A Dead Island MOBA? Seriously?
Seriously. Deep Silver has announced the upcoming title Dead Island: Epidemic and supposedly it will be a MOBA, or Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. Few details are known as of right now, but the game is envisioned by Deep Silver as being three teams of survivors holding back waves of zombies. The company is calling it a ZOMBA, or Zombie Online Multiplayer Battle Arena. Really.
This seems as good an opportunity as any to address this issue. I play League of Legends and Dota 2. I played Demigod when it first came out and have been in the beta for Smite. I played the original Warcraft 3 mod that started the entire MOBA genre on its way. I feel reasonably qualified in saying I have experience within the genre and a thorough enjoyment/appreciation for it.
Can we please stop making new MOBAs for existing franchises?
For one thing, just because League of Legends and Dota 2 have made it so big in the e-sports scene does not mean your game franchise will have any success in the same genre. Let me repeat that.
Making your game a MOBA does not ensure its success.
Look at all the games that have tried to mimic Call of Duty and its successful formula and failed miserably in doing so, and it becomes obvious it takes more than a genre to succeed. The MOBAs that are currently doing so well have taken a very long time refining their own unique formulas. Why do so many companies think they can mirror that within a few months, especially the companies trying to do it with closed development like they would for a game in most any other genre?
The MOBA genre is also not something most existing franchises are actually capable of entering.
MOBAs by their very nature require a cast of characters who stand out from the pack. Lots of games have that, though ironically Dead Island is not a game I'd consider fulfilling that category. They need to pit the players, one way or another, against each other competitively. Those players need to be able to actually battle each other as part of that competition, hence the Battle and/or Arena part of MOBA. There are a lot of franchises that just don't fit that bill.
The MOBA genre also by its nature has a limited amount of variation available.
League of Legends, Dota 2, and Smite all have their unique features to set them apart. At the end of the day they are still very similar games. The core mechanics are the same, the basic layout of the game is the same, the end goal is effectively the same. There is a very real limit to how many times something similar can be done before everything following that format begins to suffer for it.
All online multiplayer games dilute the pool of players for all the rest.
MOBAs are essentially MMOs. To succeed they need to have a large pool of players who spend continuous time in the game in order to ensure a constant and variable number of potential matchups for other players across all skill levels. A MOBA cannot simply appear on the market the way a first-person shooter can and expect to do well.
Every game with its focus on a regular online community is competition for every other game with the same need. A MOBA competes less directly with EVE Online than it does with League of Legends, but the concept is the same. Each new MOBA divides the players between another game. Being able to nurture and retain a large community gets more difficult the more MOBAs are out and available, hurting all of them.
If Dead Island: Epidemic ends up being an awesome game, I will be as thrilled as anyone. I do not expect it to be anything new. I do not expect it to really be anything more than a new version of Left 4 Dead's survival mode. Adding multiple teams does not a MOBA make.
Deep Silver? Please make me eat my words. It would be nice to be pleasantly surprised.