Dota Underlords, Valve’s newest game, entered open beta on PC and mobile at noon PT today, and in less than two hours it passed the peak concurrent player count on Steam of Valve’s last game, Artifact.
As of 2pm PT, Dota Underlords had reached a concurrent player count of 62,946, while Artifact’s all time high stopped at 60,740. The big caveat here, of course, is that Dota Underlords is entirely free-to-play, while Artifact costs $20. It had also been in a closed beta open only to select players and those who owned Dota 2’s Battle Pass since last week, but the flood gates are now officially open.
But even still, it’s hard to deny the rampant enthusiasm around the newly formed “auto chess” genre of games that has recently erupted from a Dota 2 mod of the same name.
Since that mod’s creation, a standalone game from the original mod team simply titled Auto Chess released on mobile (and it’s coming to PC on the Epic Games Store soon), Dota Underlords was announced and released by Valve, and Riot Games has made a League of Legends equivalent called Team Fight Tactics – all three of which released within the last couple months alone.
Auto chess-style games are essentially deck-building tactics games where players buy and upgrade units, place them onto a grid, and then have them automatically fight in rounds against other players until only one person remains. All characters are available to all players, with microtransactions generally taking the form of battle passes with cosmetics.
While Valve’s Dota-themed card game Artifact was received positively at launch, its player base rapidly dwindled. Valve eventually admitted that the game had “deep-rooted issues” and committed to fixing them to turn Artifact around.
But in the meantime, a different team started work on Dota Underlords, and that’s clearly been to their benefit. While the player count seems to have topped out for the day, it’s likely it will continue to grow over the coming weekend – even with all the competition it has.
Let us know what you think of the Auto Chess genre in the comments below!
Tom Marks is IGN’s Deputy Reviews Editor and resident pie maker. You can follow him on Twitter.