Blizzard is making a big push for Heroes of the Storm, the developers’ upcoming entry in the immensely popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre. ESPN 2 broadcast Blizzard’s Heroes of the Dorm tournament, in which teams of students duked it out in Heroes of the Storm to win tuition money. Heroes of the Storm television ads are popping up on prime time television. Quite simply, the game is everywhere, and it’s easy to forget that – despite all the hype – it’s not actually out yet.
That changes on June 2, when Heroes of the Storm finally leaves its long gestating development period and makes its way into the hands of players everywhere. However, for fans who just can’t wait a few weeks, Heroes of the Storm’s public beta started yesterday, May 19. Interested parties can sign up for the beta on the official Heroes of the Storm website.
While Heroes of the Storm resembles MOBA games like League of Legends and Dota 2, Blizzard likes to call the game an “online hero brawler.” Still, there are a lot of similarities between the games: Heroes of the Storm pits two teams of five players against one another in a map with three “lanes” – paths patrolled by computer controlled monsters – and tasks them with destroying the other team’s base. Killing opponents gives players experience points, which can be used to strengthen players’ characters.
In Heroes of the Storm, those characters are culled from Blizzard’s past hits, including World of Warcraft, Diablo, and Starcraft. Each character has his or her own set of skills. The key to victory lies in knowing characters inside and out – not just how to play with them, but how to beat them as well.
Heroes of the Storm resembles League of Legends in other ways, too, particularly with regard to the game’s revenue model. While Heroes of the Storm is free-to-play, only five to seven of the games’ characters are available at any time; players who want permanent access to a hero can pay extra money to make sure he or she is available at any time. Blizzard will also sell cosmetic upgrades that change characters’ appearances but don’t affect gameplay.
A recent study claimed that MOBA games are the fastest growing market in the game industry, “recording immense growth while also helping to legitimize the F2P [free-to-play] model,” and Heroes of the Storm is expected to help expand the audience even further.
While many casual players associate MOBAs with a steep learning curve and a relatively hostile community, Blizzard has a history of taking complex, hardcore-gamer-friendly genres and expanding them to a wide audience. MOBAs aren’t exactly niche titles, but if anyone can make them even more popular, it’s probably Blizzard.
Heroes of the Storm comes out June 2, 2015 for Mac and PC.