What’s a MOBA?
MOBA stands for “multiplayer online battle arena”, but usually takes the form of a 5v5 game, on a map, with 3 lanes. Notable examples include Defence of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2), Smite, League of Legends (LoL), and Heroes of the Storm (HotS).
What makes them hard?
Ranging from 140-90 characters in each game, the first mountain for a new casual player to conquer is learning about each of them. Every character has 4-8 abilities, making these games mechanically difficult, and more are released every few patches. Once you understand what characters do, you then begin to learn how they relate to one another, and which are currently good. Most MOBAs also have items as you level up. Heroes in HotS also get talents, which adds a layer to each character in place of items. These bring more variety, but also more knowledge requirement, in order for a player to be “good”. All of these however, depend on the map, and the current playstyle of the game, which can change vastly over the course of a few patches from the developer.
Why is this a problem?
For the casual player (5-10 hours a week), keeping track of all of these things can be hard. This gets compounded with balance patches coming out, changing which characters and items are good, or “meta”. Most casual players resort to watching and copying professional players. Without the understanding of these strategies however, casual players can easily fail where the pros succeeded. Past this even, veterans who play often, can easily exploit the map in ways new or more casual players wouldn’t even think of, giving them an obvious edge. All of these compounded, result in a steep learning curve, making the already punishing games even harder.
So, are MOBAs too hard?
All MOBAs have a high skill floor, but they can be very rewarding, and some characters are extremely fun to play. In contrast, mastery of even a single aspect of these games can take hundreds of hours, and for a lot of players this is simply too much. Take Smite’s ranked queues for example, only 7% of the players have made it to diamond (the top 7 divisions), or higher with 77% remaining in gold, or below (the bottom 15 divisions)1. Many players quit before even learning the main game mode. Taking this all into account, its clear MOBAs are hard but gamers will always find a way to master the difficulty and git gud.