Perfect Ten: A dozen MOBAs that didn’t make it

    
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With the insane success — both in terms of popularity and finances — that Dota and League of Legends spawned, you can easily understand why game studios latched onto the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) as a relatively quick cash grab. After all, with players providing the ongoing content (through PvP matches), developers were freed up to focus on balance tweaks and churning out new skins and characters to sell.

In a relatively short span of time, the market became flooded with many imitators that sought to grab that slice of the profitable pie. And while some, such as Hi-Rez’s SMITE, have endured, many games discovered the one key danger with this approach: If you could not generate and sustain a large, active playerbase, you were as good as dead. A critical mass was needed, and when it was not achieved, games started folding up left and right.

In today’s Perfect Ten, we’re going to look at a dozen MOBAs that tried and failed to make it. Perhaps they serve as cautionary lessons to other studios seeking to mimic League of Legends’ format, but we somehow doubt that the era of the MOBA is over just yet.

1. Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes

When Warhammer Online started to slip in popularity, Mythic threw a Hail Mary pass to keep the game alive using its own resources. The studio created a MOBA out of WAR’s characters and assets, calling it Wrath of Heroes. The game went into open beta in April 2012 but did not ever see the light of an official release. Wrath of Heroes was canceled in February of the next year, and Warhammer Online followed suit later in December 2013.

2. Infinite Crisis

Turbine’s attempt to enter the MOBA field was backed by an incredibly strong IP: DC Comics. Otherwise known as “the game with wacky alternate versions of popular superheroes,” Infinite Crisis threw Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the like against their other-universe versions, giving us some of the most gorgeous wallpapers ever made for a MOBA. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite make it, and in August 2015, the MOBA shuttered and Turbine gave up its dreams of quick profitability. For many, it was a sign of the end of the studio’s relevance.

3. Dawngate

Electronic Arts had its fingers in many potential MOBAs, including one slightly more obscure one known as Dawngate. Developed by Waystone games, Dawngate went into testing in May 2013 with all of the standard MOBA elements (lanes, jungles, heroes, minions, and the like). After a year or so of beta, Dawngate failed to generate enough interest and was quietly closed down in November 2014.

Well, that's better.

4. Master X Master

Perhaps the most dire indication of the popped MOBA bubble was this title. After all, if NCsoft — no slouch in the publishing and developing market — couldn’t get a MOBA to take off backed by deep pockets and numerous IPs (including the controversial addition of City of Heroes characters), then who could? Unlike many other games on this list, Master X Master did in fact launch, but it was not long for this world. MXM released in July 2017 but only made it until January of this year before having its lights shut off.

5. Paragon

The MOBA community was hit particularly hard these past few months with the loss of several titles, including Paragon. Epic Games looked like it had a strong contender in the works, with a roster of personable characters and a strong push to make this in the e-sports scene. Paragon started early access testing in March 2016 and moved forward from there. While Epic’s Fortnite saw explosive popularity over the past six months, its Paragon went the other way. Loot crates and controversy didn’t help, and growth slowed down and reversed. Epic announced that it will be closing it down in April and offering all players full refunds.

6. Gigantic

I think a lot of us here at MOP felt bad about Gigantic and feel that it didn’t get a fair shot. The title looked absolutely beautiful and striking, and it tried to mix things up by combining the MOBA and a team shooter. Motiga developed the game with PWE publishing and got the game out the door in July 2017. However, the studio was shuttered in November 2017 and the game is set to follow suit later this year as Perfect World said that it couldn’t break into a crowded market.

7. Lord of Vermilion Arena

Square Enix’s entry into the MOBA market was not long for this world. Announced back in 2015, LOVA melded the MOBA with a card game, with interesting results. And by “interesting,” I mean “academically,” because it was not that popular of a title. It closed its doors in June 2016, having never reached the western market. Then it got a rework and came back and… it’s confusing.

8. Cloud Pirates

This is another one of those games that we felt really bad about seeing close down. Cloud Pirates piggy-backed off of Allods Online and had a neat look and a cool flying pirate ship angle. But no, it shut down last fall without any fanfare due to low population, and space pirates were left evicted.

9. Warhammer 40K: Dark Nexus Arena

Does anyone even remember that this existed? Whitebox Interactive came out with this MOBA-shooter blend back in 2015, but it couldn’t even make it across the finish line before it was given a pink slip in March 2016.

10. Sins of a Dark Age

Coming out in May 2015, Sins of a Dark Age may not have had the catchiest of titles, but it did boast a dark fantasy look that set it apart from its more colorful contemporaries. This failed to really garner much interest, however, and Sins shut down in March 2016.

11. Solstice Arena

Where there’s a quick buck to be made by shamelessly copycatting a formula, Zynga will be there. The studio fastracked a “speed MOBA” called Solstice Arena that ran from 2013 through 2015. The game shut down on August 12th, 2015.

12. Rise of Immortals: Battle for Graxia

One of the older and perhaps more obscure MOBAs, Battle for Graxia came out in November 2012 and made it until June 2013. It is notable for some PvE options to get players used to the format before jumping into PvP.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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Bryan Correll

Hasn’t Belladonna Vetrano suffered enough already? Three deaths is too many!

abyssalstar
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abyssalstar

I would add Battleborn, Gearbox’s MOBA-esque hero shooter that got buried by Overwatch (and Blizzard’s advertising machine).

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Tamás Illés

Wrath of Heroes was the only MOBA I enjoyed so far.

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Nick Smith

Out of all of those i played Infinite Crisis, Gigantic, and Cloud Pirates. I played many many hours of cloud pirates… such a fun game. Gigantic being my second fav.

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Armsbend

Super Monday Night Combat was a title that took what was once a respected developer – down the road to the opposite of that. It was consider by many a 3D MOBA although it had a lot of pve elements.

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Chosenxeno .

I actually played MNC on XBOX back in the day. I’m always surprised that Smite is given credit as the 1st 3d or third person MOBA. MNC deserves that slot.

Same for TOR as the 1st fully voiced MMORPG. Wiz 101 did it 1st and it’s narrated! lol

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IronSalamander8 .

The only one here I really played was Gigantic. I did like a lot about that game but it still felt like a beta title and as mentioned elsewhere the exclusivity issue and other odd decisions really hurt this game.

I totally forgot about the Warhammer Moba. I played WAR for some time as a long time fan of the tabletop game but it was handled so badly the death of both games is hardly a surprise.

You had to show Ghost Widow didn’t you? :P
She was my favorite main villain in CoV. She had a great look and her story was interesting too. Never even heard of that MOBA though.

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Jack Kerras

Why is Cloud Pirates on here?

Cloud Pirates was a lot of fun, I felt, but it was a whole bunch more about ‘hold points/team-shoot in vehicles’ than it was about ‘do MOBA things’.

It’s much more like Star Conflict: But Boats or World of Tanks: But Airships. Do those count as MOBAs now?

deekay_000
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deekay_000

for a while the word MOBA was being applied to any small map tdm game. like people were calling tf2 and overwatch mobas. lol

Veldan
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Veldan

I guess the confusion comes from people who just go by the words. “Multiplayer online battle arena” could represent pretty much any PvP game. Tbh they should have picked a better term / acronym for LoL-style games.

deekay_000
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deekay_000

riot made it up because they hated people calling LoL a “dota clone” constantly LOL (true story)

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Wilhelm Arcturus

This goes back to what I said on the “Heroes of the Storm not dying” post earlier this week. If any one of these games was doing as well as HOTS is, they would be counted as a huge success for almost any of these companies. But in the Blizzard pantheon, where it has to live in the shadow of WoW, Overwatch, Hearthstone, and the esports legacy of StarCraft, does it look like a failure.

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Armsbend

It might look like a failure to some people – but what really matters is if it a failure to Blizz.

Serrenity
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Serrenity

Just think – a couple years and you’ll be able to do one of these for Battle Royale Games that didn’t make it :-)

deekay_000
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deekay_000

you forgot the very notable stardock entry in the genre which is notable becuase stardock’s DRM or any auth at all free MP policy which the servers were smashed by a massive tonne of pirates that vastly out numbered paying players.

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Jack Kerras

I really enjoyed Demigod. It was one of the first MOBAs I actually had fun with; most offerings in the genre are ‘Get Brutally Murdered Nonstop Simulator 20XX’.

deekay_000
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deekay_000

i was one of the people that pirated it in 2008 but i didn’t play mp at all and really had no concept of what was going on with it or why.

in particular i avoided fighting the enemy heroes at all because they hit harder than the creeps and didn’t understand that concept at all LOL

main reason i tried it at all was sins of a solar empire was off the hook earlier in the year so i was down for more from stardock.