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!