The story of how Dota 2 items raced to zero value, and why Valve did all these restrictions

The story of how Dota 2 items raced to zero value, and why Valve did all these restrictions

It was a great age for casual traders, too. You could either trade up with an old set for a newer one that someone fancied, and you could either sell them at the Marketplace or trade 1:1 for another set, usually in the same chest. Really good traders knew how to trade until they could earn their Unusual Couriers, the pinnacle of value before Immortals and Arcanas.

It was a beautiful economic game. A golden age.

The Marketplace Effect

One day, people noticed the Marketplace started to sell items for not just a few dollar cheaper, but cheaper by 80% or more. Suddenly, an idea took place: buy only from the Marketplace, the Dota 2 Store is too expensive.

With items dropping freely in matches, including sets, people could turn in a profit. Wanting to cash in as fast as possible, the prices battle with each other and spiral down. Very old, ugly or unpopular rares went down to a dollar or so. With time, the sales from Dota 2 Store dwindled as people preferred dirt-cheap items.

Valve saw that some of the new chest sales begun to go down. No one wants to buy stuff from the Dota 2 Store if they can get it from the Marketplace. Valve implemented a sales system at the Store, and it helped a little but not enough. Workshop artists begin to notice their shares becoming less and less worthy of their time. Why make stuff for Dota 2 if it’s not really selling that well as before?


In order to convince the Workshop artists to not leave, Valve began to lower prices from the Dota 2 Store so that the sales stay good. There was Queen of Pain set that sold at $2.49 for the first time; a price usually reserved for single items. Workshop artists were appalled, but they know this is because of the competition from the Marketplace. The persevered anyway, and the number of Workshop artists grew and grew. There are more and more sets than Valve could curate, and oversights began to happen.

A group of artists felt waiting for Valve to approve their items meant months of work and nothing resulting from it. They took destiny into their own hands: enter the player-partnered sets and tournament bundles.

Now the Workshop could operate more efficiently. But some people began to abuse the tournament bundles. They put terribly designed and badly done sets in, and got in through personal connections with tournament organizers or begging them hard enough.

Cosmetic item quality started to drop.

The Race to Zero

Valve needed to compete harder and harder with the Marketplace. They started to put less sets on the Dota 2 Store, and used the Treasure Chest system more and more. Dota 2 Store means a Workshop artist creation is permanently on sale; Treasure Chest meant that once the chest’s no longer popular, people would forgot so and so sets ever existed.

As more players play and more bots farmed for items in a 5v5 unranked, item drops became so numerous that Marketplace items sold for cents. This became the perceived value of items; Dota 2 Store is a rip-off, so just wait for the prices to go down.

Traders got a whole glut of items and tried their best to get the most value out of it. Items would trade up the rarity tiers like crafting, and people enjoyed the progression. But this was doing the Workshop artists no good once SETS from a $2.49 chest sold for cents.

Something has to be done. Valve started experimenting with recycling items in compendiums and events such as Wraith Night and New Bloom. It helped, but not enough. The Marketplace was overflooded with items at the bottom levels.

Goodbye, Year 1 Times

Single items used to be sold in chests, but since the value went down so much, Valve sold less and less single items and reserved the good stuff for TI compendiums: the start of the Immortals from TI3. Workshop artists saw the same problem, and started focusing on full sets that sold for less and less.

Valve also didn’t want to let every from the Workshop in, even though they’re really well-designed by talented people. More sets equal lesser value, lesser sales from the Dota 2 Store. They did set rotations based on heroes, and till today this is the system in place.

Traders Turned to Bets

Traders felt the pain from a lot of resrictions. Valve removed the key system so it would be easier for Chinese and Korean players to access the chests from their clients (ie. the Perfect World and Nexon ones), since the Western players held most of the goods for trading and later, betting. Valve made the once specially slotted couriers customizable, so that couriers and their gems of different effects and colours go into trading and Marketplace to make things more accessible as well. Dota2Lounge adapted and later implemented Arcana betting and trading as people were losing currencies to trade when the keys were removed.

Soon trading became more and more of a hassle until most people stopped bothering with it. Only those who bet on tournament results, with a huge amount of keys converted to Arcanas and Immortals in value, remain “traders”.

People Started Hating Valve

Value of items continued to race to zero and it reflected in the sales. Valve started to restrict new chest items from being traded immediately to keep their value “true” rather than Marketplace-perceived.

Item drops started to not be tradeable, in order to keep the value of the items from the chests and Dota 2 Store not falling to mere cents.

People didn’t like the restrictions. They saw buying a set for $0.51 the real deal, not from $2.49 chests. Things were FAR cheaper than the days of $7.99-$14.99 but newer players didn’t know any better. At least you can still gift items to friends and certain traders, right?

As more players join in the game, the vocal minority grew. Injustice should be highlighted for all to see. Suddenly, Valve became perceived as greedy and terrible even though forces from all sides strained their already small team. Well, people didn’t care, they just want their free game and free items. Workshop artists struggle on and waited for months just for a set to be included in chests for not really good returns.

Meanwhile, Valve took all the shit from angry people and stay silent as they do all they can to fix things for a fresh new Source 2 client that was necessary for the future of Dota 2.

Fast Forward to…

Today, for the Fall Major compendium, Valve experimented with restricting gifting among friends and trading in Marketplace, just as any normal products from other MOBAs. Your champion skin is yours and only yours once you bought it. This is why other companies never bothered with an economy-sensitive thing like the Marketplace.

Valve gave freedom, but freedom hurt everyone. No one was happy because artwork is never free in today’s world.


Direct your anger and blame the Marketplace price racing to zero and the nature of digital goods created through weeks and weeks of making 2D concept art, 3D modelling and textures, animation, particle effects, loading screens and custom icons taken for granted. Screw the greedy artists, amirite? /s

  • By the way, TF2 dealt mostly with single items so it was controllable (texturing there is easy compared to Dota 2). CS:GO skins and stickers are also easy as shit to make compared to Dota 2 sets. Barely needed any Zbrush sculpting. DON’T COMPARE THEM TO DOTA 2 IF YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT ART AND EFFORT.

meanwhile, certain game players are fine with paying for Tier 3 Runes to get an advantage over other players

87% UpvotedThis thread is archivedNew comments cannot be posted and votes cannot be castSort bylevel 12 points ·

Thanks for the read. 🙂 Been through the timesscale you mentioned and it’s good to regain some perspective. What I did miss was some kind of small mentioning of the issues Valve had (and have?) with money laundering. Buying items with stolen credit card on stolen accounts and selling to traders/whatever. While it’s something that’s totaly invisible to players that haven’t gotten their accounts hacked, it’s a very much real and frightening problem for Valve.

level 2Original Poster2 points ·

You’re welcome. I’m sure I’m missing some details here and there (like the New Bloom Auspicious items) but you get the point of the timeline and perspective.

Hopefully Valve finds a good solution to all these.

level 1[deleted]8 points ·

This covered so much of what I was annoyed with by this sub. First, everyone needs to realize we are FAR from f2p abuse that other developers have. Hearthstone is at a point in which being slightly f2p as a new player is almost impossible unless you want to get stomped by people who put down serious cash who’s every card just out classes your equivalent card. Yes we can raise topics on issues we have, but going into a full on bitching mode because an item cost more/needs grinding to get an extra particle effect is getting out of hand.

Dota 2 is currently one of the best markets for artist out of the other major games and they are one of the major pillars for keeping Dota alive and growing in the future. Keeping the marketplace in balance where their work has demand AND value is key. We should make sure we frame issues in the future to how it effects them, the community, and Dota as a whole.

TL;DR Dota 2 is still one of the best F2P games for the consumer and artist so stop overreacting and make sure it is constructive and not just bitching.

P.S: I still think the duplicate and non gifting from fall compendium should be adjusted in some way.

level 2Original Poster2 points ·

It’s a problem of perspective. If what was happening to Hearthstone now is happening to Dota 2, people might actually slit their wrists or something.

Understandably, when something hurts you, you’ll hastily make a conclusion based on what you know, not what’s the closest to the truth. I’m probably missing details up there, but I tried my best to include every damn thing I could remember since the start of the Dota 2 Store.

Yes, Valve still needs to fix things. The new post on frontpage today about voting with wallets is really not that far from the “Marketplace is cheaper” thing I have mentioned.

level 2 goon | goonmother1 point ·

First, everyone needs to realize we are FAR from f2p abuse that other developers have. Hearthstone is at a point in which being slightly f2p as a new player is almost impossible unless you want to get stomped by people who put down serious cash who’s every card just out classes your equivalent card.

Agreed, there’s nothing in DotA that you can buy, that will in any form or shape give you an advantage in the game itself, those “literally pay2win/lose” (e.g PA Arcana revealing Rosh attempts because of the crit) posts are usually just bugs that get fixed later on.

However, I still find it rather annoying that some cosmetics and shit are so hard to obtain. If I want a particular cosmetic, I would like to be able to buy it, market or ingame store. An example being the recent QoP set, I’d really like to get my hands on the head piece, but as far as I can tell, unless I buy a compendium (not sure if that’s the case, haven’t really looked into it) and in a sense gamble for the whole set by buying the chest, that’s just too much. But even though this is how I feel about it, I don’t find it worth to sit on reddit and bitch about it, in the end it’s just a fucking cosmetic that doesn’t really change anything, it really is just different pixels on your screen. I’m still able to play the game at an even level with everybody else playing it and that’s totally fine by me. It’s not like their cosmetics gives them shit such as +1 armor or anything.

I think the best part about the whole thing is people on this subreddit telling Valve how to run their business and how they can make more money by doing stuff that THEY want. It’s almost as if those very same people would be capable of running a business equivalent to Valve. Yeaaaaaaaaaaah, no. There’s a whole lot more shit behind the scenes that you really don’t know anything behind. Unless you’re working for Valve as well as having experience running a business of this magnitude, your “ideas/suggestions” don’t really mean shit.

To put in perspective, people constantly bash each other here about DotA, based on their MMR. “Oh you’re 2k MMR? Your ideas/opinions don’t mean shit”. Bashing Valve about how they run their business is pretty much exactly the same, Gabe/Valve is 8k MMR and the majority of you, I doubt you’d even breach 1-2k MMR in terms of knowing how to run a business.

TL;DR Enjoy the fucking game, it’s 100% FREE in terms of being able to play it, there’s nothing to buy to give you an advantage or access something special (heroes/game modes) in terms of gameplay. Cosmetics aren’t as important as you think they are. If you don’t like the way Valve handles cosmetics, the best way to protest is to simply STOP BUYING COMPENDIUMS/ITEMS/CHESTS or ANYTHING from the store, why? Because if enough people stop spending, their profits will dip down and in order to make it go up again, they could have to make changes. As long as they’re making profits at a steady rate, they really don’t have to change anything. Profit isn’t the only thing they’re chasing though, there’s a lot more factors to it than you might think.

level 2 Who puts their skeleton on the inside?1 point ·

Hearthstone is at a point in which being slightly f2p as a new player is almost impossible unless you want to get stomped by people who put down serious cash who’s every card just out classes your equivalent card.

Card games have always been this way. The might look cheap/free, but they aren’t, and nobody thinks they are.

level 14 points ·

Thanks for this post, it helped put things into perspective for me. However, I believe there might be a compromise.

What if a workshop artist could set a “funding goal”. An artist might say, “I believe my set is worth $100k”, and set a goal at $100k. Once that goal is reached, all versions of that set would become tradable and marketable. It would allow artists and valve to get what they believe is a good price for their work, and allow sets to eventually become tradable and marketable.

That said, it may be that the community simply says, “I’ll wait until I can buy it off the market”, but it could potentially be an answer to the problem.

level 2Original Poster1 point ·

In other words, a Patreon-styled vote-with-your-money system. I think it’s interesting and could actually work, but all systems have their quirks.

Maybe if Valve gets to read this or something, they could experiment with it. Either way, thanks for reading all of this.

level 20 points ·

really good idea

level 1 THREE WORDS PLENTY2 points ·

I jumped to CSGO trading after watching all of this unfold around me, and lucky I did before I lost more value. Dota is still the better game, but in Dota it’s almost impossible to have an inventory of value, bar couriers and a few $10+ items.

CSGO – most good weapons are >$10, not like the Mythical Sets on market for $0.30

level 21 point ·

I love that CSGO has some really quality skins that won’t break your bank.

level 1 This post is one of many prophecies1 point · · edited 3 years ago

This comment has been overwritten by an open source script to protect this user’s privacy. It was created to help protect users from doxing, stalking, and harassment.

If you would also like to protect yourself, add the Chrome extension , or the Firefox extension and add .

Then simply click on your username on Reddit, go to the comments tab, scroll down as far as possibe (hint:use ), and hit the new OVERWRITE button at the top.

Also, please consider using as an alternative to Reddit as Voat does not censor political content.

level 2Original Poster1 point ·

Exactly the problem. Rarity of goods dictate the value. At that time, item value was already at a all-time low.

I can’t tell you what to feel about it, though I want to thank you for reading through it all.

level 11 point ·

Just read this and thanks for the clarifications/perspective. More people should read this yeah. Not really interested in the hat aspects but still clueless on the market trading hate.

level 11 point ·

nice read thx

level 1 “Skree” means Sheever in Birdtalk1 point ·

“meanwhile, certain game players are fine with paying for Tier 3 Runes to get an advantage over other players” As much as I like the rest of your post, this is fallacious. You don’t pay real money for that, it’s just grinding (which isn’t good either, I know, but your sentence connotes pay2win, when it really isn’t)

level 22 points · · edited 4 years ago

I played a fair amount of LOL (i got my dota key very late), and actually I probably enjoy the game more than most here, but it is actually pretty p2w.

If you are going full free2play, you have to spend your points on champions first, or you will be at the mercy of the free rotation. Since you need a reasonable pool of good champions for at least most positions, if one guy can simply buy those characters with real money, he can spend those points he “saved” on runes straight away (the pay to win begins here).

It “might” even out after both had the time to buy a reasonable pool of champions, the runes and pages they need, etc, but it doesn’t change the fact that the guys who paid for their champions probably owned those free to play players on the way there

And even after it “evens out”, winning gives more points than losing, so the guy who bought the champions (that gives a better chance to win) will have most likely earned even more points than the guy who went full f2p, being able to buy even more runes / a better pool of champions, etc

tl;dr: he might be misinformed about the rune system, but they actually do make the game pay to win, specially for newer players, even though you can’t buy them with real money

level 2[deleted]1 point ·

If I owned a lemon stand and told you I don’t accept cash but you could run around for an hour to get one, most people would find this “free” alternative more frustrating. If I then sold quick passes for $2 and said “you only need to run for 10min with one of these” I feel any reasonable person would see this as paying real money to buy my lemons.

The fact that the same system is in place for League but almost nobody notices is an incredible testament to the communities critical thinking skills and awareness.

level 11 point · · edited 3 years ago

Well then, i see your point. BUT, why not remove gamble aspect of chests, remove new items from drop list(for 3 months as is now with untradable/unmarketable/ungiftable) and make them unmarketable. People will stop bitching about not getting the set they want, items will have their value as they can only be obtained via buying from the store. we could still gift them to a friend if we so desire, or trade them for other items that are really good but their price is way lower than in store. valve makes money, artists make money, happy community, happy life AND artists would have to make better and better stuff for them to be buyable which would lead into better set quality overall which would lead to more money for valve. fix me if u dont agree or see a flaw in this. because i HATE random stuff from chests, thats why the community wants to trade them away.

level 11 point ·

Today, for the Fall Major compendium, Valve experimented with restricting gifting among friends and trading in Marketplace, just as any normal products from other MOBAs. Your champion skin is yours and only yours once you bought it.

Er, hate to break this to you but the gifting/untradable thing’s been in place far longer than the past few weeks.

more like past few months…

This all started months ago with

level 1 Slarrrrddarrrrr1 point ·

I’m calling it – MODS please pin this thread up. Please don’t let the misinformed people start spreading the flame. The subreddit is already full of false information and baseless claims as is. Don’t let a good post like this go unnoticed.

level 2-1 points ·

I agree. While I understand the frustration players are having, assuming OP is correct, this seems to be a reasonable explanation to valve’s actions, and may help bring things into perspective for others.

What are your thoughts ?

More posts from the DotA2 community





Oct 13, 2010

Cake Day

DotaRedditUsing Reddit|||Reddit Inc


    There are no comments yet

Leave A Reply