Earlier This year Valve’s Moba Dota 2 featured a few announcements about new content and among other things changes to Dota 2’s ranked matchmaking. This change requires players to bind a mobile phone number to their account. There are other conditions that apply but to some this change came out of nowhere. Some took the change as an unwelcome and a reason to quit the game where the majority chose to stay. And while there was a surge in players coming to the game in may, there’s been a net loss of players compared to April’s stats.
It could be argued that this move was out of nowhere and that whoever came up with this idea and whoever implemented it have no idea what they are doing. A quick scan from steam charts could imply the game’s popularity was slipping away from 2016’s peak. And a quick perusal of match data from the start of this year until April it would be foolish to not see some sort of change coming. According to match data the number of unranked matches, unranked match numbers were in decline as early as March. With only low priority matches staying constant. It’s a drop from approximately 900K unranked matches down to approximately 300K matches with a bulk of those numbers being Low Priority matches(aka the punishment bracket). These figures are gathered from the playmode Single Draft being the only playmode the punishment bracket is eligible to queue for the duration of time in Low Priority. And mind you reader, this occurs almost two months before the requirement of a phone number be linked to the players account would be implemented and about a month before the announcement. There are however only two times when the number of punishment bracket matches takes a drop is when there was a special even in January resulting in a drop in ranked matches as well, or the campaign mode Siltbreaker in early June. Siltbreaker is a multiplayer campaign mode available to users that bought into the International 2017 Battplepass. That said the latter only made a temporary dip impact on the number of punishment bracket matches while on the upside the number of matches played daily the first week of Silt breaker surged by almost 1 million.
To provide some frame of reference, for the past three years Dota 2 Matches have consistently reached numbers above 1 million with only three occasions where the numbers peaked three times to above 2 million, and one of those peaking to almost 4 and that was for the Darkmoon event in January of this year. That event contributed over 2.8 million matches as recorded January 28th. Dota 2 has been a game that has seen consistently over 1 million matches a day since later December 2013. As for player peak, the height is at 1.29 million. The number of players at current dances around 920 thousand.
And with these numbers the market for ranked accounts is still present and accounts are sold for high mmr(Match Making Rating) value in the hundreds and thousands. The requirement to link phone numbers makes it more difficult to link phone numbers to accounts as the moment a number is unlinked from an account it is not able to be linked to another account for three months. One of the addition restrictions is on phone numbers from services such as google voice. While the phone number requirement is meant to improve the quality of the player base and address concerns players have had for some time, it seems as if a half measure at best which only adds an additional layer of hindrance to legitimate players. Further, it makes selling high ranking accounts more profitable. And that comes in light of the fact that a mobile number can be acquired for roughly 15 USD, a small investment on an account that can pay out a few hundred bucks for anything short of high ranking, and thousands for some of the highest ranking accounts.
Returning back to the core of the topic and bringing all this data together for conclusion. Did requiring players to link a phone number to their account negatively or positively impact player metrics? Not likely. Any trends in player metrics were independent of this change. I say this in face of the phone requirement seemingly having no impact on the whether players continue to play as well as the number of matches. The requirement itself being meant to curb the number of sock accounts and the player peak declining from 1.2 million to steadily approaching less than 800k. Even if player numbers have gone down, play numbers have gone up. While there could be a decrease in sock account players when it comes to ranked matches, that says nothing about unranked however with the decline of unranked matches that is likely a non issue. What this could mean is that there are fewer new players coming to the game even if there are more new accounts. The player numbers are seeing a decline as this year’s International is around the corner. Whether or not this year’s International brings player numbers into the green on the ledger it will likely only be temporary. Bottom line? The phone number requirement has a moderate amount of impact on the specific issues it was meant to address. Account sales are still a thing, and player growth is at a net negative. The upside is the remainers are paying out for content. And the quality of the existing playerbase is anyone’s opinion. Half measure or not, the results are there and money is being made and if the number from the battle pass are any indication of quality of community, the money is on things getting better. At the very least the hype is big.