The fervor for autobattlers has cooled a bit since the genre sprung into the limelight last year, and now, it looks like one of the big players has experienced a big drop-off. Over the last few months, Dota Underlords has seen a steady decline, as it seems like Valve's autobattler is having trouble retaining players.
Noted by user SharkyIzrod on the Games subreddit, Underlords has plummeted in player count since its launch last June. As shown on the site Steam Charts, over the last 30 days the average player count has hovered around 11,531 while peak players top out at 18,664 as of this writing. Compare that to just last October, when it was averaging over 19,000 players and topping out at over 43,000, and you can see the distance.
When I first played Dota Underlords at launch, it felt a little too safe. Valve didn't really mask that it was trying to grab the wheel of autobattlers, a deckbuilding-style genre born in the custom game scene of Dota 2. Its biggest competitor, League of Legends developer Riot Games' autobattler called Teamfight Tactics, took many chances with the loosely established formula created by the original Dota Auto Chess.
Dota Underlords has since undergone some radical changes, adding and modifying new features while adjusting old ones. It seems like players aren't keen on the concepts, though; in the Reddit thread mentioned above, one player laments the current status of the game, especially how its high-level strategies have become static over time. I'd love to see Valve right the ship on this one, though it's also possible that this is a larger sign that the year of auto chess fever is cooling off.