The MOBA Report: Crumbling, falling, dying

Lot of games came, but only few remain alive. PUBG and Overwatch happened, and the aftermath is evident.

Long time since my last MOBA Report. While not always 100% accurate given the secrecy of the player base and player spending on some companies, this article tries to give some insight about what has happened, and what could happen, with the major competitors in the the MOBA industry.

Past year has proved to be very difficult for newcomers. Games like Lawbreakers showed that only good interesting mechanics cannot be taken for granted to be the only recipe for success, and with Overwatch, that soul, easy approaching, and marketing will always prevail even if the game doesn’t offer nothing new. A lot of games have been crashing down even when the skies looked clear.

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Stable as a rock, there has not been any major news except for Patch 8.2. The latest report says that 100 million plays every month. The key seems to still be the same: make some heroes good and others bad to shift the meta and keep players paying to play the heroes in the meta.

So it will take a lot of time to drop from the top spot whatever may Riot do.

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May not be big in numbers, but hell it overflows with money. With the Dota Pro Circuit already running, there has been a lot of movement in the professional scene. The new patch made the game more balanced, and a new card game from Valve based on Dota 2, called Artifact, is coming. Artifact wants to be the problem-solver on how to bring newcomers to the game, and especially those who flew from Hearthstone. Time will tell.

Professionally, this may get very interesting because organizations will have to strategize on how to cash-in their tournaments, and try to not anger fans like ESL did recently. Valve, meanwhile, is not selling Battle Passes so it seems that they are sacrificing their profitability for sake of the ecosystem.

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Consolidating in the casual niche, practically the best approachable game for anybody. The last “World Cup” was a disaster because there are no national stability in these type of country-vs-country games. Still, no official numbers from Blizzard but it seems the de-facto online game in terms of audience and profitability.

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Seems that Hi-Rez Studios decided to make a rather good but curious call when it saw a tiny but constant declining in players: look elsewhere. They went cheap, though, putting Paladins Strike to the Australian Google Play market as a soft launch. It’s a game made for mobile that shares the same IP, so they may get another source of income if it finds its audience.

With concurrent players not dropping 30k, seems that they don’t want to NOT have a Plan B in case the player base disappears, but nevertheless, the MOBA juggernaut you have to play against is Arena of Valor and doing a soft launch doesn’t do favors to anybody.

If they cannot grow, as they have failed to do so since last year were they couldn’t hit the 60k players of November ’16, then only a miracle can bring this title to focus. Not a Overwatch sale, though.

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Paragon is now officially dead. Epic slowly killed it without any kind of progress on the game. Fortnite and the Battle Royale mode got a lot of tracking and surely brought down a lot of users in a few months, more than Paragon did in 2 years.

That is enough reason to pull the resources on the game to Fortnite. But what’s odd is the goodwill of Epic Games to refund all transactions to users. That may prove that Fortnite brought a lot of money, thus making Paragon refunds pocket change, or that Paragon never took off economically. Or Both.

Paragon looked really good in paper. Smite never became mainstream, and the game from Epic Games surely had potential to do so, but Overwatch took the mainstream of multiplayer games and hold it, then Battle Royale took the other half.

There is a chinese version, but with the development cancelled, you have basically until April to Press F for a game with a good idea but without the necessary numbers.

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The death of Paragon affected Smite positively. Thanks to the recent announcement, the game is seeing immediate grow in players, and if this goes on it may regain all Paragon users.

It’s not clear how a juggernaut Smite can come to be. After Paragon decided to scrap the “Legacy” mode, a lot of people decided to say goodbye to other games, PUBG being one of them. Paragon once hold a great number of players, and if they come to Smite, 500k concurrent players doesn’t see too far away.

Again, I personally expect that Smite to rise. It will depend on the studio decisions to make this grow sustainable.

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Short story: Dead.

Long story: No more new content plus less than 100 players in PC means the game is dead and that probably the servers cost more to maintain than what they can get for every player involved. Reddit’s posts says it’s alive but wait times are ridiculous.

I’m waiting for 2K Games to pull the plug on this soon — they didn’t capitalize on a full F2P model when they could have, they just went for a shy “Free Trial” some months ago that nobody is interested in with the latest games released.

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No official numbers, so that could mean it still is below Blizzard’s expectations. Overwatch is still the big elephant on the marketing department, so unless they have the manpower to keep Heroes of the Storm and make it the a Top 5 game in the MOBA scene, I don’t see why Kotick and company should keep it alive except for hats. The pro scene is alive but not massive, and there is a new hero, so Blizzard is not tossing the towel just yet.

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Lawbreakers is basically dead on all platforms, even on PC. Cliffy went full metal over his project, and while the initial reception was good on the media, it didn’t translate in numbers post launch. Probably that is why no AAA Publisher decided to put this game on the shelves, noting that Overwatch happened. Whatever they may try now will be futile as the market already proved that is already shrouded for newcomers, and there is no room for another shooter unless it brings something totally new to the table, like PUBG did.

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Bethesda has the IP, so they can do whatever they want. Like adding a small MOBA spin to the stagnant Quake Live that came long time ago to capitalize the short lived “game-in-your-browser” trend.

The game is in (paid) Early Access and is planning to launch early-2018. Knowing Bethesda, they will push this game in their E3 2018 with everything to backup the historical IP in front of the shareholders, because since its reveal numbers hasn’t been going up. I sincerely don’t know what to expect in an hermetic scene, but unless Bethesda makes the game approachable to have a big public, I don’t see it like the main source of income.

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There has always been Counter Strike. It’s has become a more established game than any other and the pro scene is still alive and kicking. We don’t know what Valve could do for the IP except for two things: porting it to Source 2, and, better than that, jumping officially to China. That should be pumping numbers up by a lot.

But in terms of content, only a CSGO expert would talk and I’m not one of these, but if you ask my interpretation of what is happening and what to expect: skins and operations still are profitable for the game and the next operation may launch with a lot of Source 2 systems (like the UI).

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A lot of people are trying this new meta game, specially CSGO players. The studio is capitalizing its fame fast (like that Xbox One exclusivity deal) instead of polishing the game, which is good when you are treating with games that rely on one gameplay mechanic only. And when the game became a little stagnant, they decided to push v1.0.

I expect player number to drop for the next meta game in less than a year or two at best, only to keep living for its item drop marketplace.

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As PUBG, not necessary a MOBA but the Battle Royale mode has affected this genre enough to not to take into account.

Fortnite devs decided to play it intelligently: hook up into the game the Battle Royale mode to lure players in, the same mode Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds made it so famous and profitable. And whoever made that decision surely has a rise and a promotion. Fortnite now has 45 million players registered and 2 million concurrent players.

Kudos to Epic for seizing the opportunity to make a game profitable and have the chance to transform Fortnite into an IP.

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Dead. The publisher made a card game but that’s it. Probably going bankrupt before April unless they find a buyer. There was a QoL patch for last december but no one is playing it enough to keep justifying wasting resources, so sure it will officially die this year.

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Officially dead. Came as a good idea, good intentions, but a little peek on his Reddit community and it says they went full retard: they increased the Champions price by a lot, and the grinding by another lot. These changes only leave really invested players inside (lowering the player base) and the rest will probably re-invest their time on another games.

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Mobiles games are still a thing, specially on asia. After the Razer Phone reveal, the company showed the Arena of Valor running on their phone, unbeknown to the occidental market. Buckle up guys, this game is reported to have “200 million registered players and regularly hits 80 million daily active users”, as IGN says, but there are no numbers. It recently launched last december and probably it will get more big.

Tencent guys know where to put the money, and I expect they push the title into the occidental market with full force.

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Can’t say is dead but not alive either. With less than 500 players in PC, a similar situation could be happening in Xbox One. If Microsoft didn’t push this when it was time, then it will leave it to what the studio can do all by itself. Hint: barely nothing. Okay, okay, there are some updates, but with Paragon closing, it may have a chance for the influx of users.

In the meantime, the game is not dead mainly because of unknown numbers on Xbox One, where Microsoft pushed it. If it’s not dead by now, then there is something holding it, and maybe its player base on console that may be not THAT small. Even so, if this doesn’t lift off, surely will die this year.

Update 01–31–2018: Called it, it’s dead.

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Crytek sold Black Sea Studios to SEGA, and now they are called Creative Assembly. There is no mention in the selling of the Arena of Fate IP, otherwise they would have stated it. So everything points out to a cancelled game without developer.

SEGA may have them doing another MOBA game though, but I doubt it considering not even Cliffy B could solve the riddle with their own project. Meanwhile, its unofficially dead.

That’s is all at least for this half of the year. If you have more MOBAs you want to keep an eye on, hit me.

Graphic Designer graduate. Full Stack Web Developer. Retired Tech & Gaming Editor.

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