Dota Auto Chess, a custom Dota 2 Arcade map that transforms the popular multiplayer online battle arena game into a turn-based strategy game, has rapidly grown in popularity since its November release, boasting more than 4.4 million subscribers and a peak concurrent player count of over 300,000.
The name is a bit of a misnomer, as the game has little to do with traditional chess. Auto Chess’ only real connections to the medieval board game are its 64-square layout and its ranking system, which assigns competitors titles based on chess pieces such as pawns, knights, and bishops.
Unlike its namesake, Auto Chess is not a two-player game. Instead, players vie to be the last man standing among eight competitors. The game’s “pieces” are Dota heroes, and players must level them up (by purchasing multiples of the same hero using in-game gold) in order to use their special abilities to destroy opponents’ heroes.
Despite its relatively complex gameplay, Dota Auto Chess has taken the Dota modification scene by storm, dwarfing the user numbers of Artifact, Valve’s homegrown online card game.
It is yet to be determined if this popularity will last. But the history of Dota itself shows that game modifications can eventually transcend their origins, becoming greater than the game from which they came; after all, the original Defense of the Ancients began as a modification of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. Auto Chess may just carry the torch to become an esport in its own right.
Update Feb. 20 6:30pm PST: Release date of Auto Chess was November, not January. We regret the error.