The tournaments being held for both games have massive prize pools, none bigger than The International (TI) with the LoL Championship Series (LCS) not far behind.

Gamespot writer Zorine Te reports: “Alliance, who finished in first place, will be taking home $1,437,204. Na'Vi will be awarded $632,370 for second place. Malaysian team Neolution Orange placed third, and will be awarded $287,441 in prize money. The event marks the first time that no Chinese teams have placed in the top 3. The prize pool for The International 3 totals at $2.87 million, establishing its record as the largest prize pool for a single competitive gaming event.” - Source

The LoL Season Three World Championship is not far behind, having boasted a prize pool of $2.05 million; however, the whole LCS Season Three had a whopping total prize pool of $8 million, which jaw-dropping to say the least. 

I believe these companies are building the future of eSports into something great, giving player an incentive to practice as much as they can and deliver the absolute best performances possible to become eSports millionaires. They give us, the spectators, something completely amazing to watch.

  • TI3 Dota 2 prize pool of  $2.87 million versus the $2.05 million prize pool of LoL season three World Championship.

Spectators – Hordes of Fans Watch as Players do Battle  

The absolute best players in the world competing for their share in tournaments with massive prize pools is a sight to behold. As spectators, both Dota 2 and LoL treated us to some of the greatest plays and epic moments in eSports history during 2013 and will continue to do so in 2014.

Gamespot journalist Eddie Makuch reports: “Valve's The International 2013 Dota 2 Championships doubled last year's record viewership and peaked at a simultaneous online viewership of over 1 million gamers, Valve announced today. The International 3 came roughly 100,000 viewers short of tying the all-time eSports record set by Riot's League Championship Series Season 2 finals with 1.1 million.” - Source

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Rich McCormick from The Verge reports: “Riot Games has claimed that its largest eSports event yet, the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship broadcast over Twitch livestream on October 4th, was watched by 32 million people, 8.5 million of whom were watching at the same time. The numbers shatter previous records for eSports viewership, and show that video game streams can rival TV in terms of scale and reach.” - Source

Just like player numbers, LoL seems to dominate Dota 2 in spectator numbers that continue to grow exponentially each year. Even so, Dota 2 still has amazing spectator numbers and new people start watching tournaments each day. These games just have no sign of slowing down, consistently growing at a shocking rate. Maybe they will be able to stand the test of time?

  • LoL World Championship  8.5 million simultaneous spectators versus the 1 million of Dota 2 during TI3.

Longevity – The Test of Time

As games get older and older, there is always a new, better one coming out or a sequel that updates graphics and gameplay to stay relevant. However, this might not be the case for LoL and Dota 2.

The first version of DotA was released in 2003 as a WarCraft III modification and became the first widely played competitive MOBA and its player as well as fan base continues to grow in Dota 2 to this very day. LoL was released in 2009, so it is already 5 years old and has no signs of slowing down, setting new records for player and spectator numbers each year.

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PC Gamer reporter Emanuel Maiberg states: “Though LoL is only heading into its fourth season, last week, Riot Games’ Vice President of eSports Dustin Beck said that he expects it to match traditional sports in its longevity. It's a sport like just like anything else, he said. Baseball has been around 110 years. I'm not saying League of Legends will be around that long, but we see the shelf life of LoL as hopefully decades.” - Source

I think Dota 2 and LoL will continue to grow and grow, becoming stronger over time. We could see people still watching Dota 2 and LoL in 30 to 40 years. One of the reasons for a prediction such as this is that both games deliver constant updates and balancing that change up the metagame, thereby keeping these games fresh and fun to watch as well as play.

  • Dota 2 is now 7 months old since going into open beta versus LoL which has turned 5 this year.

Constant Updates and Balancing – Keeping it fresh in 2014

Both games are updated constantly with new patches that either adds new heroes/champions to the game or balance existing heroes/champions and items for competitive play. Some of these updates change the way we play the game completely and not only keeps the game fresh, but allows players room for creativity and to find that next super build.

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The 2014 season is kicking off and a host changes are coming to champions and jungle items with Patch 4.1 and Riot Games have introduced a stable roster of free champions for new players to play with. Riot Games announces “The general theme of patch 4.1 is more refinement and tuning. We’re in the process of de-fogging more of those outliers like Shyvana, Riven and Annie. That said, now that the dust has settled we can also take another look at modernizing certain items (the Spirit line of jungle items, for example) and systems (2v1 lane swaps).” - Source

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In Dota 2, the New Bloom Festival update is on its way with the event designed to commemorate the Chinese New Year, Valve will also introduce a suite of new items and recipes into the game. The festival will also introduce 6.80 update to Dota 2, which sees dozens of balance changes to heroes, items, and gameplay including a gold penalty for not selecting your hero in all-pick by the end of the countdown, a completely reworked silence ability for Drow Ranger, and the removal of any mana cost to the Blink Dagger item.

These changes to both LoL and Dota 2 will surely change the way we and the professional players play the game, as both companies do extremely well to patch and balance their respective games. Just like in 2013, these games will get consistently updated in 2014 and introduce new heroes / champions to play with. We will see big metagame shifts as the games become more and more refined with each month.

Closing Thoughts

LoL is the clear winner in terms of player and spectator numbers while Dota 2 has the biggest prize pool for a single eSports tournament to date. Both these games have already been around for quite some time and continue to grow each and every day, while updates to the games keep them fresh and highly competitive. I do not believe one is better than the other, only that LoL has higher numbers. Even so, I still prefer to watch and play Dota 2, but that is just personal preference.

Do you play Dota 2, LoL or both? What do you think about the large difference in player and spectator numbers? Do you think LoL will stay the biggest game in 2014 and beyond or will Dota 2 overtake LoL at some point in time? Do you believe one is much better than the other or is it just a matter of personal preference? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

Sources: Valve, Riot Games, Gamespot, The Verge, PC Gamer

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