The new and wildly popular modification for DOTA 2 recently received its own unique category on Twitch. Last week, we broke down just what Auto Chess is, and the size of its community. Today, let's talk about the games losing streamers to this new sensation...

Where are Auto Chess Players Coming From?

We’ve been seeing a lot of discussion out there about just which games actually lost players to Auto Chess. While it was built in Dota 2, the mechanics of this new game mode are much more akin to deck building collectible card games or turn-based-strategy, so there’s been a lot of talk about just what games the top Auto Chess streamers were playing before, and it’s mostly been guess work. This article from PCGamesN is a good example, calling the new game mode an “Artifact Rival,” comparing it to the floundering CCG from Valve. This comparison is understandable on the most basic level, but breaks down once you start looking at player-ship and streaming data.

Artifact hasn’t reached a peak of 100 concurrent streams since early December, and over the last 30 days has averaged a grand total of 4 streamers at any given time. In no way is anyone focusing on it as a primary competitor, and it would be impossible for any sizable portion of Auto Chess’s players to have come from that particular audience. Auto Chess shares many of the mechanics of a collectible card game, but it is not, itself, a member of that genre, unique enough to render such direct comparisons, without data, somewhat misinformed. And, as you look around, that seems to be the theme in most discussions of the game: that it’s the latest shake up in the world of CCGs.

But, what does the data say?

We took a look at every creator that currently features Auto Chess as their most streamed game to see what they were playing in the weeks and months prior, and what we found was interesting, with surprises we haven’t seen written about anywhere else.

For the month preceding the release of the Auto Chess mod, the title’s current streamers were primarily playing the same four titles: League of Legends, Hearthstone, PUBG, and Dota 2, in that order. That’s pretty surprising, in that they make up a diverse group of genres. You’d expect to see a certain percentage already playing vanilla Dota 2, but the rest are all very different types of games; League is a MOBA, Hearthstone is a more traditional collectible card game, and PUBG is a battle royale, and not even the most popular on Twitch during this time period, a spot reserved for Fortnite.

The Streamer-Base of Hearthstone showing a slight decline since the release of Auto Chess. Average total viewers has also dropped in half.

Auto Chess doesn’t neatly fit into one category. If it did, these things would likely be a lot less complicated. But, instead, it combines the strategy and “deck building” experience of a game like Hearthstone or Magic the Gathering with much of the strategy, ranking up, and strategic positioning of a MOBA like League of Legends. That’s part of what has made it such a big deal, that it feels novel and new, and doesn’t fit perfectly into any preexisting genre.

As time goes on, this is further reflected in the data we’ve collected showing the previous top games of current Auto Chess players. After the week of January 14th, Dota 2 was played by more and more streamers who are currently focused on the new category. In the second week of Auto Chess’s lifespan, 15% of current Auto Chess players were playing under the Dota 2 banner. By the week of February 11th, when it was competing with the brand new mega-hit Apex Legends, the number had increased to 23%. Finally, in the week before the launch of the new category (March 17th), 54% of current Auto Chess players were streaming to the Dota 2 community.  Throughout all of this, the same diverse group of genres and titles made up of the rest of these streamers’ schedules: League of Legends, Hearthstone, and battle royale experiences, first PUBG and then Apex Legends.

Though Auto Chess won over some PUBG players, it was nothing compared to the impact Apex Legends had, visible above. 

So, where are Auto Chess players coming from? The answer is not just one game, or one genre, but a handful. This new title has managed to capture the attention of fans, streamers, and players with a diverse group of interests, from various different communities. Again, it speaks to what lies at the heart of the game’s success thus far: it’s something new. So many developers and publishers are trying to go after the same audiences, making titles in the same genres, trying to climb the same mountain as everybody else. I think the lesson, so far, from Auto Chess is that sometimes it’s better to find a new mountain, and reveal it to rest of the world. As we move forward, and Valve considers what an official sequel, with full studio backing, might look like, it will be fascinating to watch its community grow, and how many other studios try to refine their new formula.

This is part two of a four-part series, click here for part three.

If you missed our first piece breaking down Auto Chess, read it here. Next week, we'll be crunching the numbers to figure in what geographic regions Auto Chess streaming communities are growing, and what that means for the title's future. And be sure to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for all the latest blogs, announcements, and game marketing news from the team at GAMESIGHT!