Can CS:GO Overtake Dota 2?

Both Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive have slowly expanded over time. CS:GO started off incredibly slow, but has exploded since the end of 2013. Dota 2 had a sizable boost coming out of beta, but has been very unreliable over time. Dota 2 likes to force an artificial peak, such as with the yearly International and 2015’s New Bloom event. Once these events are over, the player base dwindles, and takes a few months to get back on it’s feet. Whereas CS appears to have nicely spread out and well received Majors, which cause an influx of new players who stay around for months to come. Overall I will look at these two games since Jan 2013, splitting the periods into 9 quarters; the first quarter being 2013’s January, February and March. Note that I had to use a combined method of average players + peaks to create a model to calculate growth.

Dota 2

The New Bloom event had small 10ish minute windows that the event was active for, which meant there was a mass introdus and exodus before and after the event windows. This created a massive peak amount of players, giving a massive illusion of growth. However if you look closer, Dota 2 growth has been stalling for about three quarters now however. Dota 2 grew about 35% in the first two quarters of 2014, but for other half of the year it only grew ~2%. If we look at the quarter to quarter changes:

Quarter growth of Dota

You can see that 2013 was a massive year for Dota 2, growing massively over the year. But things really started to slow down towards the end, which continued ever since. The International in July 2014 was a peak, but the player base took a significant hit for months afterwards. Dota 2 is coming back on track, but the numbers are somewhat higher than they should be due to the sly way the previous event worked. Luckily for Dota however, that a 10% growth when your player base is hundreds of thousands of players still results in a solid increase in players. It’s just that the growth has definitely slowed down a notch, or rather, a jeb (hue hue).


Counter Strike has a few problems when competing and comparing with Dota 2. While CS was released in August 2012 – when Dota’s peak concurrent was only 100k – the game didn’t go anywhere for months. It wasn’t until an entire year had past before the masses started taking any notice of the game. This effectively gave Dota 2 more than whole years head start, which Dota used to sextuple its player base. Since then however, CS has been exploding faster than an adolescent, with solid growths each quarter.

Counter-Strike has this impressive feat of mostly keeping the players it gains from when the game explodes. CS grew by 50% in July/August 2014, and then held steady for two months, keeping the massive amount of players gained. Later on, we launched more than NASA with another 50% growth in December/January. Keep in mind with the way percentage based growth works, is that growth is technically better the more players you have. A 20% increase of 20k players is only 4k more players, whereas a 20% growth when you have 300k players is an additional 60k more players. Which results in 60k more players not only buying the game, but purchasing cosmetics.


If we look at the average amount of players each game has at one time, Dota 2 is still well ahead. But CS:GO has actually closed the gap non stop.

When we started, Dota had ten times more players than CS. Whereas this quarter (which technically still has two days to go), Dota is only two and a half times bigger. Even this month has reduced this once more. So Can CS:GO beat Dota 2? Well, it will very soon for a few hours each day. The players of each games live and/or play at different times. Dota peaks around six hours earlier than CS:GO, which means CS:GO will end up being the most game played on Steam for a few hours every day. In fact just yesterday, while the concurrent peaks were 400k players off, CS was within 20k players of having more players than Dota at a point in time. Overall CS:GO is on a really good trajectory to overtake Dota, but will take some hard work.

The Next Step Forward

Both games have big things on the horizon. Dota 2’s custom game modes come to mind. But even a ‘new Valve hero’ was something many of us have been hoping for, but Dota 1 hasn’t seen a new hero in 21 months and there are still two more heroes to port. With about four months until TI5 LAN, are Valve going to release all this before that time?

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive seems far more reasonable. Majors will continue to happen, and new players flow in without massive work on new heroes or game modes. Even most the new maps come in the form of Operations, where the maps are mostly created by the community – with another Operation due soon. Valve just seems to put very little effort into CS:GO; there’s many things lacking. There’s essentially no profiles, gaping holes in the system, and even DotaBuff utterly destroys any CS:GO stat sites, which suggest to me that there are massive flaws in the CS:GO API. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the global popularity of maps based on skill bracket? Or to see how sided a map is at will by bracket? Maybe scouts are ungodly good on Aztec, or a pub team with 3 Tec-9s in pistol round wins 90% of the time. Who knows?


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