Valve Corporation successfully trademarked something called “Dota Underlords” earlier this month. Since the company has kept silent about the details, however, Dota fans have speculated rampantly about what it might mean.
It seems like a fair bet that the trademark has something to do with Vrogos, the Underlord, the villainous Dota 2 hero known for his unique and powerful abilities. But Vrogos is the Underlord—not one of many—and the pluralization in the trademark remains a mystery.
Even if Vrogos is involved, that still leaves plenty of room for speculation regarding the content behind the trademark itself. One possibility is that Valve has begun development its own Dota Auto Chess variant. After the Dota 2 mod blasted off in February, accruing millions of users, developer Drodo Studios teamed up with Dragonest to drop the game’s Dota elements and develop it as a standalone title. Dota Underlords might be Valve’s attempt to cash in on the phenomenon.
It’s also possible that the Dota Underlords trademark has something to do with Valve’s retooling of Artifact, the Dota 2-inspired digital card game the company published in November. After Artifact was widely criticized by the gaming community and saw a steep decline in users, Valve announced in March that it would step back in order to address large-scale issues with the game. Perhaps Dota Underlords is part of Valve’s decision to lean in on Artifact’s Dota origins, capitalizing on the MOBA’s popularity to turn Artifact from a dud into a moneymaker.
In the end, this trademark might also not mean anything. Given Valve’s zipped lips, it certainly isn’t a guarantee that we will get a new game called Dota Underlords. At least it means somebody at Valve headquarters could be toying with the idea.