Auto Chess is a game derived from DotA. When the developers couldn't reach an agreement with Valve, they went ahead and ripped off the idea for themselves.
Valve is a huge company. They own the biggest storefront in gaming and have produced some of the best video games ever created. They also have a habit of turning mods into full-fledged games. DotA is a massive title derived from Warcraft III, and Counter-Strike is one of the world’s biggest FPS titles, derived from Valve’s Half-Life.
While many of these titles are produced in collaboration with original mod creators, that isn’t always the case. In the case of Auto Chess, the original creators hit gold. It managed to gain 7 million players within three months. Then Valve tried to get the game for themselves. It did not end well.
After the mod developers’ massive success, Valve tried to strike a deal with the developers. Drodo Studio, the developer behind the game, is based in China. Valve approached them to work together on DotA Auto Chess. Then, when the deal failed, they went ahead and ripped the idea off.
You might be tempted to say that Valve wasn’t in the wrong here. Technically, Auto Chess was derived from one of their games. Even if they couldn’t reach an amicable agreement, the original property was theirs. Having said that, Valve was definitely at fault in my opinion.
Auto Chess bears little resemblance to DotA. As with most of the really popular mods, it simply uses the original game as a springboard. While it does use the heroes from DotA 2, it is not particularly reliant on them. The game is fun, even with those heroes swapped out.
Obviously Valve wasn’t going to take this lying down. As Drodo Studio worked on their first standalone version for Android, Valve produced their own Auto Chess clone. DotA Underlords was the result. It’s basically just Auto Chess with some triple-A polish all over it.
When it was released six months ago, it was pretty popular. Back in June, there were upwards of 200,000 users at once. Then SharkyIzrod on Reddit noticed a tiny drop in those players. By tiny, I mean a drop of at least 80%. It’s something of karmic retribution as far as I’m concerned.
Don’t get me wrong. I know that DotA Underlords hasn’t been monetized yet. But I also know that there’s no way Valve wasn’t going to after it was done being in Early Access. They’re the king of monetization after all. It’s not exactly like anyone needs to shed tears over Valve’s little failure. It won’t make a dent in their resources.