PC gaming’s most dominant genre of the moment is making a bigger leap onto consoles next year with Smite heading to Xbox One – but can the MOBA make it big on that platform?
MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) titles like League of Legends and Dota 2 have amassed millions of players over the last few years – around 67 million and eight million per month respectively.
The competitive online games have made the PC their home, with the keyboard used to converse with teammates, activate moves and spells, and the mouse to move characters around.
A lot of other MOBA games have since emerged on PC, and while some are brilliantly designed and enjoyable to play, none have come close to taking the crowns worn by League and Dota.
But look to consoles and you’ll see a different situation entirely. There has only really been one console MOBA released with a similar look and feel to the top PC MOBAs: Guardians of Middle Earth which launched on Xbox 360 and PS3 in late 2012. While this received generally decent reviews on Xbox 360 and PS3, as well as benefiting from official Lord of the Rings branding, it was marred by connection problems and wasn’t as popular as it could have been.
There was also Awesomenauts which arrived on Xbox 360 and PS3 in summer 2012, but this was more of a 2D platform-style team game with MOBA elements like towers and minions, rather than a title offering a traditional MOBA experience.
Now Smite from Hi-Rez Studios is the latest MOBA to tackle the console – it’s due to land on Xbox One in 2015. The PC version of the game already has more than five million players which puts it in better stead than the aforementioned console titles.
Smite also has a unique selling point – the camera is positioned behind the character, like a third-person RPG or MMO (think World of Warcraft), rather than having a typical isometric viewpoint. This perhaps makes it much better suited to a console and controller compared to other MOBAs.
However, I can’t help but feel the MOBA is just not well suited to consoles. Like the RTS and MMO which came before it, they too started life on the PC before attempting to head to console. While some strategy titles (like Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars and Halo Wars) and MMOs (Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn) run impressively on consoles, their natural home is still PC. That may be the case for the MOBA.
A spokesperson for gaming market analyst DFC Intelligence agrees: "MOBA will likely struggle on console for several reasons. It is one of those genres best suited for PC with mouse/keyboard controls.
"Also the real-time strategy genre has never done very well on console and MOBA faces similar challenges. The other big issue is MOBAs are free-to-play games where the big success is getting tens of millions of users with a small percentage that pay.
"In the console space the PlayStation 4 just announced 10 million units sold. That is impressive but really small scale in terms of the audience you need for a MOBA."
While it would be nice to see the MOBA succeed on consoles, it will take something very special indeed to capture the magic of the PC game playing experience.
Hi-Rez Studios, the ball is in your court.