Three months ago, the MOBA market was full steam ahead. Now it’s leveling off and maybe even shrinking, at least according to this report by CNBC.

The article cites Infinite Crisis’ implosion as a big reason for the MOBA meltdown, about which analyst Eric Handler says “you need more than just characters.” As SuperData CEO Joost van Dreunen puts it,

“Most MOBAs are exceedingly complex games. Players who have invested substantial time to master one game are unlikely to jump ship.”

Maybe, but that’s a claim you could make about MMORPGs, as well. And while it’s true that “going back to WoW” is a thing, a lot of other games attract significant audiences of their own. There’s room for a lot of MMORPGs, so why shouldn’t that be the case for MOBAs?

The thing is, there probably is. League of Legends is the unstoppable (for now) juggernaut, in the same position as World of Warcraft. Dota 2 is the clear #2, but it’s far behind. Toss in Smite and Heroes of the Storm as the next two (in some order), and then there are a bunch of other, much smaller MOBAs and semi-MOBAs, like Orcs Must Die! Unchained, Dead Island Epidemic, AirMech, Rise of Incarnates, and (for another month or so) Infinite Crisis. And that barely touches upon the slew of mobile MOBAs that are out there or in development.

On the other hand, the competitive scene for MOBAs is also unlike anything seen in most MMORPGs, and it’s the drive to hone one’s gameplay in those games that probably supports van Dreunen’s comment. And maybe there’s just a simple saturation effect at work; for a few years, people didn’t know what an MMORPG was, so there were lots of people, even after WoW came out, who were new to the genre and willing to try new things.

Perhaps MOBAs have reached that kind of “cultural saturation point” where pretty much everyone knows what MOBAs are, whether they want to play them, and which one they want to play, and any new game just cannibalizes the audience of an existing one, adding nothing to the overall player pool. Going mobile has opened up a few new doors and exposed the genre to a few new people, but that won’t last long. Personally, I think this is the most likely situation, and we’ll see occasional spikes and valleys but not significant change for a while.

I’m curious to know what you guys think: Will MOBAs keep growing, have they flattened out, or are they on the downslide. I’d ask you to vote not with what you want — because a lot of people are understandably anti-MOBA — but with what you think is actually the case. And leave a comment to further explain your reasoning!

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.

9 Readers Commented

Join discussion
  1. EdmondDantes on July 8, 2015

    The bronze players Have Spoken! LoL

  2. Mobas no more on July 8, 2015

    League of legends community: Kids/Teenangers/Toxic
    Dota 2: Teeangers/hardcore players -Russian/Latin/Pro U.S.A players
    Smite: League of legends ctrl+v
    Heroes of Storm: “Ok” community (Boring for me)

    • Mobas no more on July 8, 2015

      Ps:There will always be new players, but the community will always be the same.

  3. H on July 8, 2015

    MOBAs are shit and you should ashamed for liking it.

  4. Benjamin on July 8, 2015

    It was a new untapped genre back in the day, so the money was there to be made. Those who it did it well and did it first now have the biggest slice of pie.

  5. Mike on July 7, 2015

    “Maybe, but that’s a claim you could make about MMORPGs, as well. ”

    It’s actually not.

    “There’s room for a lot of MMORPGs, so why shouldn’t that be the case for MOBAs?”

    Try reading the quote you included in your article, it answers your question. MOBAs are EXCEEDINGLY complex games. MMORPGs are not. They can’t be compared. In MMORPGs, you run around doing fetch quests, then you queue up for dungeons, which usually consist of you either standing in one spot tanking, standing in one spot DPSing, or standing in one spot healing. Then you do end-game raids which is probably the only point where MMORPGs become complex, and even then, the difficulty is nowhere near MOBA games.

    Going from one MOBA to another is not as easy as going to another MMORPG. You have to learn an entirely new set of heroes ( their abilities, their strengths and weaknesses, which heroes have good synergy ), an entirely new set of items and builds ( which are usually shoved in a hard to navigate shop window that takes a week or two to become comfortable with ), an entirely new map ( you may take one glance at a MOBA map and say “oh, it’s just 3 towers per lane, a barracks/inhibitor, and then the ancient/nexus”, but the depth is much more complex than that, from the most optimal ward spots, to which heroes should play in specific lanes to better control objectives, to things like tree and walk juking areas ), I mean I could go all day with this list, you get the point by now.

    There’s no comparison here. MMORPGs are for casuals, MOBAs are for people who want to be challenged. MOBAs are enormously hard to master, so once someone gets truly invested in one, they are not going to stop and join another because the time it will take for them to master some new MOBA is just too immense. They’re better off sticking with the MOBA they’ve already sinked 3,000 hours into, instead of joining a new MOBA and sucking all over again.

    • Rtc on July 7, 2015

      3.000 hours?Please mate,that is a kids level.Try adding “4 years of nonstop playing”.It suits better!

    • Eviil on July 7, 2015

      correction, today’s MMORPGS are for casuals, FFXI back then was complex in raids. I find MOBA complexity a joke along with todays MMORPGS, i’ll exclude the MMO portion and just stick to RPG. Chrono Trigger on my iPhone is less boring than today’s MMORPG. I’ll tell you straight up whats complex, players standard of “Teamwork” MANY don’t even understand what that means and fail to understand that in competitive play, it is necessary to increase your win ratio along with other factors such as practice.

      • Eviil on July 7, 2015

        oops ended too early. it feels like when people don’t work together accordingly, that’s where it gets complex. that’s the point I’m trying to get across.