Age of the MOBA

According to EEDAR, by the end of 2015 MOBAs will generate more revenue than (F2P) MMORPGs in the North American market:

"Meteoric" pretty much covers it.

“Meteoric” pretty much covers it.

The difference is small – $501m vs $499m – but it’s impressive nonetheless for a genre that didn’t (formally) exist five years ago.

One thing is for certain though: MOBAs are the “new” hotness and are poised to overtake F2P MMOs either this year, or Soon™ in any case. Which is a fascinating turn of events for someone who really has less than zero interest in MOBAs specifically. Indeed, nearly every mechanic that make MOBAs “deep” are the same mechanics that make many MMOs terrible. For example, the whole Last Hit mechanic. Or having over a hundred different characters, many of whom are direct counters to others, requiring one to memorize a truly voluminous amount of minutia to succeed. You thought the whole Raid Dance memorization was dumb? Just wait until you spend time researching dozens of characters who don’t even get picked. Oh, and hey, I heard you like 40+ minute LFG fights were you (ideally) lose 50% of the time.

On the other hand, in the Venn Diagram for MOBA and MMO I wonder how much overlap there really is. Did some people leave WoW for League of Legends? What did they find on the one end that they did not on the other? Perhaps nothing, and the audiences are from two entirely different sources. Which really doesn’t answer the question of where the MOBA audience came from. Is this an entirely different generation of gamer coming to age during the rise of MOBAs? Or was this a deep pool of potential players who hitherto weren’t being serviced by existing products?

Maybe the answer is less complicated than I am making it out to be: MOBA players seemingly sprang from the earth because it’s all F2P. Easy to get into, easy to get hooked, and then easy to get monetized. As revenues approach half a billion dollars in NA alone though, this clearly is not a flash-in-the-pan phenomenon. Despite the MOBA saturation, revenue still increase almost 20% last year, according to the chart. You will undoubtedly have winners and losers in the market, but MOBAs are here to stay.

Which is… well, good for them. I’m going to play something else.

Posted on April 6, 2015, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Not sure how useful this really is; how are they defining F2P MMO? We know that other sources, like superdata, fail horribly even in this and result in pointless data. Did you look at the white paper (I didn’t).

    Also just from the linked article, they are mixing games together that doesn’t really work. For instance, some of the purchase areas (announcer packs for example) aren’t an option in LoL, so what does that 4% really mean? They want it to mean the percentage of the total spending, but when the biggest game in the genre doesn’t allow for that option, does it really matter?

    As for ‘who is playing’, I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. I play LoL while still playing FFXIV. My guess is a solid percentage of MOBA players also play MMOs, while others might be FPS fans or what have you.


    • Looking at the white paper, it didn’t actually define what they mean by F2P MMO. In fact, I’m starting to question the numbers myself, as they mention League’s revenue being $650m in the breakdown, which is obviously higher than the “projected” $501m all by itself.

      That being said, I don’t find anything fishy about the announcer packs (it’s 2%), as it’s conceivable that 10% of DotA 2’s revenue comes from that, even if it’s the only MOBA with them.


  2. I was a big time MMO player for years. WoW was home, but I played most of the other big and medium sized games that came out. I switched to LoL about 2 years ago. I’ve never had the desire to return to Azeroth since.

    It wasn’t any one thing for me, but rather several small things that added up to make MOBAs more fun. I’ll rattle off a few that come quickly to mind. Duration of games. I like shorter games. 15-45 minutes is about all I really want to put into a game at any one sitting. When WoW’s dungeon finder took me to WotLK style dungeons I could brute force through for 20 minutes or so of light weight fun then I was happy. Cata’s longer and harder dungeons were just not fun. A simple normal match in LoL is around 20-35 minutes. A good length for a casual player like myself.

    PvP match ups are mostly fair. If, for example, Rengar is strong at any given time then I can play Rengar instantly at the same time as my opponent. Or we can play Vi when she is strong. Or Syndra. Or Thresh. Or I can try and find a counter for the current strong pick and play that. In WoW if mages were strong I needed to set aside a few weeks to level a mage and a few more to gear it out for PvP all the while hoping mages don’t get nerfed. Gearing is another part of keeping PvP fair. If an item is powerful every player has access to it at the same time. There is no version of bringing Raid trinkets or Legendary weapons to Arathi Basin.

    Lastly, the simple maps. It isn’t by chance that every MOBA I’ve played revolves around a 3 lane map. They either use this exclusively or if there are options the 3 lane maps always end up the most popular. 3 lanes, minions, towers, and a base. This design creates a happy balance of objective management and PvP in each match. If both teams rush pass each other then you won’t achieve anything. Get too caught up in fighting an ignore the objectives at your own peril.

    I guess I could sum it up as short durations of intense action or a reasonably level playing field. MMOs kind of become lengthy mind numbing grinds to endgame were I was forced into hours of raiding or irrelevancy. MOBAs were just more fun.


  3. My anecdotal contribution to the Venn diagram is that when I was actively raiding in WoW, at the end of a raid session, half the guild (old people like me) would say “good night!”, log off, and go to bed, the other half (the young’uns) would say “DOTA!”, log off, and presumably go and play DOTA together.


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