The MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) genre is one of the newest types of definable games to hit the gaming scene. Popularized by Defense of the Ancients (DotA) a few years ago, the genre has been picking up steam ever since and shows no signs of slowing down.
Further evidence of this was shown yesterday when Deep Silver announced its new take on MOBA, the ZOMBA (Zombie Online Multiplayer Battle Arena) called Dead Island: Epidemic. The press release gives a little insight into the game concept. It reads as follows:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Larkspur, Calif. – August 7, 2013 -- Deep Silver today announced Dead Island: Epidemic, a new ZOMBA (Zombie Online Multiplayer Battle Arena) game set in the ever-expanding Dead Island universe. Dead Island: Epidemic will pit three teams of players against each other in a desperate fight for survival. Dead Island: Epidemic is a Free-to-Play PC title that will feature all the trademark elements that are part of a Dead Island experience.
More details will be announced during the upcoming Gamescom 2013 in Cologne and stay tuned for more on the Dead Island universe as a whole!
But Deep Silver is just the latest in a long line of band-wagoners to throw their hat in the MOBA ring. Recent releases and announcements in the genre include Guardians of Middle-earth, Infinite Crisis, Smashmuck Champions, Archeblade, Defense of the Ancients 2, Deathmatch Village, SMITE, Blizzard All-Stars, Dawngate, and, of course, Dead Island: Epidemic. And that’s just the recent ones. I’m not even taking the older, more popular games (games such as League of Legends and the original Defense of the Ancients) into account.
What’s next? A Call of Duty MOBA? Halo? God of War? This is a sad trend in the video game industry: the attempt to emulate what is hot just to make money off of a successful idea. It happens all the time. But gaming is no stranger to market oversaturation, just look at the FPS genre.
The real question to ask here is this: Are these games good enough to propel the genre forward? Or will a select few dominate the MOBA landscape, leaving only scraps for the majority of games that are released? Sadly, I am inclined to believe the latter rather than the former.
Precedents to this theory can be found throughout gaming, but no genre displays it more prevalently than MMOs. Ever since its release, World of Warcraft has obliterated its MMO competition with unrelenting resilience. Each new competitor has brought a little something different to the table, but none have been unique enough to unseat WoW from its MMO throne. And thus is the problem--with emulation comes a lack of innovation. Limited innovation leads to degradation and, finally, stagnation. In the end, what you get is an endless series of clones with a few unique features. In essence, the majority will fight over the scraps of the successful minority.
So can the MOBA genre escape this fate? Probably not. Most likely, we will see one “King of the MOBAs” rise to the top while the rest flail about, unwilling or unable to accept defeat. But, being a relatively new genre, maybe it can avoid this trap. Who knows?
Either way, it sure will be fun to watch.