Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games - Statistics & Facts
Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video games are a popular subgenre of strategy games that gained mainstream popularity through eSports from 2008 onwards. The MOBA genre originated from fan-made mods and maps for StarCraft (named Aeon of Strife) and Warcraft III (named Defense of the Ancients (DotA), which are generally seen as the first games of the genre. The most well-established MOBA games are League of Legends and Dota 2, which were launched for PC in 2009 and 2013, respectively.
In recent years, the MOBA game genre has lost some ground to more easily accessible multiplayer genres like battle royale (which was popularized by titles like Fortnite or PUBG), and the genre initially struggled with making the transition to mobile due to the complexity of gameplay controls and the typical length of matches (around 35-50 minutes). However, several mobile-first MOBA games are currently among the most watched eSports games worldwide despite the strong competition and market saturation.
In MOBA games, two teams battle against each other on a pre-defined battlefield with real-time strategy, role-playing, and action gameplay elements. Players work together to destroy the enemy’s base across the field while protecting their own, and there are usually defensive structures called towers along the way to prevent enemies from progressing too quickly. Claiming an opponent’s base is usually the most direct way to win the game but there can also be other victory conditions.
Every player controls a single character (often called hero or champion in the in-game parlance) with unique skills and abilities. These characters can be leveled up with experience points gained via battle and this increases their power or abilities. MOBA game heroes usually fall into certain classes or roles like damage dealer (DPS), tank, healer, or support, and each hero has unique strengths and weaknesses. Selecting heroes that complement each other as a team as well as providing a good counter to the opponent’s selection is an integral part of MOBA gaming. In Dota 2, the all-time most popular hero based on pick rate is Pudge.
League of Legends and Dota 2 – making MOBA mainstream
Despite more than a decade on the market, League of Legends (LoL) and Dota 2 are still among the biggest MOBA games worldwide. Both titles consistently rank among the most-watched games on streaming platforms. Additionally, both LoL and Dota 2 are inextricably linked with the growth of eSports and the two legacy titles still have some of the most attractive eSports tournament prize pools across all competitive titles - in 2022, the cumulative Dota 2 eSports prize pool was worth 32.85 million U.S. dollars.
Honor of Kings and Mobile Legends – mobile-first hits from Asia
Released in 2015 and published by China’s digital giant Tencent, Honor of Kings (王者荣耀) has become the most significant MOBA game in mainland China. It is the highest-grossing mobile game worldwide with over 2.2 billion U.S. dollars in annual gross in 2022 and more than 285 million lifetime downloads. The title regularly ranks as one of the most-downloaded mobile games worldwide and has also spawned an international adaption called Arena of Valor.
Another MOBA hit from China is Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, which is developed and published by Bytedance subsidiary Moonton. Matches in Mobile Legends are short and last only ten minutes. Professional Mobile Legend tournaments draw a keen audience, with the Mobile Legends M3 World Championship 2021 clocking in at nearly 3.2 million peak viewers.
Industry trend: MOBA on mobile
The success of Honor of Kings, Mobile Legends, and other major titles such as Brawl Stars or Pokémon UNITE underlines the MOBA genre’s successful shift to mobile. Mobile MOBA gaming apps generate millions of downloads, and MOBA also ranks as one of the most-watched mobile gaming genres on live-streaming platforms worldwide. In September 2022, about 53 million hours of mobile MOBA gaming were watched on live streaming platforms, ranking only behind shooters and battle royale games.
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