What are MOBA games? An Essential Guide to One of Gaming’s Biggest Genres

4/4/2019

When it comes to getting involved in online gaming, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of teaming up with friends to take on other gamers in intense, competitive battles. But did you know that the games which most commonly allow you to do that are known as MOBAs?

In short, MOBA games are a form of MMO which tend to have a combat feel, with gamers also adopting a persona in a style similar to MMORPGs.

The abbreviation MOBA stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena and refers to games which generally have a very specific set of features in their gameplay and design. Basically, such titles tend to have a real-time strategy element and revolve around a fairly simple aim: to compete in a team against opponents and defeat them in a form of battle.

An exciting sub-genre of MMO games, MOBAs have grown in recent years to become a key part of video gaming and a pop culture phenomenon in their own right. In this part of our guide, we will examine several key questions you may have about MOBA games including:

  • What is a MOBA game?
  • What was the first MOBA game?
  • What are the top MOBA games around the world?
  • How did MOBAs become a key part of eSports?
  • What is a MOBA game?

How to play MOBA games

A key part of playing MOBA games is familiarizing yourself with the features that such titles tend to have.

It is very common for MOBAs to involve:

  1. Players joining forces in groups of four or five to take on other teams
  2. Action on a map that features several "lanes" and uncharted "jungle" between teams' bases
  3. The objective of breaching the enemy's defense and destroying their base

moba battle heroes

There is a MMORPG element in MOBAs too, because each individual player has a unique set of characteristics. Common terms for the roles that players take on in MOBAs include:

Mids - stay in the middle lane of action on the map
Solos - stay in the lane with the shortest distance between bases
Carrys - tend to be assisted by Supports in the longest lane
Junglers - who stay in unchartered territory and attempt to "gank" (spring surprise attacks)

These characters all tend to have different attributes, but each undoubtedly has a key role to play in the success of their team.

Just like many other MMOs, playing MOBAs tends to be historically linked with PC gameplay. However, the rising popularity of the genre means that many titles can now be played on other platforms, including mobile and consoles.

MOBA on tablet

What was the first MOBA?

There is no simple answer to the question of which title could be regarded as the first MOBA. A name which pops up regularly, however, is Aeon of Strife.

Created as a custom map for the original version of Starcraft, which was released back in 1998, Aeon of Strife is seen by many as the gaming experience which gave birth to the core elements which we now associate so strongly with MOBA gaming.

While the Defense of the Ancients – or DotA – map designed for Warcraft III in the early 2000s was also a key moment for the genre, Aeon of Strife undoubtedly deserves a huge amount of credit.

What are the biggest MOBA games?

A succession of blockbuster titles in recent years have made MOBAs one of the most popular genres in gaming. Some of the biggest titles include:

  • League of Legends (100 million monthly active players in 2016)
  • Arena of Valor (started in China and at one point had 200 million registered players)
  • Dota 2 (10.1 million monthly active players as of July 2018)
  • Heroes of the Storm (6.5 million players currently)
  • Smite (2 million players currently) 
  • Vainglory (1.5 million players in 2015)

In addition, the best MOBAs also have devoted fan bases who love the fantastical worlds that such games are often based in. 

Fantasy MOBA

What's in store for MOBAs in the future?

Considering the huge rise of MOBAs in recent years, many are optimistic about their future. With new technologies regularly emerging in gaming, chances are that such developments may have the potential to push MOBAs to a whole new level.

For example, there are already reports that developers are looking at how to pair MOBA gaming with a virtual reality (VR) experience, a move which could throw gamers right into the heart of the action. 

Virtual Reality MOBA

Augmented reality (AR) elements have also been adopted by some titles - including The Machines and an AR way to play League of Legends - so it is clear that developers are currently looking to enrich the MOBA experience further by adopting new ways to play.  

MOBAs and eSports

The idea of playing video games for a living might seem like a teenager’s dream, but the ever-growing world of eSports has made that a reality for some of the most talented gamers on the planet. Professional competitive gaming sees players do battle on a range of titles, with MOBAs forming a fundamental part of the scene.

Esports Audience Growth

Competitions related to the likes of League of Legends and Dota 2 tend to have major amounts of prize money on offer, with winning sides often securing multimillion dollar sums for coming out on top. ESports are edging ever closer to the mainstream, and that in turn means that MOBAs could soon be bigger than ever before.

MOBAs on mobile

As we've pointed out above, the MOBA genre is commonly linked to the world of PCs. However, the emergence of smartphones and tablets as platforms which can offer a high quality gaming experience means that a host of top games are now available for those who are regularly on the move.

MOBA on mobile

In fact, while PC games can be quite tough to initially get to grips with, the accessibility of mobile gaming means that the platform is often a fairly simple way for people to take their first steps into the world of MOBA gaming, especially in terms of simplified controls. 

One of gaming's most exciting genres

From their beginnings in a custom map created for Starcraft, MOBAs have become one of the most genuinely exciting parts of the gaming industry and the world of MMOs.
With their influence felt everywhere from mobile to eSports, the subgenre is a core part of gaming which is surely only set to go from strength to strength in the future.