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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.