Home » INDUSTRY » The Rise… and Fall? Of MOBAs

The appearance of true MOBAs (which was mainly popularized by the original Defence Of The Ancients) has been closely followed by the eSports world. Such a new and exciting sport became a goliath in terms of how many people follow tournaments and play these games. League of Legends, DotA, even HoN (which is the weakest of the three with the least players) have been leaders of this genre for quite some time.

But are times starting to change? What exactly is happening (sometimes behind the curtains) that might be causing MOBAs to slowly start dying out? And is it actually happening or are we just misinterpreting the signs?

I have my own personal opinion about this but we’ll be talking about facts and how the trend is moving forward. So how about we begin?

Rise of the MOBA Genre

Dota 2 and League of Legends multiple characters in red and blue respectively with the game logos

Pic Credit: CyberPowerPC

The first MOBA game that featured multiple heroes and two opposing teams was DotA Allstars. It was an enhanced version of the original DotA concept. It basically started out as a project in Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos through the use of the World Editor. It was eventually ported to The Frozen Throne and it gained international recognition.

I remember that I was around 9 or 10 when the first stable version was released which featured plenty of heroes. My friends would go to the then-basic internet cafes with a slow internet connection and mediocre PCs. They’d spent hours playing the game (sometimes going way past midnight). I didn’t have a computer back then and was fascinated by this new game.

And so, my ‘career’ in MOBAs began (albeit it was short-lived).

Back then, this was completely new and unique; like nothing before it. And, it was the best game of its time (in terms of the MOBA genre). Blizzcon hosted a tournament for the original DotA and so did Clanbase and ESL (though they hosted DotA leagues). It was a game and genre in their infancy; a new beginning for many gamers. It was then that we first saw competitive play in the MOBA genre and the first eSports players appeared.

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As time went by and Icefrog decided to depart from developing the original DotA due to ‘creative differences’ (I think almost all of us know what happened there), many thought that the era of MOBAs will come to an end. Sure, people still played DotA but it wasn’t nearly as closely followed as before. Counter Strike and Starcraft started taking point and, well, things weren’t looking great.

And then came League of Legends in 2009. Valve also started development on DotA 2 after acquiring assets and everything else necessary.

MOBAs were here to stay.

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The Golden Years

Many people say that LoL is just a simplified version of DotA that caters to kids and less-skilled players. And even though this might be true (to each their own), it was a crucial milestone in the MOBA community. League of Legends was a barebones game back then, especially if you compare it to now. But it still had a certain amount of charm, interest, fun, and everything in between.

Players jumped into it just to check it out and they were kept inside the Rift for longer than they expected. Heroes of Newerth also made an appearance, albeit with less ferocity than LoL and DotA.

And after the first LoL tournament back in 2011 where Fnatic took the grand prize against AAA (2-1 win), the general public saw that it will become a massively popular game. The original prize pool for the first LoL World Championship was $99,500; a mediocre sum compared to what you have nowadays.

Season 2 of the World Championship already had a much larger prize pool equaling $2,000,000. Taipei Assassins, the underdogs of the tournament beat one of the favorites – Azubu Frost in the Grand Final with a 3-1 victory – an important step in the eSports world. If you were eSports betting back then, you probably wouldn’t have expected them to win.

DotA 2 also had lots of ups and downs, surprise, and underdogs taking the win. If we take a look at how things were, both LoL and DotA 2 were the leading games for a long time. 4-5 years, to be precise, which is a lot in the gaming world. Most games die out relatively quickly, but not these two.

However, a year or two ago, things started to change.

Downwards We Go

Fortnite characters in actions

Pic Credit: GameRevolution

Or, at least, that’s what it looks like. Even though we’re still running strong with both games, it’s not as dandy as it was. Many players have expressed their disagreement over how Riot Games keeps updating their game and it seems that only DotA 2 is hanging on properly.

But you can’t blame the developers entirely; after all, how can you keep a game fresh for years without introducing certain changes. Nonetheless, we, as humans, are mostly reluctant to change so the whole deal about MOBAs is difficult to understand. They aren’t done for, per se, but other games and genres are slowly starting to take over. Fortnite especially, is one of those games. There’s also PUBG. Battlefield 5 will have a Battle Royale game mode as well.

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Overwatch is on the rise and more and more players are joining the fray every day.

Generally speaking, there’s an interest in different genres now, whilst MOBAs are getting left behind. The tournaments are still great, for both LoL and DotA 2, but the novelty is gone. People cannot keep playing the same game for so long without getting bored or searching for something new to do. It’s not even down to the games themselves; it’s just how trends are.

I think there are still a couple of years left here, but unless something major happens, League of Legends and DotA 2 will fade away in a couple of years’ time. Or maybe they won’t. We’ll just have to wait and see.

On the other hand, eSports will continue to grow, no matter what games are a part of it!


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3 years ago

That genres need to be reinvigorated and reimagined every so often to maintain their dominance. What’s more, that reimagining has to be well-executed in a high profile game.

Lavius Seraphyn
3 years ago

The RTS genre has undergone an even more impressive metamorphosis when you consider that MOBA games all began from the DotA mod of the RTS game Warcraft III.

Laxius Corva
3 years ago

That is more difficult to predict. I think that someone will need to re-invent the MMORPG before the genre can reach the heady heights it attained in the early years of WoW, but whether or not that will happen — and what other genres could rise or stagnate and fall — is difficult to predict.

Lavius Seraphyn
3 years ago

Some markets are restricted by language and tend to be insular as far as their esports communities go–Thailand and the Philippines, for example–but there is a growing desire to consume global content that developers and tournament organizers are putting out

Lavius Seraphyn
3 years ago

Moreover, in mobile, player purchasing behavior is critical information for developers who track player data and use data science to inform new feature and game development. This data gives a lot of information not only for product strategy, but also for helping to upsell the player by predicting what (s)he would want to spend money on. Data Science will only become more critical in gaming as time goes on.