With League of Legends and DotA2 now cemented within the eSports community, both with fairly large fanbases, do we really have room for another competitive MOBA on the circuit, or is every new MOBA now doomed to casual play only? Since the popularity of League of Legends sky rocketed out of control, even defeating the titan World of Warcarft in active registered players, every company has been trying to hop on the hype train for this fairly new brawler arena style gameplay dubbed MOBA (Massively Online Battle Arena) But as more and more companies try, they all seem to fail to capture what it is that have put LoL and DotA2 on top. Is this because they were inherently bad? Or do we just not have room for more?
While Innovation is never a negative, and I fully support companies trying to push the boundaries and expectations of a genre, is it what players really seek in the MOBA genre? When we look at the two giants of the MOBA genre, we can see that they have stuck very close to the winning formulae that the original DotA map on Warcraft 3 stumbled upon, DotA2 even being a complete carbon copy, while LoL deviated slightly at heart it’s still very much the map we remember.
However every other competitor is trying to be so radically different, designing completely different maps with new mechanics to boot, and maybe it is this radical shift that is alienating current players to stick the the familiar experience they have come to love. Smite for example, tried to turn the genre on it’s head by making the player control their ‘champion’ or ‘hero’ through a third person perspective, while I admit I enjoyed this concept at first for a few games, the novelty of it wore thin very quickly and some very obvious hindrances became apparent, mainly the lack of strategy and teamwork over being able to land skillshots and duel opposing players. While this more action orientated style of gameplay maybe more exciting and forgiving to newer players of the genre, I felt it didn’t really capture the aspects that made me want to play MOBA’s.
Other games such as Dawngate are opting for a redesign of the map with only two lanes, neutral minions and objectives, to push the game to a more co-operative experience with two dual lanes and a roaming player. While pushing the game to be more co-operative and stopping the one good player getting ahead and snowballing the game which features in LoL and DotA2, for me the experience seemed quite stale, as killing enemy champions became a much more arduous task and most games boiled down to whoever could win a significant teamfight first, rather than the roaming pickoff style to force objectives gameplay which this experience seems to lack.
LoL is the beacon of what any game with a microtransaction model should strive for. A free game with the option to pay money for cosmetic upgrades and increased speed of progression was never viewed as a model that could fully support a business, but Riot Games have proved to everyone what a powerful model it can be, but in turn has this made MOBA players too invested in one game?
With the option to personalize and customize your experience through cosmetic upgrades, and after spending all that money to do so, would any player want to move away from that game after a considerable monetary investment to play a new game? But players have not only made huge investments with money, but their own time to learn the mechanics and intricacies of their chosen game. With LoL and DotA2 reigning supreme for so long now with an extremely large player base it seems like there is little chance for new MOBA’s to muscle their way into the market when players are already dedicated, are players dismissing new MOBA’s in favour for the game they have made huge investments in?
With League of Legends within it’s fourth year and now supporting a champion roster like DotA2, of over a hundred, it’s hard for new MOBA’s to kickstart with the variety and depth these two titans bring to the table. With years of balancing and player input as well, to fine-tune the experience it’s easy to see why these two remain on top and dominating within the MOBA genre.
With some companies hoping that just attaching their well known IP to their game would offer instant success, i’m looking at you Guardians of Middle Earth and Infinite Crisis, it seems like there is not much hope. Although the MOBA genre is relatively new it is fast becoming very exclusive, and it is to Blizzard I look to, if there is one company I could trust to deliver a fresh experience to the genre it would be them with Heroes of the Storm.