(And why millions of players have not yet switched to Dota 2)
Cebu, Philippines - The Philippines has one of the largest Warcraft 3 DotA communities in the world. With the recent launch of Valve's Dota 2, we tried to delve into the reasons why Dota 2 has not yet become as widespread as it should be in this Southeast Asian nation.
DotA 1 is king
In 2005, DotA started becoming huge in the Philippines. Internet cafe owners started seeing their establishments become filled with DotA players as Counter-Strike, Starcraft Broodwar and Ragnarok Online's playerbase started switching to the 5 versus 5 Warcraft 3 custom map.
With nearby gaming centers charging less than 50 cents an hour, college students started treating DotA as an affordable way to bond with their classmates and help them get to know people. DotA's growing social significance and it's 5v5 format made it convenient for groups of basketball teams to allot time for DotA games after playing basketball. As these college students graduated to the workforce, companies started holding DotA tournaments to serve as team building exercises which further fueled the awareness of DotA in the country.
As DotA's popularity started rising, pirated copies of Warcraft III bundled with a folder of DotA maps started selling like hotcakes. The ones who bought the 3 dollar bootlegs shared them with other people or made new copies. By 2006, Warcraft 3 became the most pirated game in the country's history.
DotA far exceeded Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne's popularity
Internet problems in the Philippines
Internet in the Philippines is relatively expensive, slow and unreliable. The average home user pays 25 USD for a connection that rarely reaches the advertised maximum speed of 1 Mbps. For many Filipinos, downloading Dota 2 could take a couple of days due to it's 5 GB file size. In comparison, Warcraft 3 DotA's file size does not reach 10 MB.
Due to Dota 2's way of distribution, players and internet cafe owners are forced to download the game on Steam and wait instead of being able to conveniently purchase a 1 dollar DVD installer. With Dota 2's constant updates, it is not uncommon for Dota 2 to be inaccessible in internet cafes for hours as shop owners update the game.
LAN is the most reliable connection for gamers - a feature needed by gaming shop owners in order for the customers to continue playing even when the internet is down. In cyber cafes around the Philippines, Heroes of Newerth and League of Legends players go back to Warcraft DotA when this situation happens. Without LAN, Dota 2 isn't expected to be as huge as DotA 1.
Dota players standing behind other gamers as they await for their turn
Misconceptions and lack of awareness
One of the biggest reasons why Starcraft 2 failed to take off in the Philippines is because the local distributors of the game used Australia's prices (the highest in the world) during it's launch. Using the Philippines' minimum wage as a starting point, it would take half a month's worth of wages to save up 3500 pesos (80 USD). By the time the numbers came in, Blizzard realized their mistake and tried launching the Starcraft 2 prepaid card model for the Asian market but it was already too late.
The idea that Dota 2 isn't free started when Steam started selling Dota 2 at 40 USD. When Filipino DotA players who heard about the new Dota checked out the Steam page, they saw the price and a lot of them went back to WC3 DotA with the notion that Dota 2 is a paid game.
The most common question was:
"Why pay 40 USD for Dota2 when both DotA and Heroes of Newerth are free via Garena?"
This misconception is so widespread in the Philippines that many players are genuinely surprised when they find out that beta keys are not needed and that Dota 2 is actually free now.
During this time period, League of Legends saw an opportunity to take a slice off one of the biggest DotA communities in the world by partnering with Garena and branding itself as the new Dota. When LoL PH started, League of Legends was seen by a lot of Filipino gamers as a game for kids where those not skilled enough for DotA go to. The social stigma against the "pambata" (kiddie) League of Legends slowed down the switching rate among the teenagers who did not want to be ridiculed by their "barkada" (group of friends). Because of the dismal number of players for League of Legends Philippines, Garena decided to ramp up marketing by advertising LoL in all Garena DotA rooms and by encouraging DotA players to trade in their DotA account for a League of Legends account. Those who switched were able to qualify for raffles where items like iPads were given away.
Thanks to Garena LoL's aggressive marketing, League of Legends was able to take at least 300000 registered accounts - a huge feat in a country where DotA is king. Although LoL was able to take a small slice from the DotA population, it is miniscule compared to the number of Filipino DotA players. At it's peak, DotA could easily get more than 200000 concurrent Filipino players on Garena's servers alone.
The ongoing Dota 2 Philippines campaign - Libre Dota 2 (Dota 2 is free)
Warcraft DotA, Heroes of Newerth and League of Legends have lower system requirements compared to Dota 2. This barrier of entry will be reduced as more game performance optimizations are introduced by Valve and as PC owners upgrade to hardware that can run Dota2 without any problems.
The wider hardware support for DotA is one of the reasons why WC3 DotA is still played by a huge number of Filipinos. In order to maximize profit, internet cafe owners use older PCs and avoid additional expenses and upgrades for as long as possible. As Dota 2 becomes the game of choice, shop owners that operate with old computers will be forced to either shut down or upgrade their computers in order to attract their biggest customers - Dota players.
Tournaments and events
One of the reasons why the Philippines continues having DotA tournaments is because it is a tried and tested crowd drawer. It is quite common for game companies who want to launch a game in the Philippines to sponsor a DotA tournament in order to advertise their game. Event organizers have less to worry about with WC3 DotA since it can run without an internet connection. Organizations like Mineski and the Philippine Esports Organization will continue holding DotA tournaments as long as it is the biggest crowd drawer.
In order for Dota 2 to succeed in the Philippines and the rest of Asia, it has to:
1. Add LAN
2. Optimize Dota 2 to run on a wider range of hardware / older hardware
3. Have an alternative distribution system (DVD / CD installers)
4. Have a aggressive marketing strategy (Dota 2 is FREE! campaigns)
5. Offer Steam cards at 2.50 USD (100 PHP) and 5 USD (200 PHP) denominations
6. Make the prepaid Dota 2 Store cards widely available (convenience stores)
7. Complete the hero roster (e.g. Goblin Techies, Terrorblade, Pit Lord)
Once these are addressed, Dota 2 has a big future in the SEA region.
The Neutral Creeps would like to thank:
Dota 2 Philippines - Filipino Dota 2 Community
Captain Eul - Cebu Dota 2 Pubstomp Organizer
Garena - Lane Pushing Game (DotA, HoN, LoL) Gaming Platform