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Valve's auto battler spin-off Dota Underlords leaving early access next month

Exit strategy.

Dota Underlords, Valve's free-to-play auto-battling Dota 2 spin-off, will leave early access and begin its first proper season on Steam, iOS, and Android next month, on 25th February.

Valve initially unveiled Dota Underlords back in May last year, following the enormous success of Chinese developer Drodo Studio's Dota 2 mod, Auto Chess, which had amassed over 8 million players at the time. Although Valve originally approached Drodo to discuss a collaboration, talks proved unfruitful and it was eventually decided that both parties would work on their own standalone auto battler releases.

Drodo launched its standalone Auto Chess game, minus the Dota elements, on mobile and as an Epic Store PC exclusive last summer. Valve's effort, Dota Underlords, entered early access on Steam and mobile soon after, quickly seeing over 1.5 million downloads.

Since then, Dota Underlords' core eight-player strategy action has been enhanced with the likes of daily challenges, ranked matchmaking, and, almost inevitably, a battle pass - but it's struggled to maintain its initial levels of popularity on Steam, with concurrent players falling from 202,254 at launch to 14,783 in the last 30 days.

According to Valve's announcement post, Dota Underlords' full release will introduce "new content with City Crawl, new rewards with a full Battlepass, and a new meta with a Hero/Item rotation". Prior to that, however, Valve has launched one final early access update, adding new fuzzy-faced hero Enno, alongside the usual array of tweaks and changes.

Dota Underlords exits early access into what's become an increasingly busy landscape for the auto-battling genre. Alongside the standalone release of Auto Chess (and its still-available Dota mod version), we've also seen the launch of Riot Games' League of Legends spin-off Teamfight Tactics, and Blizzard's auto-battling Hearthstone Battlegrounds mode.

Dota Underlords, which features full cross-play between PC and mobile versions, will remain free-to-play when Season 1 begins on 25th February.