Is Dota 2 becoming pay-to-win with Dota Plus?

Is Dota 2 becoming pay-to-win with Dota Plus?

The introduction of Dota Plus has not been well welcomed by the whole Dota 2 community as there are objections on the potential pay-to-win features.

Dota Plus is the new subscription-based service presented by Valve. It includes access to the long-requested weekly Battle Cups, many perks, rewards, challenges, and more.

It provoked an uproar in the Dota community due to the Plus Assistant, an A.I. that examines our games and shows real-time suggestions on items, heroes, abilities level-up order, and the lane that best fits our hero in a particular draft.

It also gives access to real-time and post-game analytics with info such as our performance compared to the average of other players on the same hero in our skill bracket. Overall, it is a great tool to figure out the mistakes in our gameplay and what we should do to improve.

TL;DR

I believe the Plus Assistant isn’t that big of a deal for veteran players as we have a good understanding on when a particular item/hero is necessary, and where to get extra info.

The main issue is putting features that can give even just a slight advantage behind a paywall, particularly if they could benefit newcomers and help to increase the player base.

Plus Assistant is an evolution of the in-game guides

In Dota 2, there is already a guide system curated by the community, but Dota Plus users will perhaps stop using it entirely.

The guides - even if well done - suggest standard item and skill builds with some alternatives, while the Plus Assistant is able to recognize the best choices for a specific game, based on the heroes faced and the lane in which we are playing.

For example, a standard item build for Axe could recommend the Vanguard as one of the core items, but the Assistant may detect an uncommon amount of magic damage in the enemy team, and propose a Hood of Defiance instead.

I played Dota 2 for a long time, so I find this choice obvious, but it may not be the same for newcomers or lower ranked players, which may stick with the standard build suggested by the guide.

Building a Black King Bar against many disablers may not be that obvious for some players.
Dota Plus assistant item build.jpg

The impact of the A.I. is even greater when a situational skill or item build is required in a game. For example, items such as Heaven's Halberd, Nullifier, or Lotus Orb can make the difference between life and death against some lineups, and only a few players know when buying them is necessary.

New players won’t pay a subscription

To be honest, the whole system is amazing! It would really improve the life of everyone in the game and help a lot the new players, reducing the skill floor necessary to play a good Dota game.

But, I believe that paying a monthly subscription is appealing only to those who are already into Dota and want to get the best from the game. Even if the fee is rather cheap ($3.99) how many new players will try a free-to-play game for the first time and decide to buy the Plus?

Free alternatives

Do not forget that there are already countless apps and websites providing statistics and info to gain an edge in our games.

  • Opendota and Dotabuff are the most famous and used websites, and the latter has also a plus option to access even more data. They offer statistics on heroes and items utilized in different MMR brackets and lanes, plus very detailed post-game analysis.
     

  • There are several apps available on Android and iOS as well with quality of life improvements, item build suggestions, and counter-picking tools.

If used together, they probably give even more info than the system introduced by Valve, and for free. But, using them requires extra time and efforts: you have to input the data manually on Dotapicker, while Dota Plus provides info in real-time.

Finally, if you use any of these tools, you must be aware that almost all of them rely on the Dota 2 API, and that Valve has all the rights to deny access to it or obscure some information.

Dota Plus assistant .jpg

Unfair advantage dilemma

In the end, I believe that Dota Plus offers just a little advantage, and veteran players using external tools already enjoyed these benefits in the past years.

But, for some players, the real usefulness of Dota Plus doesn’t matter: they are just against the unfair advantage behind a paywall!

There are two possible solutions to this argument:

  • Activating the in-game Plus Assistant only in unraked matches.

  • Remove the real-time portion of the Assistant, giving info and data only at the end of the match.

While these suggestions are both valid, we must still ask how many players will be willing to pay for something they can’t efficiently exploit to boost their MMR. Post-game analytics are great, but there are already external solutions for those, while no one else can give us a personal real-time A.I. based on official data from Valve.

 

Header and all images: Valve

Vincenzo is an esports writer with five years of experience. Former head editor for Natus Vincere, he has produced content for DreamHack, FACEIT, DOTAFire, 2P, and more. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.