The MOBA Report: Part 2 — The Small Fishes

Trying to make a MOBA game at this time it’s very hard if you are not a corporation. One thing is how creative is your MOBA and how it plans to monetize a genre dominated by four corporations, but also on how to push the marketing campaign to raise awareness.

Obviously indie games and small companies cannot compete in terms of brute marketing force, so they must appeal carefully and spend the right bucks on the right places. Trying to make your goals unrealistically high and you may fall short, or even be cancelled when things started to git gud.

Smite

Top of the net worth

Smite has been in the wild for quite a while, but for some reason metrics doesn’t add up to its success. The playerbase has varied between 25K since last year to 15K these last months but owners has been increasing.

I can’t say it some indication of the train slowing down for sure, specially when Smite gets blocked on particular regions in Steam to make players download the game through the official site — decentralized regional servers divides the playerbase more than it should be. Presence on consoles is huge as always and I’m sure there is at least 10K~5K players on the other side.

On top of that, is one of the “Top 10 eSports Game”.

Based on (the only) numbers (I can get) alone, those who aren’t part of the ecosystem (aka non-payers) are just testing it out to see if it fits their preference. In other words, the playerbase is already established, so growing more will be hard on PC. Consoles and Mac are the next places to keep pushing the game before more arrive and becomes more difficult to do.

Rocket League

Winning on goal count

Standing high and strong. The game has been performing so well since its introduction that made the jump to PS4 and Xbox One.

I think the problem is to raise awareness on the eSports scene, as RLCS only has USD$ 250,000 prize pool this time — pretty big but not Tier 1 level of prize pool.

Raising awareness and making more noise can be the answer to rise Rocket League on the Top 10 of eSports, something that usually makes the game more relevant and serious.

Gigantic

The Guardian still haven’t moved

Motiga’s financials were saved by Perfect World, and they are keeping it on the verge of release.

People say it's like playing with a moving Ancients/Nexus, which is kind of a good shake for the old MOBA formula. Previews seems good from Tier 2 magazines, but on holidays “good” may be not enough to break through.

Whenever they launch it, Microsoft should help on the Xbox side of things. Remember, there is lack of MOBAs on Xbox One, and the Redmond company is not dumb; if they think they can bring money in with that title on their ranks, they will, but if Microsoft didn’t save Motiga when it was down, probably they will leave the title alone whatever results.

Strife

Back to base with 1 HP

A Reddit thread clarified what it's happening with the game. Basically, Strife has not been performing well, but a partner from China decided to support the game over there.

I can’t blame S2 Games for putting 100% efforts to recover the title in China. The game has been struggling with below 500 players since January on Steam and if they can’t find the players there then they have to look elsewhere. If they don’t do well, they will probably kill it and go to the next game. Not HoN, I hope. Karma, I guess.

Sins of the Dark Age

Outdrafted

Developers shut it down because the player base was too small. I feel that Ironclad made a bet to launch it in May 2015 as F2P, but they expected too much and finally after 1 month the axe went down.

Sins of the Dark Age was only being played by less than 100 players in the first month. Pulling the plug was a necessity rather than a hard decision.

Super MNC

Leaves the base without items

Already dead by its player base. It went below 1K players just 3 months after releasing. It has even less players than Battleborn right now.

It had a good start for being an TF2+MOBA, but Uber Entertainment abandoned it mid-2013. Lack of content, bots mode, and Free Character Rotation didn’t help to keep players coming back. Uber will soon pull the plug on this one; they can’t compete against Smite, Overwatch or Paragon with free hats only.

Supernova

No sign for spawning

Nobody can’t say it's good or bad until it's completely out, some say. A RTS mix on the MOBA formula may be good for those looking for something not-too-different, but the problem is far more greater than variety.

As a Reddit comment says, they closed the Open Beta and went dark since May. That’s not a good sign for a MOBA game where you need to be constantly relevant. Primal Game Studios, a.k.a. Supernova Team, just let slip some legal corrections some days ago (literally nothing relevant) in a thread asking for urgent updates for the game before labeling it “dead”.

It seems Primal GS is not happy for some reason, so it will let it die slowly until they see a turnaround from Bandai Namco, the ones probably putting the dollars on the table. They will sure shift their focus on other “unannounced games” until the time runs out.

Warhammer 40k: Dark Nexus Arena

Abandoned while loading

Yes, the game has been cancelled. The comments on Reddit say some bad impressions of the game, gameplay-wise and economically. The game was pulled out from Early Access and it’s not available anymore.

It seems that the decision to cancel it before more money went to the fire was a good call.

DropZone

Not spawning yet

The game it's 1v1, but a player controls 3 units. Again, it blends some MOBA mechanics within the RTS genre, like an hybrid of some sorts.

PC Gamer article says the game doesn’t last more than 15 minutes and it will be F2P. Again, another game trying to control the match duration witch in MOBAs usually can skyrocket.

As always, when they launch we will talk, but until then, good luck finding players.

LawBreakers

Not spawning yet

Whatever Cliff Bleszinski is thinking about this game on the MOBA genre, I hope he is right. The game looks like Paragon meets Overwatch of some sorts, with emphasis on movement. Nexon is not gonna be happy if this game flops like the rest.

Smite is already settled in, Paragon already started to grab attention and LawBreakers is just coming late to the party of Third Person MOBAs.

I have a hunch on this Paragon vs LawBreakers thing. But the ones over Epic Games have the advantage in time right now.

Master x Master

Off-lane

NCSoft is still letting this live on Alpha. This MOBA with a tag-system, which lets you swap to another NCSoft hero mid game, seems fun but a virtual 10v10 can take you only far enough when at first glance looks like League of Legends with other skins.

There is also PvP and 3v3, but to grow the player base NCSoft should depend on more than that if they want to dominate South Korea and extend to Occident. It seems that Asia is the main focus of NCSoft for Master x Master, so I don’t expect great things from them on other markets until there is no more players to find out.

Edit: After seeing another video of Master x Master, clearly it doesn’t look like LoL. It forging its own style and game modes, so with that aside it may have more chances to grow its own player base. Only time will say how many can they gather.

Orcs Must Die! Unchained

Only one Critical Hit

Again, Orcs Must Die! Unchained is suffering the same fate that other games: losing players weeks after releasing. Whatever Robot Entertainment did to let the players go… its working.

There are now below 1K players right now. I don’t know if the “Open Beta” tag means something since early April, but they will need a huge marketing campaign to recover something for launch, and a lot more to keep the game alive on the coming months.

Arena of Fate

Jungling with muted chat

It’s weird to see Crytek struggling in the media with this one, considering their past games as always been interesting for the press.

The problem may lie on that early NDA and that they just recently opened not too much. I personally feel that since Crysis 2 they have done nothing more than bad decisions, this “Maven Program”, where only selected press have an NDA lifted, being one of them.

It seems another League Copycat on the surface, but the game is based on a “Victory Points System” (getting kills, towers and the base) and it only last 20 min or 10 Points. It's like a MOBA without laning phase… and without any means to raise relevancy. Maybe they’re going for a 2017 launch?

Magicka Wizard Wars

Bad laning and disconnect

Yes, closed. While it was a kind-of-fun spin-off of Magicka, they said that “we can’t economically justify to continue running the costly server infrastructure”.

Magicka as a franchise died not soon after Magicka 2 was revealed, so Wizard Wars felt like coming to late into the party. There is nothing more to add rather than to say good luck on the next project and finding a healthy playerbase.

Notable mentions

Here is some info on those MOBAs without much spotlight.

  • Bloodline Champions: With less than 500 players a day, you can’t say much from this battle-arena MOBA. It seems that people like it but not enough to come back.
  • Awesomenauts: I can call it “strong” with more than 1K players a day. It's coming to Xbox One could make the player base more big with PS4 players. For Ronino it seems the game has been turning enough profits since 2012, but nothing is forever, and if the player base stalls they should go for Awesomenauts 2.

What lies in the future?

I still consider there is too much MOBAs on the market. There is already deaths over here, something that I expected since the last article.

Some interesting titles have 7 months to launch before the fiscal year ends (April 2017), time where usually the Accounting Department says if you fucked up or not. Holidays are a big part of the economics when you are not already settled in with a solid playerbase, whichever number may be.

The problem lies on the launch dates. Fall is not too packed, but Winter is known to be with AAA launches, so after the play time these titles run down post-holidays it seems safe bet to launch after these dates. While it may be wise to push for a Holiday Release, F2P or not, relevancy and interest may be lost against other big names.

F2P needs are playtime, and playerbase. Those with a price tag to play are almost obligated to launch on holidays with B-price and ride the wave, it seems.

The rest, I hope the find enough players to keep the studios afloat, but I highly doubt it even EA decided to GTFO from this market. It appears that if your game is not unique and solid enough, you may be on life support for months.

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