Auto Battlers, the Start and End

When you start to get bored, why not play something on a board? What exactly is the Auto Battler genre? Let’s talk about Auto Chess, and how it started the rise to a new genre of games.

I remember hearing about Auto Chess when it rose in popularity. Even though the game was released in January 2019, it took a few months for the game to be known. I was getting bored of League of Legends at this time, so I told myself, “Let’s give it a try.” I got on my Steam account, installed Dota 2, and started to play.

Auto Chess, the Rise and Fall

All of a sudden, Auto Chess became an internet sensation. Even though the game’s popularity didn’t hold up for as long as I thought it would, Auto Battlers became well known to many people in the gaming community. It was the tactical game people were looking for. It’s less about the mechanics and rapidly aiming your cross-hair onto someone’s head in a split second, but rather planning out your strategy, counter-positioning, and building your team from nothing.

I admit. I was not the best at Auto Chess. The ranking system was related to Chess pieces, so it went from Pawn, Knight, Bishop, Rook, King, and Queen. I was a hard stuck Rook player, so above the average, but I never found myself at the top of the leader boards. Even then, I found the game to be insanely fun. I’d find myself playing different compositions, from Knights to Elves to Beasts to Goblins, especially 6 Beasts.

What made Auto Chess so popular all of a sudden? Streamers. Around July 2019, the game’s spike in popularity was because of many streamers like Amaz, Dogdog, and Hafu picking the game up and broadcasting it to their audience. This shows the influence streamers can have on the popularity of a game, or in this case a mini-game inside a game. Little did people know, this was the birth of a new genre.

Search of “Auto Chess” over time.

As time passed on, other companies wanted to jump on the Auto Battler hype train. This lead to the rise of many new games, most noticeably Dota Underlords, Hearthstone Battlegrounds, and the most popular one to this day, Teamfight Tactics. There were also a lot of terrible mobile games as well, but I think it’s best to ignore those. As streamers started to drop Auto Chess, it’s popularity decreased over time. So, let’s move onto the game I played as Auto Chess faded into the past.

Teamfight Tactics

PENGUINS AND DABS SURGE THE FIELD. NOBLES KEEPING YOU HEALED. BRAUM PROTECTS WITH HIS SHIELD. MY BRAIN IS THE WEAPON I WIELD.

Welcome to Teamfight Tactics, also known as TFT. (Not to be mixed up with Team Fortress Two.) This was made by Riot Games, mostly known for their game League of Legends. Being a big fan of League, this was naturally the game I found myself being lured into. I was able to play with the characters I love in this new Auto Battler genre.

Hitting Challenger on TFT in Set 1

There were many new synergies in Set 1, introducing Knights, Nobles, Imperials, Demons, Sorcerers, Yordles, Elementalists, and so much more. This gave a wide variety of compositions and builds to play with, along with their simplified item system. Auto Chess was a bit strange, some items building into items with unique actives. Some having long build paths like Refresher Orb, and some being like the current system TFT uses to this day. You combine 2 items and that creates the finished item. Now saying TFT’s item system is simple is true, but there’s still a lot of variety with each different combination making a unique item. For example, BF Sword and Negatron Cloak making Bloodthirster or double Negatron Cloak makes a Dragon Claw.

Fall in Popularity

What made Teamfight Tactics, despite how popular it was on Day 1, less popular than games like League of Legends and Fortnite? While there were some people put off by the “RNG” elements and the small amount of mechanical skill involved in the game, what lead to the decrease in popularity of the Auto Battler genre was the lack of competitive scene.

Auto Chess did have a ranking system along with its other games, but once you reached the top there was never really an official competitive scene for people to play off of, and for a good reason. One of the biggest problems Auto Battlers face with competitive scenes is something as simple as “hype”.

Faker vs Ryu Zed 1v1

Auto Battlers simply do not have the hype to generate enough popularity around a competitive scene of their game. Even then, a very important part to keep in mind is competitive scenes are also watched by people who don’t PLAY the game. You might not be a League player, maybe you’ve never heard of it. However, watching Faker at half health, running away but then turning back, and somehow winning is simple enough to the eye to say “WOW WHAT AN OUTPLAY!”

On the other hand, you can watch a streamer pivot from like Mech Pilots into Cybers, but what exactly does that even mean? As someone who plays the game a lot, I can understand why this can be difficult, but to a person who has no idea how the game works? It just looks like they’re putting on random units and doing random things. There is the excitement of a low health player in an Auto Battler trying to make a comeback, but otherwise there isn’t much room for hype in this genre. Most outplays are typically made through positioning and econing, factors that is not interesting nor fun to watch for the average spectator.

Without Esports, there was little desire for players to keep pushing and becoming the best. There was no “Faker” of TFT to look up to and aspire to be. There was no finish line for players to see. Only a scoreboard to compete.

Where It Is Now

Auto Battlers still have a small community based around them, but is much smaller than what it was before. Even without an active competitive scene, there will always be that group of dedicated players who love the genre. Maybe in the future, we’ll see a new game that takes an interesting twist on Auto Battlers to encourage a more mechanics. However, with the current state of these games, I doubt it’ll ever see the popularity it once held. That’s the story from start to end. Maybe try TFT with a friend. That’s all I have for the genre that started from a trend.

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