Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games are often seen as the driving force behind competitive gaming. Although there are less titles with an active fan base in play than in other genres of esports, those that do have a following tend to bring in far more attention and revenue than any other games on the market.
The free-to-play nature of the games often attracts a large number of passionate players, and the complex nature of the MOBA genre means that the skill ceiling is seen as being higher than other styles of games such as fighting or shooter games. Paired with the fact that competitors are required to work flawlessly with a team of peers, MOBAs are well-suited to the esports industry in a way that many other games struggle to compete with.
Top 3 Events
The International, often abbreviated as TI, is perhaps the most famous eSports event of all time. Known for the sizeable prize pools which grow larger with each year, The International is often seen as the pinnacle of competitive MOBA play.
While the first The International was held at trade show Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, back in 2011, every event since has been based in Seattle, and entirely funded by Valve and the Dota 2 community.
Most Recent Venue: KeyArena, Seattle
Frequency: Annual (beginning 2011) Prize Pool: $24,787,916
Audience: 10,935,730 Online Viewers
League of Legends World Championship
Established in 2011, the League of Legends World Championship is hosted by developer Riot Games at the culmination of each in-game season. Competing teams come to the event seeking the championship title, an honor accompanied by a cash prize of $1 million and the famous Summoner’s Cup.
The tournament is well known for its acclaimed ceremonial performance, as well as for raising donations to various charities through sales of exclusive character skins. The Los Angeles Olympic bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics was inspired in part by the League of Legends World Championship series. The team behind it is planning to include the eSport if the bid proves successful.
Most Recent Venue: National Stadium (Bird’s Nest), Beijing
Organizer: Riot Games
Sponsors: T-Mobile, Acer Gaming, Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz
Frequency: Annual (beginning 2011) Prize Pool: $4,946,970
Audience: 106,210,010 Online Viewers
DOTA 2 Asia Championships
The Dota 2 Asia Championships have been active since 2015, and have since been named as “The International of the East.” Unlike The International itself, the Asia Championships have always taken place in Shanghai, China, though the structure of the tournament is otherwise very similar to The International.
Most Recent Venue: Shanghai Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai
Organizer: Perfect World, Mars Media
Sponsors: Vita Coco, LEGION by LENOVO, JD.com
Frequency: Annual (beginning 2015) Prize Pool: $611,997
Audience: 6,486,237 Online Viewers
Top 3 Most Popular Games
A free-to-play multiplayer title developed and published by Valve Corporation, this game is a sequel to 2003’s Defense of the Ancients. In Dota 2, two teams of five players must defend their base or “ancient” on one side of the map while simultaneously attacking the opponent’s side.
The game requires a mix of strategy and coordinated team play, as each individual competitor must separately level up their character and purchase items in synergy with their teammates in order to perfectly counter their opponents’ moves. Each hero character also has unique abilities, making some choices an ideal counter for other characters, and ensuring that the team compositions must be carefully chosen before every match.
League of Legends
In a similar manner to Dota 2, League of Legends by Riot Games is also a free-to-play MOBA, inspired by the original Defense of the Ancients. In this title, players assume the role of an unseen “summoner” who controls their champion on the battlefield in an effort to destroy the opposing team’s base or “nexus.”
Despite Dota 2’s dominance in the competitive scene, League of Legends has the larger player base, a statistic based on Riot Games’ estimate that in 2016 there were over 100 million active players online each month. .While League of Legends is entirely free to begin, additional champions must be unlocked through either hours of online gameplay, or through an extensive microtransaction
Heroes of the Storm
Heroes of the Storm is a slightly different take on the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena format, developed by Blizzard Entertainment. The title features heroes from other Blizzard franchises, including Warcraft, Diablo, StarCraft, and Overwatch, with a free-to-play model similar to League of Legends.
Blizzard Entertainment does not officially refer to the game as a MOBA, despite its similar characteristics, because the company claims the broader play style makes it an “online hero brawler.” Instead of simply attacking the enemy team’s base, players must complete an objective to win the match, such as escorting a payload, or holding capture points. Teams will all level up together, amplifying their strength and abilities as players perform well, a mechanic that emphasizes teamwork.
Top 3 Teams
Team Liquid was founded in 2000 as a clan on Blizzard Entertainment’s online platform Battle.net, and has since evolved into one of the biggest names in professional eSports. Beginning with a focus on StarCraft 2, the team has spread its reach into other titles, such as Riot Games’ League of Legends, Valve’s Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros.
In 2017, the highly diverse team won The International, securing their biggest win in team history. Since this point, many users in the Dota 2 competitive scene consider the Team Liquid squad to be the best players in the currently active community. Their total prize earnings come to $18,231,389, labeling the team as the most profitable eSports organization of all time.
Notable players include:
-Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi, a Dota 2 player who claims that his leg disabilities are what led him to becoming a professional gamer.
-Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Borislavov, a Dota 2 player who famously carried his team to victory in the lower bracket finals of The International 2017.
Evil Geniuses is one of the oldest professional gaming organizations in North America, founded in 1999. Considered by many to be one of the biggest names in esports, the US-based team has combined total earnings of $16,670,734.
Much of the team’s success can be traced to 2015, when Evil Geniuses dominated the MOBA scene, taking first place in The International, as well as the Dota Pit League and the Dota 2 Asia Championships. The team has continued its reign of success, albeit to a lesser extent, ever since.
Notable players include:
-Artour “Arteezy” Babaev, a Dota 2 player, popular live streamer, and StarCraft 2 veteran.
-Clinton “Fear” Loomis, a Dota 2 player who is widely regarded as one of the best North American players of the past decade, capable of playing all positions at a competitive level.
Newbee is a Chinese esports organization that has teams competing in Dota 2, Hearthstone, and League of Legends. Back in 2014, the professional group took first place in The International, earning $5 million and setting a Guinness World Record title for the greatest prize money winnings in a video game competition.
The team recently placed 2nd in 2017 at The International, and continues to perform well in a range of high-end tournaments. Immediately following their success in 2014, however, the team suffered from an array of defeats, including a last-place finish at The International in 2015. The team has combined total earnings of $12,141,392, mostly stemming from Dota 2 victories.
Notable players include:
-Damien “kpii” Chok, a Dota 2 player who was known as the most successful Australian competitor in The International, as of 2015.
-Hu “Kaka” Liangzi, a Dota 2 player who was well known in the Chinese scene for maintaining a high matchmaking rating (MMR) and occasionally topping the country’s competitive leaderboards.