Dota 2 vs League of Legends: By the numbers 
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Zoe Hawkins
July 4, 2014 at 3:30 pm

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We’ve looked at a variety of differences between the world’s two most popular MOBA this week. For the final entry in this series, its time to crunch the numbers. How many players are there? How do the numbers stack up? It might not determine which game is best, but it certainly will tell us which one reigns supreme (for now).

Number of players

Mobs

Due to not being on Steam, it can be trickier to track the numbers for League of Legends. However, last time they released their stats, their peak was 7.5 million concurrent users. That’s a lot of dying Teemos. Meanwhile, Dota 2’s all-time peak is 843 024. While that is nothing to sneeze at, and it is still leaps and bounds ahead of all its major competition on Steam, it is still tiny compared to League of Legends. LoL is almost nine times bigger than Dota 2 – just think of how many servers that takes. I would love to give you details on whether LoL is growing, and the rate of change for LoL compared to the growth rate of Dota 2. However, with the lack of numbers available from Riot Games, it just isn’t possible to do so.

Of course, this explains why we talk about the MOBAs so much when it comes to eSports – with active players like these, it’s only natural that they get a lot of exposure. COD, Battlefield and others are a drop in the bucket by comparison.

Prize money

Moneycat

When it comes to prize money there really isn’t much comparison either, although this time in the other direction. While League of Legends is offering a rather respectable prize pool for the world championships of over $2 million, it simply can’t touch the prize pool for The International which is currently over $10 million and still climbing.

Before people climb all over me and say that there are more tournaments with prize money in League of Legends or any other argument, the reality is that between the two MOBA, Dota 2 players make more money from prizes. A lot more money; the highest paid Dota 2 players fill up 11 of the top 20 eSports earners, with the highest paid League of Legends player coming in at 27th place.

Spectators

Viewer cat

Last year, Dota 2’s third International was a huge success. It had a ridiculous prize pool, top teams, and a horde of spectators. Just over 1 million concurrent people tuned in on twitch, Gamefy and in game – that doesn’t even include the people who watched in groups at pub events or though other means. One million people watching eSports at the same time (so not counting the numbers that watched at various different times) – that’s pretty impressive.

A few months later, it was time for the League of Legends Season 3 finals, which dwarfed those numbers. 8.5 million people watched the game at the same time. The year before, LoL had 1.1 million concurrent streamers, how did an extra seven million viewers get on board in the space of a year? That is some impressive eSports viewing, and rivals views the royal wedding or the Olympics. Well done to you, LoL.

Up and coming competition

Competition

With the success of these MOBA, plenty of others are trying to get in on the profit. Some of them look like they will get some decent numbers. Heroes of Newerth (HoN) still gets some players, although the last time they posted about it was over a year ago and they were proudly grabbing 100k. SMITE has managed to grab 4 million players, but there aren’t any details about how many of those are concurrent.

Then there are all the other newcomers on the market – Dead Island, The Witcher, Infinite Crisis, Heroes of the Storm, Transformers, Dawngate, Arena of Fate. How much room is there for more MOBA? Will people really move from playing LoL or Dota 2 to playing The Witcher on mobile or Transformers? I think the Witcher will work for quick games, perhaps while waiting for your friends in a Dota lobby. However, I just don’t see all these other games surpassing LoL or Dota 2. Sure, there are plenty of MOBA players out there, but they are relatively committed to their MOBA of choice, and I don’t see them changing teams anytime soon.

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Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. I believe people should stop defining themselves and just enjoy playing games, so let's get on with it!

  • CiNiMoD

    Those stats are awesome. Personally, Im a LoL fan, and watching the LCS has become a weekly thing for me now. even the wife is slowly picking up a liking to it :P

    • frikkenator

      I find that explaining to people that I will spend time watching other people play a game, it is met with “but why?”. Once you explain that it is the same as watching any other sport and get them to sit down and watch a game or two they get into it quite quickly!

      • https://twitter.com/andreferhelst Aries

        true, and the only difference is that we actually learn things from watching others play the games, so it not like wasting time watching tv and learning nothing

  • ToshZA

    Interesting numbers, actually. And yet, there’s more dota news online (for me and where I go anyway) than LoL. Dota is also older, and since everything (heroes) is unlocked by default, I’d have expected closer numbers. Oh well.

    • frikkenator

      Dota 2 is considerably newer than LoL, and thus if you look at growth the user base growth of Dota 2 is much, much higher than that of LoL. I started playing Dota 2 1.5 years ago, and back then the number of unique players per month was 1.9 million, it is now just shy of 9 million.

      • ToshZA

        Dota 1 invented the genre. You don’t get older than that. Dota 2 is merely an upgrade to the first, as a standalone package.

        • frikkenator

          True, but a lot of players moved to HoN and LoL between Dota 1 and 2.

          • ToshZA

            Why didn’t they move back then? It’s just, odd to me you know?

          • frikkenator

            Yea sorry that’s what I was trying to say, even though Dota 2 is still way behind, it is growing much faster as those players are moving back to Dota.

          • ToshZA

            Well since they opened the floodgates a few months ago, the monthly unique numbers went from 6m to 8m. But that’s total, in a month. LoL has about that much, concurrently. That’s still a vast, vast difference.

            Whatever though, people will always play which ever game they prefer. But damn, the numbers.

        • Matthew Holliday

          yeah, but different company, different platform.
          dota 2 has probably had more players in its short time than wc3 dota ever had.

          • ToshZA

            This is why I’m surprised at just how big LoL is though. Dota was the original, the pioneer of the genre. I’d have expected closer numbers. I’m not saying either is superior, because I haven’t played LoL and I don’t have an opinion to share on that matter. But it’s still very surprising for me.

          • Chung Van Dao

            It’s not really surprising because DotA as a concept was always popular but underground due to its limited custom map status. LoL just takes the concept and brings it to the masses with less but more intuitive and simplified mechanics, more cutesy visuals and an unlock system that attracted MMORPG players. It was also heavily marketed and released years before Dota 2 so by the time the latter came out, LoL already had a giant snowball going its way. However, this doesn’t matter because quality > quantity. Objectively Dota 2 offers its players more for a better value (much more well-made client and features, everything is unlocked, you can even make money off cosmetic drops).

            Keep in mind that Riot doesn’t release publicly available data and instead opts to release “announcements” while Valve has actual data you can view by the hour and by the day. Also it’s a lot easier and there’s more “incentive” to have smurfs/secondary accounts in LoL. For instance it’s region-locked so an Aus/NZ/UK player with friends in America would want to opt to play on the NA servers but when solo queuing would rather play on a local/closer server.

            This is not to say that LoL isn’t more popular because it most certainly is and everything indicates towards that, just how many players it has, however, is another matter.

          • Cody

            The so-called superior benefits in DOTA 2 mentioned by you are arguable. Well-made client and features? In my honest opinion, LOL has a better and more simplified, yet cleaner client. DOTA 2 Interface is a mashup of different sections. Well I first played the game, I could hardly find the Options menu.

            Not everything is unlocked in DOTA 2. There are packages, skins that require players to buy, similar to LOL. If your argument simply illustrates the fact that the champions of LOL need to be unlocked with money, you are only half-correct. All champions can be bought with collectible and FREE in-game money, available after every single game you play in LoL, except under some special circumstances. If you pay some efforts into the game, sooner or later you can get all the champions by simply constantly playing LOL. It’s that simple, really.

            I am not really sure about the “announcements” part. If I have not mistaken, are you commenting on the speed of the announcements made by RIOT and Valve? You are not making sense here. I cannot relate this to the topic we are debating on.

            In my opinion, tutorials in DOTA 2 are boring, and not exactly fun. The interface (without lock camera mode) makes the screen a little bit uncontrollable. At least in LOL, you get the choose and alter locked screen mode. In-game guides and game modes are constantly replenished and improved by RIOT too. You cannot simply ignore that. So your opinions are really biased. I’d like to say both games are equal in many aspects.

          • Damien Carl Samuels

            “I am not really sure about the “announcements” part. If I have not mistaken, are you commenting on the speed of the announcements made by RIOT and Valve? You are not making sense here. I cannot relate this to the topic we are debating on.”

            – Stats for DOTA 2 are readily available to anyone online. Whereas RIOT makes announcements; He is insinuating that the stats from RIOT are not 100% as it’s not transparent, whereas with DOTA 2, you can see it at any time or whatevs.

            “In my opinion, tutorials in DOTA 2 are boring, and not exactly fun. The interface (without lock camera mode) makes the screen a little bit uncontrollable. At least in LOL, you get the choose and alter locked screen mode. In-game guides and game modes are constantly replenished and improved by RIOT too. You cannot simply ignore that. So your opinions are really biased. I’d like to say both games are equal in many aspects.”

            – DOTA 2 Tuts are OK – although basic, it’s nothing to write home about, however, I would say that it’s better to learn reading online guides and practicing against the bots than to rely on tutorials. There’s also a mentoring system in DOTA 2, which I have not used yet, which I assume would be handy. I am assuming that DOTA 2 has such a high learning curve, which would probably only be understood within a full campaign mode, but then again, there’s a practice area and websites you can use for learning – it’s not that hard.

            The screen issues, it’s not really an issue, it just takes getting used to. Not really a deal breaker by any means.

            As for Champions and heroes:
            Heroes are all unlocked in DOTA 2, whereas the champions need to be either A) Grinded for hours to get or, B) Kid with dads credit card wired to his ass can purchase and own. The issue here is “Grinding”, which for many people, are probably not an issue.

            “I’d like to say both games are equal in many aspects.” As support of this, I’d like to point out UT vs Quake 3 Arena. Similar types of games, both extremely fun to play and there’s no reason not to play both (). Sure, each of these titles had their die hard fanboys, but just like then, It’s pointless arguing which is better. Both of these titles (DOTA2, LOL) are fun to play for different reasons altogether. Yeah, they share various similar aspects, but I’d like to think of them having different purposes and target market.

    • Matthew Holliday

      the local LoL scene isnt as large as the local Dota 2 scene.
      if there was more demand for the news, there would be more news.

  • http://www.pornhub.com Doug

    Loving the eSports exposure atm. Cant wait until they are made into Olympic events ;)

  • Anthony Nell

    Well here is a little numbers game as well.

    DotA 2 sold the Compendium for TI4, which costs $10, of that amount $2.5 goes to the prize pool. So if we assume that each compendium sold is used by a player (you can only activate one per account) that is 4 million compendium owners. Besides the fact that obviously not everyone owns a compendium or could afford to buy/trade for one. That is roughly half the amount of unique players this last month, and possibly half the viewership of last years Ti3 tournament.

    Those numbers are increasing exponentially each year and I would hazard a bet to DotA 2 overtaking LoL in the near future numbers wise.

    • ToshZA

      A lot of that prize fund comes from people buying points to level up their compendiums. 25% of those sales were also added to the prize pool.

      • Anthony Nell
        • ToshZA

          And a portion of those extra funds, came from the extra points people bought. What’s the point in that link?

          • Anthony Nell

            it’s just a link demonstrating the funds and stats etc. I wasnt posing an argument or I would have made one. I don’t know if you are right or wrong, its just an interesting link.

          • ToshZA

            Well now I feel like a tool. Sorry. >_<

          • Anthony Nell

            lol I aint even mad

          • ToshZA

            lol, but I still acted like a tool, so apology stands. :)

          • Rags

            Dude you should have responded with “Then why did you not expand in the comment asshat?”. ;)

  • Chung Van Dao

    Those 8.5 million viewers include TV broadcasts in Korea & China – the two most populous and dominant regions of LoL. In terms of ratio of viewers-to-playerbase Dota 2 is doing better. IMO it’s a lot more exciting to watch.

  • Eugene

    I don’t trust Riot’s numbers.

    • Brady miaau

      indeed. Hidden is bad.

  • guobaorou

    Something to mention is that Chinese Dota 2 players (mostly) do NOT play on Steam and are not counted in those concurrent user numbers on Steam. A different company called Perfect World handles all the server/account/etc stuff in China for Dota 2.

    Tencent owns Riot, and as a result Chinese players (biggest single country for LOL by a mile) do get counted towards those numbers for LOL.

    So while it probably doesn’t get close to LOL’s huge numbers, but seeing as it is pretty popular over here it does give it a nice boost since China is probably the single biggest country for Dota 2.

    Another interesting bit about Chinese LOL vs Dota 2 is that Tencent has made it super, duper easy to sign up for LOL. Tencent owns QQ and Weixin, two instant messaging platforms that China essentially runs on these days. Tencent also owns Riot, and as a result LOL. That QQ login that basically every Chinese citizen has several of already works as a LOL login, so you just need to download a client and you’re good. The billing system is also all run through the same channels that people have already been using for close to a decade, so the barrier of entry for LOL in China is pretty darn low.

    That said, the LOL vs Dota dynamic here is pretty interesting cause while LOL is what everyone plays, Dota is what everyone watches. Dota 2 is almost considered “higher end” (and given China’s domination of pro Dota 2 compared to LOL, it doesn’t come as a surprise) while LOL is the everyman’s e-sport.

  • Brady miaau

    Naspers makes a fair amount of buck from their 30% stake (is it 30, think so) in Tencent.

    The numbers are jut staggering when I read how many users are on Tencent products globally, with most being in China.

    I still distrust Riot Games figures, because they are not transparent. I do, however, think they are viable.

  • Jadryga

    Gotta update the numbers… DOTA2’s peak hit 9million unique users in the past month.

    • Robin

      and lol got 27 mil so yea…

  • Robin

    And lol got now 27 mil so…. yea

  • andrew Wallace

    WTF you r numbers are all wrong. the current UNIQUE MONTHLY PLAYERS on dota 2 is at about 9.5 million and it has been that way for months and the internation championships were so big that it was on ESPN and and was reconized as a sport by the Olympic comity. I have been playing DOTA since about when this article came out and the LOWEST number of monthly players I ever saw was 9.2 M. Also alot of people have quit LOL and that probably hasn’t factored into your numbers while DOTA keeps its number only on active players by tracking unique players per month

    • misys

      Dude. Those are official Valve statistics. Please tell us where you are getting your info from, otherwise please follow the general rule of having people think that you’re an idiot, than know you’re an idiot.

      • Mack

        When you log into the game, the first thing you see in the menu is a “Unique Monthly Players” counter.

        • spent

          dat burn, lol players gonna hate forever

          • derp

            LoL had 27 mil unique daily players back in Jan (definitely more now)…so GG Dota?

          • JAke

            Really, so 900,000,000 players in one month.

          • derp

            Sigh, please do you not understand simple English/math? Basically 27m accounts logged in at least once on a certain day before Jan 2014. This does not mean that on the next day another different 27m accounts are going to log on… let’s say 20m logged on the next day, out of that 20m there may or may not have been accounts from the previous day. If all 20 are different from the day before then the accumulative unique of monthly (depending on when the month starts and ends) is 47m from the two days but if the 20m of second day were all players who played the previous day, then the monthly unique would still be 27.

            Now I understand why the 2 games all have so many individuals who have no idea what is going on. Absurd how someone cannot grasp this simple concept.

    • Hrmz

      someone doesn’t understand the word “concurrent”

    • Kanishka Wijesuriya

      One thing bro 32 million viewrs in total for season 3 ?? in dota please take a shit and get back

  • dzyan

    one thing is the peak(people playing at the same time(7.5M on lol)) and other are the unique mensual players(9M with some smurfs on dota2). LoL has way more players,GG WP . i play dota btw

  • LeagueIsLife

    League is life and Dota 2 is alright. GG wp, no re. Pls.

  • Carl Berg

    Ummm…Lol Sucks man ._. They just Copied Dota 2…If you Argue with my You need to talk to my fist first okay ?

    • Al

      But LoL copied Dota 1… and Dota 2 wasn’t even anywhere near complete by the time LoL was released. But then you could say Dota 1 copied Aeon of Strife, which is the original “MOBA”

    • Xhapupu

      For all Dota 2 players who says Dota 2 is better than LoL because of graphics, I challenge you to quit Dota 2 and play Skyrim or GTA 5 if that really is the case. eSports wise. Dota 2 TI is SO BORING. I’m a fan of Dota 2 also but I hate how you bash LoL. Higher prize pool doesn’t give you fans. Well LoL concentrated on a bigger venue for a BETTER VIEWING EXPERIENCE rather than higher prize pool because Riot values its fans. in Dota 2, without compendium. I don’t think you could reach even 3M$. Riot gained 660M$ last year. They can even host worlds with prize pool of 250M$. and Dota 1 copied Aeon of Strife. Facebook copied Friendster. Tumblr copied Multiply. If thats your perspective, well that just proves to me that I’m wrong that Dota 2 community is awesome! =)) GOOD DAY SIR!

    • Kanishka Wijesuriya

      Ye Lol copied dota but it was in a more unique way ,,,,btw DOTA copied Heroes of Newarth and much more other games ..LoL Was much more advanced and bettr plus get raped when the new lol patches r out XD

      • argonautslv

        … can’t tell if you’re a troll or you’re just really dumb, but Dota 1 came before Heroes of Newerth, so how could Dota copy HoN? Also, LoL patches keep getting more shit every patch. Also, you said that LoL ”was much more advanced”. are we talking about the same LoL here? My best friend’s kid brother is 11, and he’s silver 2 in league. that just proves how little knowledge/skill it takes to play Leauge…

  • rashzx

    LOL is the best while dota is champions for free and there is no goals in dota

  • rashzx

    and lol is the best

  • Chris

    LoL has more players and more viewers. And wth the map rework and all the champion reworks and updtaes incoming LOL is far better looking than Dota

  • j

    that’s mainly because LoL is easier to learn and has bright vibrant colors IMO

    • Guest

      the trees look like trees from paper mario but in 3DDDD i DONT LIKE the graphics of LOL but dota 2 is good.Plus 50% of the LOL players are chinese or japanese or asian or not from the U.S. they have alot more people to waste time on games over there anyway plu all the russians who dont play on U.S servers.

      • http://chemys.com Pak YU

        Yet your asian neighbor still have more money than you..

      • asdasds

        Have you ever been to school in China or Japan. They barely have free time. They doing calculus 3 by the time they are senior in high school. In America calculus 1 is highest giving some people go to calculus 2(that’s like 2%). That’s just one subject we are talking about. Ignorance people seriously.

  • jake

    Dora is better, the game is more tense. A top play for dots is something that happens that is phonominal. Whilst a league top play is just guy healing at base, and skilling an ability that let’s him leap 3 millimetres.

    • http://chemys.com Pak YU

      Yup true Dora is better than dota…Dora has some insanely good graphics, meanwhile dota have some shiity bland grapics..

  • Hirid

    Why the fuck is it all about numbers what we should be looking at is the facts dota 2 and lol facts and how dota 2 has more history and began the evolution of the moba aka lol and how everyone at riot when lol first began its start admired the work of Dota and not all the statistics. Dota punishments allow game play still lol basicly tells you to fuck off, how spectating is and so far dota takes spectating to a whole new level. Dota 2 has the graphics of a real game were lol has the map drawn by a 3 year old. first blood in lol means you win the game unless someone feeds or leaves, first blood in dota 2 is just a short boost Team work in dota is neede and in lol team work is bullshit to everyone. Dota dosent have the best community but who really gives a flying fuck. in dota ranked games are watched all the time to make sure there played fair and honest if you dc in a ranked game of dota and it was just internet problems they fix it lol makes it a lose for you and 1 lose goes a long way. you may have to work for your char in lol but in dota you get to play anyone any time and dota has more game modes to go with these characters. dota is always looking for new ways to update the game lol just thinks there fucking perfect.(dota recently changed alot of there characters and the map lol: added features to the map finally). dota has counter picks yes counter picks just as lol does you just got to figure them out(takes a mind of a smart person not a lol player). dota 2 lets you pick counters lol just fuck you hard with that shit. so rethink lol players numbers dont always count numbers cause if you count number more then 66% of moba players really say that dota is BETTER then lol. have a nice day

    • http://chemys.com Pak YU

      Im so fresh,suck my nuts.

    • larry

      That’s because statistics are easy to quote, whereas your arguments are just opinions, fluffs without any concrete studies. Sure you can argue for your stand about dota 2 being more historical and stuff, but honestly master both games before judging it, if you can’t even hit gold in league then by right you’re trash in that game that has no real understanding about it, just play your dota 2 and learn to find proof before you state your arguments.