It seems like just about everyone these days is coming out with a new multiplayer online battle arena, or MOBA. Spurred on the by the success of titles like League of Legends and Dota 2, plenty of other companies have joined the fray with their own take on the genre in the last couple of years, like Turbine with Infinite Crisis and SMITE from Hi-Rez Studios.Another heavy hitter expected to make an impact when it gets out of beta is Heroes of the Storm by Blizzard Entertainment.
Even mobile gaming companies are getting in on the action. Vainglory, an app by Super Evil Megacorp, was featured prominently by Apple in one of the company's popular keynotes in order to demonstrate the gaming capabilities of the latest iPhones and iPads.
With so many new MOBAs hitting the market today, a common sentiment among some industry watchers is that the genre has become over saturated. But according to a report from a video game research firm, not only is there an audience for all of these new games, but MOBAs as a genre will continue to grow at an industry-leading pace in 2015.
Research firm EEDAR released a white paper this week identifying MOBAs as PC gaming's fastest growing market. In total, the games brought in $406 million in revenue in North America 2014.
A large portion of the success does have to be attributed to the top two games in the genre, League of Legends and Dota 2, but according to EEDAR's report, there are other games coming in 2015 that will continue to expand the market and find new players.
“MOBA titles have performed exceptionally well, recording immense growth while also helping to legitimize the F2P model. Much of MOBA's growth in 2014 was due to the continued rise of market leaders League of Legends and Dota 2, but EEDAR believes that many future entrants, such as Heroes of the Storm and Infinite Crisis) will continue to broaden the audience rather than cannibalize users.”
The $406 million in revenue for MOBAs in North America in 2014 represents growth of about $150 million from the year before. What's more is that EEDAR's report said the market is on track to add another $100 million in 2015, which would put total North American revenue over $500 million.
One fun note: 36 percent of all of that revenue is from costumes and skins, not characters. While "free-to-play" is still frowned upon as a concept by some gamers, there's no denying that it works incredibly well for MOBA games.
EEDAR also took time to add a couple of precautions for the market, noting things like the "toxic community" in League of Legends and the steep learning curve in Dota 2 as a couple of things that could eventually turn off more casual users.
These numbers are certainly impressive, but what goes unmentioned is the significant impact that eSports has likely had on the genre, and for League and Dota in particular. Unless there's a major new release out, League of Legends and Dota 2 are usually the two most viewed games on Twitch on a daily basis. People love watching others play the game, and the interest is heightened when there are professional gamers or a tournament involved.
Tickets for Dota 2's biggest tournament, The International 2015, sold out in less than 10 minutes last week. Compare that with 2014 when roughly the same number of tickets to the same arena in Seattle took almost a full hour to sell out. Both years arguably sold out fast, but the fact that this year's sale was over so much quicker shows how much the game has grown in the last year.
As eSports continues to grow, it makes sense that its most popular genre would grow alongside it. In addition to the success of competitive gaming in League and Dota, Blizzard has also started creating tournaments for Heroes of the Storm, and will likely be a major contributor to the eSports scene once the game comes out of beta later this year.