MOBA-ization

Is the MOBA style of games becoming the new trend for video games?

This is a little overdue…

Halo 5, Rainbow Six Siege, Battleborn, Overwatch… What do they have in common? They borrow from the MOBA genre in some way. I don’t have a problem with the MOBA genre at all. They aren’t exactly my cup of tea, but I can understand why they are popular. Now that I got that out of the way, I’m going to complain about the new trend I’ve been noticing.

MOBAs have risen to prominence through the popularity of games like League of Legends (LoL) and Defense of the Ancients (DotA), though they didn’t start there. Chances are that if you’re interested in MOBAs, you already know how they came to be so I’m going to spare the history lesson.

I don’t know about anybody else, but I’ve noticed that there have been many games lately that have borrowed from MOBAs in what I’m guessing is an attempt to capitalize on the formula.

HOW ARE THOSE GAMES MOBA-IZED?

Well, technically they aren’t. Technically OverwatchRainbow Six Siege, and Battleborn are considered “hero shooters”. A hero shooter is a game that borrows the hero-centric aspect of a MOBA but forgoes the other aspects of the genre.

Rainbow Six Siege for instance has not only done away completely with the single-player campaign, but also axed the breadth of customization options for multi-player as well. Siege introduced Operatives from different counter-terrorist organizations that have unique abilities and play styles, much like the characters from MOBAs. This is a departure from the tradition of the encyclopedia of firearms and gadgets that have become a staple of the series, all of which were previously available to all players (though they were locked behind a progression system).

Overwatch and Battleborn do the same as Rainbow Six Siege, but they are also new IPs, so it’s a little more forgivable.

What they all have in common is that all of the characters that will be released will be unlockable for free, but come at a hefty cost in the game. All three games require a sizable amount of work to unlock new characters (as they should), but Battleborne and Rainbow Six Siege require large amounts of in-game currency to unlock DLC characters… DLC characters that can be unlocked for free by purchasing a season pass.

One could argue that the cost incurred by locking characters behind a soft paywall subsidizes the cost of DLC that adds maps and such, but there’s not much of a justification for the trade off.

I know, I’m ranting right? I’m not done yet… better buckle up.

OTHER NITPICKS

To further attempt at digging a hole to throw these games into, all of the previously mentioned games have microtransactions that permeate their being. All of the titles listed above feature cosmetic items like skins for weapons, armor, and clothing.

In the case of Halo 5, the microtransactions are limited to the Warzone mode at least, which (as a mode) seems inspired by the MOBA genre now that I think about it. Those purchases can unlocked special weapons and vehicles, as well as the cosmetic items and such.

OverwatchBattleborne, and Rainbow Six Siege have more invasive microtransactions, though purchases can be avoided pretty easily.

What presents a problem here isn’t necessarily the presence of microtransactions (though they are annoying as hell to have in a game), but that each game is a full priced title that also contains microtransactions. I wouldn’t say that’s a hallmark of the MOBA genre, but I think that the presence of microtransactions in MOBA games is a attraction for publishers that want to see if they can tap into that market, while still demanding a $60 price tag.

SO WHERE ARE YOU GOING WITH THIS?

I ummm… Oh. Right.

My issue with this trend that I’ve perceived is that the big publishers seem to want to have their cake and eat it too. By this I mean that they appear to want to draw in the MOBA crowd (which they won’t) and still rake in the cash from charge a premium price for the base game, a separate (and relatively expensive) season pass, and miscellaneous microtransactions.

But nobody is going to stop playing Smite or DotA to play Overwatch instead. Halo 5 and Rainbow Six Siege aren’t going to win over League of Legends fans simply because they have some similar elements. In fact, they’re more likely to just anger their playerbases instead by bastardizing their formula to draw in more revenue.

CLOSING REMARKS

I want to make sure that I’m understood clearly. I’m not saying that any of the games I’ve mentioned are bad (though sadly Rainbow Six Siege isn’t that great), or that I have any inside knowledge into why so many games have begun to drift towards including MOBA elements. It’s pretty clear to me that the hero shooter model can be done well, as Battleborn and Overwatch have perceptively done, but they can also be executed extremely poorly (*cough* Evolve)

I guess what I’m saying is that if you want to make a MOBA style game, just make a MOBA. Don’t pussyfoot around and make some horrific monster of a game (like Evolve… pun intended). Don’t take a beloved franchise like Rainbow Six and mangle it in an attempt to court eSports players and rake in some dough (still a little bitter about that).

 

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