Electronic Arts recently announced that it is closing the doors on its entry into the ARTS/MOBA genre, Dawngate. Unlike Heroes of Newerth, which was made incredibly similar to Defense of the Ancients, Dawngate borrowed much more from Riot Games’ League of Legends instead. Instead of directly copying League of Legends, Dawngate started from the beginning to take a good idea (or bad idea, depending on who you ask) and make it better by trimming the fat and getting away from the ‘three-lanes-and-a-river’ template that was popularized by Defense of the Ancients in the mid-2000’s on Warcraft 3. The problem therein mirrors a similar problem that haunted every newly released MMORPG since 2004: there is already an 800 pound gorilla whose success relied almost entirely on trading taking chances on good ideas with dumbing down a tried and true formula to appeal to a mass audience beyond the ‘hardcore’ gaming community. There is already a League of Legends, just as is there already a World of Warcraft, and therefore competing games are forced to find a more specific niche to fill for fear of being deemed insignificant. Appealing to a mass audience is a business no-brainer, but it’s also a near impossible game of king-of-the-hill where popularity trumps quality and 800 pound gorillas reign supreme.
Electronic Arts’ failure to match their own inflated expectation wouldn’t be as baffling if it wasn’t for the almost ten years of failed MMORPG’s left in the wake of World of Warcraft. A game like Rift is successful, even after initially attempting to seize the throne because Trion Worlds did their best to differentiate themselves from their 800 lb counterpart after release. ARTS developers should not be looking for LoL numbers. Instead they should be looking at the genre and seeing all of the room within which it could grow. League, Dota and Smite only scratch the surface of what is possible in the little-genre-that-could from Warcraft 3 and the first company that realizes how to utilize that space will reap the benefits.