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Valve bans 90K Dota 2 accounts for "smurfing"

No More Smurfs.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

September 5, 2023

2 Min Read
Clash of Heroes loading screen in Valve's Dota 2.

At the start of September, Valve permanently banned 90,000 "smurf" accounts from Dota 2. In a recent blog on the game's website, the developer warned that creating such accounts "is not welcome in Dota." 

That so many accounts have been banned is fairly unusual, both for Valve and in general. While smurfing exists throughout plenty of online games, other developers aren't as strict.

Smurfing is when players create alternate accounts for various purposes ranging from not playing with others at their current skill level to cheating or "to otherwise be toxic without consequence." The tactic is common in online games and too much of it ruins the game for new players, in turn potentially killing a game's lifecycle. 

That behavior is further damaging for a title like Dota 2, which uses a skill-based matchmaking system (to sort players of similar skill level) and the lucrative esports league (dubbed The International) that Valve produces.

Valve revealed it traced all of those accounts to their respective main accounts, and warned that any main account associated with a smurf profile will see "numerous punishments." These penalties may range from temporary adjustments to a player's behavior score to a full-on ban for that primary account. 

To cut down on smurfing in Dota 2, Valve advised players use the in-game reporting options, which it will use to "track offenders and gather data used to inform our anti-smurf efforts moving forward."

The push to ban smurf accounts in Dota 2 continues Valve's recent cleanup efforts for both it and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. In August, Valve abruptly requested players stop monetizing their Dota 2 custom games and started to curb player gambling in Counter-Strike

In both instances, Valve was previously hands-off with the monetization within those titles. It's unclear what each of these actions mean for Valve in the long run, given the studio was previously said to be fairly hands-off regarding issues like gambling and monetization.

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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