Valve is celebrating Dota 2's tenth anniversary with a major break with tradition. Although the game has received a battle pass (originally called a Compendium) to accompany and fund the prize pool for every year's International tournament, Valve has decided there won't be one this year. In fact, it's dramatically ratcheting down how much it focuses on battle pass content in general, and pledges instead to focus on other, more regular updates that can be experienced by the entire Dota 2 playerbase.
In a post to the Dota 2 blog titled "Learning from the Past, Looking to the Future," Valve said that the Dota 2 battle pass had grown "to encompass just about any content we produce for Dota over the year". That created "a tremendously exciting time in Dota," but it meant "the rest of the year [felt] barren by comparison".
So Valve ran an experiment. The studio took development resources that would, in any other year, have gone towards developing the battle pass for The International 2023 and "instead put them towards more speculative updates, including features and content that couldn't fit into a Battle Pass". That experiment bore fruit in the form of Dota 2's New Frontiers update, the patch that was so big it made the game "basically Dota 3 now," in the words of PCG's Jody MacGregor.
"Most Dota players never buy a Battle Pass and never get any rewards from it," said Valve, but "every Dota player has gotten to explore the new map, play with the new items, and accidentally die to a Tormentor; every Dota player benefits from UI improvements and new client features". The positive community response to the New Frontiers update has given Valve "confidence that working less on cosmetic content for the Battle Pass and more on a variety of exciting updates is the right long-term path for Dota as both a game and a community".
It's a bit surprising to hear that the majority of players never even buy the battle pass anyway, but it makes sense. It's not uncommon to hear that huge chunks of microtransaction revenue for games are driven by a relatively small number of very committed players ("whales," as the common and unflattering parlance goes). Dota 2 clearly isn't any different.
Valve is still plenty keen to sell you all sorts of wondrous cosmetics and overwhelming particle effects, mind you. "We'll still ship a range of cosmetics over the year," says Valve, "but we're also going to ship more diverse updates for all Dota players to enjoy".
It sounds like that will kick off with an "[International]-themed update" this September, which will focus on the event itself, the players, and the games that take place, and wherein "new cosmetic items won't play a notable part". "To make it clear that we're shifting focus towards the event and away from the giant reward line of cosmetics, we're intentionally not calling this update a Battle Pass," says Valve. Like the battle passes of yore, sales from that update will contribute to The International prize pool, though it's likely it'll be a little lower this year without the singular glitz, glamour and FOMO that the battle pass usually brings.
It's not clear from the post whether this is a full stop for the battle pass system in Dota 2, or if Valve is just skipping it temporarily in order to return with a lighter, less dev-intensive version in future. I've reached out to the company in order to find out, and I'll update this piece if I get a reply.
For now, you can look forward to a celebratory tenth anniversary update for Dota 2. Valve hasn't said when that'll come out, except to say that it definitely won't be on the actual tenth anniversary (July 9) of Dota 2. "Yes, we're working on some fun stuff for it; no, we're definitely not going to hit the July 9th date listed on Steam," says the company. Take heart, Dota fans, some things never change.