Dawngate-2013-06-07-17-16-37-54

So Dawngate is going away. Judging by most of the comments I’ve seen, it wasn’t exceptionally bad or exceptionally great. Some people liked it, some people didn’t, but that could be said of any game. Its worst sin was that it was “just another MOBA.”

That’s no small thing to overcome, just as so many games are “just another MMORPG” or “just another FPS.” Seeing as how Dawngate was backed by Electronic Arts, it’s possible that a mega-company like that might have wanted something much, much bigger, something able to butt heads with the likes of League of Legends or Dota 2. Maybe once they thought the game wasn’t shaping up along those lines, they pulled the plug.

Here’s a thing, though: That might have been the only choice EA could have made.

We often make fun of games that try to “copy WoW” or “copy LoL,” because we believe their huge success is some mixture of genius, timing, and luck that could never be duplicated. It’s true that there are a lot of MMORPGs out there that aren’t nearly as big as World of Warcraft but are still plenty successful and well-loved by their players.

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There are smaller MOBAs out there, ones that aren’t on par with the big boys. But is aiming for the top, going for that massive e-sport popularity, more of a goal for MOBA devs, especially ones with plus-sized budgets like EA? Do you need the allure of huge fame, top-tier competition, and big-money prizes to even consider making a MOBA?

Certainly, there are casual MOBA players just like there are casual MMORPG players. But while an MMORPG’s marketing campaign might mention great challenges, like top-level PvP matches or tough PvE raids, they exist alongside the other aspects of the game, like crafting, PvE, exploration, and so on. We’ve often heard that something like 10% of MMO players raid, so “being the best” clearly isn’t a goal for the vast majority of players. There’s often plenty to do, even in a smaller MMORPG, which you can enjoy just fine if it doesn’t grab headlines very often.

Meanwhile, what percentage of MOBA players think they can be the best, think they at least have a shot at winning the big prizes? Not everyone, sure, but when you look at the massive popularity of big e-sport events, it’s hard to imagine not at least considering that you have a chance, just like so many people envisioned themselves sitting at the top table at the World Series of Poker once Texas Hold ‘Em became a mainstream TV attraction.

One of the reasons I don’t like MOBAs is because I feel that I’m matched up with four teammates who all think they’re going to be the next e-sport megastar and if I make the slightest mistake, they’re on me like a rabid wombat, screaming at how I’m completely screwing them over – and, by extension, ruining their chances at fame and fortune. Is that just my bad luck in who I get matched up with, or do a disproportionately large number of MOBA players really think that way? And are they encouraged to do so by the game’s developers?

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Or, to put it another way, without that goal of big prizes or big fame, how many players will put forth the effort to play hundreds or thousands of (admittedly repetitive) matches, to watch strategy videos, to read about the best builds, and otherwise strive for that top ranking? Unlike the variety of activities available in most RPGs, there’s nothing else to do in a MOBA except battle, so do you need that carrot to keep you going?

You can’t have big prize pools without money. And you can’t have money without lots of players. It’s a bit of a catch-22 for MOBA developers: How do you become big? Get players. How do you get players? Become big. So maybe it takes a huge commitment and an unwavering dedication to both your development and e-sport creation process to push a MOBA out to launch. EA wavered a bit, maybe thinking that they couldn’t match what Riot, Valve, Hi-Rez (SMITE), and Blizzard (Heroes of the Storm) were doing without a sizable and risky investment, and they didn’t think there was any point in producing a MOBA that couldn’t match those other games’ prize pools.

Even if you don’t think you’re “that kind of player,” the kind who’s striving to win the World Championship, would a MOBA without those kind of offerings, without the promise of a big tournament and big prizes, seem less of a game to you? Even if you know you’re not good enough, are you drawn more to a MOBA that has a thriving e-sport presence? Or is a big e-sport tournament now the standard for a MOBA, the same as endgame is for an MMORPG?

That might have been at the heart of EA’s decision to cancel Dawngate: They didn’t just have to make a game, they had to make an experience, and maybe that commitment was just too much for them.

the author

Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

12 Readers Commented

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  1. fasdfdadsf on November 9, 2014

    Mobas are a fad right now and usually in fads there’s enough room for 2 players. That’s it.

  2. Wafflejski on November 9, 2014

    well I think EA have messed up here. Dawngate wasn’t great,, but it wasn’t crap. A few nice mechanics too.
    Can any of you honestly remember this game being plugged anywhere bar dedicated MMORPG websites?
    With EA backing I would have thought a bit more advertisement would have made its way.

    I did try Dawngate, enjoyed it for what its worth, but it was never a Lo/Dota2 killer.
    Art work is great too.
    Lets just hope the developers can get back all their hard work from EA, and go indie.
    (by the way.. all content is Free at the moment, so go enjoy everything the game has!)

  3. Leon on November 7, 2014

    Dawngate was meh for me. It did what it did well, but ultimately was always going to struggle being in the shadow of some really big games out there.

  4. Flam3crash on November 7, 2014

    Exeptionally good game . I can say it deserves way more then the 60% of the mobas out there . But still if they are aiming for competitive only , then sorry .
    Like i mean heroes of the storm is 100% casual so far and peopel are still hyped to play it and enjoy playing it . We will see what the game will bring in the future .
    As for the dawngate i will miss it , it was one of the best mobas i played and waited to come out to play . But as EA are usually aiming for money , i think they wont get exactly what they want and need from the game so thats why they cancel it .

  5. Narutoboy on November 7, 2014

    “One of the reasons I don’t like MOBAs is because I feel that I’m matched up with four teammates who all think they’re going to be the next e-sport megastar and if I make the slightest mistake, they’re on me like a rabid wombat, screaming at how I’m completely screwing them over – and, by extension, ruining their chances at fame and fortune. Is that just my bad luck in who I get matched up with, or do a disproportionately large number of MOBA players really think that way?”

    That, my man, is the exact reason why casuals should just stop playing ranked matches. I cannot stress enough the frustration I get when i get teamed up with some random guy who queue’s up in ranked and tells “hey man, it’s just a game”. “NO! It’s not just a game. It’s a fucking ranked match to prove how skilled you are at this game on a competitive level. If you wanna just have fun, by all means go crazy BUT NOT IN RANKED QUEUE!”

  6. Cyril on November 7, 2014

    People thinking they are going to be game superstars are not just in MOBAs. For example i played in the Evolve alpha. I played for about 10 games and everything ran smoothly regarding teammates, but in the very last game after server shutdown there was this due that from the first mistake i made he started screaming about the certain players in that role being noobs and he continued until the very end even though i hadn’t made another mistake.

  7. tolshortte on November 6, 2014

    personally I think the issue with mobas is simpler. its a matter of feeling ‘cool’ or ‘in’ within the gaming community. part of that ‘in’ is being part of the biggest, best, blah blah game. so, you will often see LoL players mention its player base numbers as if it somehow means the game is automatically the best out there simply due to its numbers. being the most successful, the biggest money maker etc DOES NOT necessarily mean its the best. but try convincing the sheeple who think that way of that. so they latch onto the current ‘big thing’ and if they have any success with it they somehow use it to validate themselves.

    players who are able to just play the game and enjoy it, often do. those are the players you will see playing these other mobas for what they are while still being able to enjoy the big ones (if they can somehow manage to tolerate the toxicity of the community their). those who have nothing but negativity pouring out of every orifice for anything not their beloved are most likely victim of what ive mentioned above.

    • Bic Boi on November 7, 2014

      So in other words..you’re saying that for a MOBA to succeed it requires a pile of hipsters to cling to it and parrot the largely inaccurate player base count that doesn’t factor in accounts that were made, barely played and abandoned.

      I agree, that’s a fairly accurate assessment. But please correct me if I’ve got the wrong idea.

  8. Dilan on November 6, 2014

    I agree. If you’re going to make a MOBA, you really have no other choice but to really focus on the competitive side of things. MOBAs are THE PvP genre at this point – no other game has a larger PvP following. Period. So if you make a MOBA and you think you’re going to survive against Dota 2 and League without not having a successful competitive scene and e-sport strategy, you’re sadly mistaken.

  9. Zhao Yun on November 6, 2014

    As far as moba players i do think you are right i mean specificly on LoL i am personally thinking of quiting soon just cause of what u said
    “One of the reasons I don’t like MOBAs is because I feel that I’m matched up with four teammates who all think they’re going to be the next e-sport megastar and if I make the slightest mistake, they’re on me like a rabid wombat, screaming at how I’m completely screwing them over – and, by extension, ruining their chances at fame and fortune. Is that just my bad luck in who I get matched up with, or do a disproportionately large number of MOBA players really think that way? And are they encouraged to do so by the game’s developers?”
    I do feel that way a lot of times but unfortunally specificly Riot cant or wont do anything about it which gets me to 2 options
    1:quit mobas in general
    2:find a moba with a better community
    None the less i cant really disagree with anything said in this topic to be frank i do agree with everything u said and sadly a lot of people(including me sometimes) are like “another copy of this another copy of that” etc

    • Theronna on November 7, 2014

      Couldn’ t agree more. All this e-sports hype concerning MOBA’ s is the most damaging factor for its community. Everyone thinks that they are some korean superstar and therefore everyone else is wrong and sucks.. I used to love LoL, now i cant force myself to even play 1 game, even tho i still like the game itself.

  10. Randyblythe on November 6, 2014

    I think the fact that Blizzard’s MOBA is barely even being hyped by the gaming community answers this question perfectly.

    MOBAs will not be popular beyond league and dota ever again.

    Blizzard has a perfect storm to hype their game, early alpha so not many people are in it, twitch is HUGE so a lot of people will want to watch it, and they’re BLIZZARD. Remember how many viewers Hearthstone had back in alpha? It was insane.

    Even with that absolute perfect storm to create hype, their game rarely breaks top 15 on Twitch. Will their game be successful? Sure, but only because it’s being made by BLIZZARD and it has characters that people are familiar with it, it will not be successful because of the game itself. I should know, I’ve been in alpha since wave 1.

    Dawngate offered some new ideas, however it was still just another MOBA. Strife is doing the same exact thing, I expect the same fate for them.

    All in all, the only people right now that can pull off a MOBA is Blizzard, and they’re already doing it, yet even so, it won’t be half the playerbase of League.

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