Mobile MOBA Games Market: Key Trends and Predictions for 2024 — Udonis

Andrea Knezovic
12 min readOct 10, 2023

In 2023, the mobile MOBA games market stands full of potential. This article sheds light on the various facets that are influencing growth and is focused on the current state of the market and emerging trends,

Keep reading to uncover developments in the world of MOBA games and stay updated on the evolving market dynamics.

MOBA Games: An Introduction

Multiplayer Online Battle Arena or MOBA games are a fascinating subgenre that stands somewhere between the realms of strategy and RPG gaming, as a distinct subgenre.

They captivate players by offering real-time, team-based multiplayer battles, and set the stage for high-octane competition and strategic teamwork. Two teams pit their wits and skills against each other on uniquely designed maps. Each character within a team has distinct characteristics and attributes, which contribute to the multifaceted nature of mobile MOBA games.

Moreover, the individual attributes of each character play a pivotal role in crafting the overarching team strategy.

The design and rules echo their origins of the iconic game DOTA, laying a familiar foundation for players and aficionados alike. The mobile MOBA games often weave tales and battles in unique themes — from fantasy and sci-fi to the world of superheroes. These thematic elements further enhance the lore which draws players into vibrant and diverse universes.

But who are the individuals captivated by mobile MOBA games?

Primarily, it’s mid-core gamers — those who seek more than casual gaming but might not immerse themselves fully into the hardcore scene. Mobile MOBA games strike a balance between various game elements, which makes them an ideal choice for mid-core gamers looking for challenges, layered gameplay, and continuous skill development.

MOBA Games Market in 2023

A Glimpse into History

The MOBA games genre, as we recognize it today, owes much to Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, released in 2003. This game catapulted the genre to new heights with its immense success and expansive player base.

For years, MOBA games were primarily confined to PCs and consoles. The advent of mobile MOBA games began around 2015, marking a significant shift in the gaming landscape.

Emergence on Mobile Platforms

The transition to mobile platforms was spearheaded by titles such as Honor of Kings and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang around 2015. League of Legends, a heavyweight in the genre, made its mobile debut in 2020. These games continue to reign to this day, drawing substantial numbers and solidifying their position in the market.

Market Dynamics

In terms of user spending, the mobile MOBA games market reached its highest point in October 2021.

Although a slight decline in revenue was observed post this peak, the market has shown resilience and is on the ascent again. Despite fluctuations, downloads peaked the same month, signifying sustained player interest and engagement.

Geographic Insights

Asia emerges as the powerhouse, and contributes to a substantial portion of the mobile MOBA revenue.

Honor of Kings stands as the most-played MOBA game worldwide, amassing over $10 billion in player spending since its release and garnering more than 300 million downloads.

Its stronghold is predominantly in China, with a somewhat muted presence in other markets.

This disparity allowed Mobile Legends to fill the gap, establishing itself as a global leader with over $1 billion in revenue and more than 500 million all-time downloads.

Current Scenario

Navigating the mobile MOBA games market in 2023 is not without challenges, largely attributed to the domination by a handful of games.

Entry and establishment in the market demand innovative strategies to compete against the reigning titles. The growth trajectory, however, remains promising and offers opportunities for exploration and expansion in the evolving mobile MOBA games landscape.

Top MOBA Games on Mobile

Now, let’s spotlight the games that are leading the pack worldwide. Whether it’s the charm of engaging gameplay or the thrill of competition, these games have successfully captured the attention and time of players around the globe.

Here’s a top 10 list of the most downloaded and top-grossing mobile MOBA games in 2023, according to AppMagic.

Most Downloaded MOBA Games in 2023

  1. Mobile Legends Bang Bang by Moonton
  2. Honor of Kings by Tencent
  3. Garena RoV by Garena International
  4. Pokémon Unite by The Pokémon Company
  5. One Piece Bounty Rush by Bandai Namco
  6. League of Legends Wild Rift by Riot Games
  7. 英雄联盟手游 by Tencent
  8. 曙光英雄:19个英雄登录领 by JJWorld
  9. Marvel Super War by NetEase
  10. Mobile Legends Bang Bang VNG by VNG Games

Top-Grossing MOBA Games in 2023

  1. Honor of Kings by Tencent
  2. 英雄联盟手游 by Tencent
  3. One Piece Bounty Rush by Bandai Namco
  4. Mobile Legends Bang Bang by Moonton
  5. Garena RoV by Garena International
  6. League of Legends Wild Rift by Riot Games
  7. Pokémon Unite by The Pokémon Company
  8. Onmyoji Arena by Netease
  9. 曙光英雄:19个英雄登录领 by JJWorld
  10. Arena of Valor by Tencent

Why Gamers Love MOBA Games

Mobile MOBA games are winning the hearts of many players around the world. Let’s explore the three main reasons — skill, strategic depth, as well as community and teamwork — that make these games so attractive and fun for so many people.

Skill

Skill is a big draw for players in MOBA games.

These games give players a chance to get better and better with each game. Players can work on their abilities, learn about different characters, upgrade characters, and move up in ranks. This chance to grow and get better keeps players coming back to MOBA games.

Strategic Depth

Another big reason people love MOBA games is the deep strategy involved. Players have to think beyond just playing the game. They need to understand the game deeply, know the maps, and learn about each character. This deep thinking makes each game a new challenge and keeps it interesting and exciting for players.

Community and Teamwork

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about MOBA games is that they’re not just about one person’s skill.

They are about working together as a team.

Players work together to make plans and win the game. This teamwork makes the game more fun and lets players make friends and connections in the gaming world.

Sharing a win with a team or learning from a loss together adds to the fun of playing MOBA games.

MOBA Games Trends

Diving into the trends in the world of mobile MOBA games, several significant trends emerge that are reshaping how these games create revenue and add value for players.

Cosmetic Monetization

Cosmetic monetization is a monetization approach where game developers offer in-game items or features for sale that don’t affect the gameplay itself. These items, focusing solely on aesthetics, do not boost the player’s skills or offer any competitive edge.

Despite this, they are a major revenue source for MOBA games.

With a wide array of characters or heroes in MOBA games, each with a unique look and personality, players have ample opportunities to purchase cosmetic items such as skins to personalize their gaming experience. This customization, although not enhancing performance, holds substantial appeal for players.

You might wonder why players are willing to spend real money on items that don’t boost their in-game success.

The answer lies in the human desire for self-expression and uniqueness. Much like buying clothes or accessories in real life to showcase personal style, players relish the chance to express themselves in the virtual gaming world. A rare skin or an exclusive animation allows players to stand out. Moreover, it gives them immense satisfaction and a sense of prestige.

A study by Newzoo highlights this trend, revealing that 85% of gamers from the United States, aged 13 to 45, know about cosmetic items, and a whopping 81% of these individuals are willing to spend real money on these virtual aesthetic items. This data underscores the increasing popularity of cosmetic monetization in MOBA games.

Character Collection

In the world of MOBA games, collecting characters is a big trend. Typically, players can get characters by playing the game and earning game currencies, or by buying them with real money.

Even though you don’t need a big collection to play the game, many people love gathering as many characters and items as they can. Many players choose to focus on just a few characters, but others can’t resist the urge to collect them all. This gives game makers another way to earn money.

One interesting part of collecting characters is how it lets players show off who they are.

The characters that players choose to collect say a lot about them. Whether it’s a strong warrior or a wise wizard, each choice shows the player’s personal style and likes.

Putting real money into virtual characters is about more than just getting ahead in the game. It’s about feeling a closer connection and commitment to the characters and their stories.

IP-Based MOBA Games

Many leading MOBA games are based on popular intellectual properties, a prime example being the acclaimed games League of Legends and Pokemon Unite. Their alignment with recognized intellectual properties plays a crucial role in their popularity.

In the United States, about one-fourth of the mobile game revenue is contributed by IP-based mobile games. GameRefinery points out that in the US market, 43% of the top 200 grossing games are based on popular IPs. This figure rises dramatically in Japan and China, accounting for 66% and 70% respectively.

Even non-IP games, such as Mobile Legends and Arena of Valor, often turn to utilizing licenses to expand their reach and attract a larger audience.

Subscriptions

In the dynamic ecosystem of MOBA games, subscriptions have emerged as a substantial source of revenue and player engagement. Many top MOBA games are now offering diverse subscription models to entice a variety of players.

Mobile Legends Bang Bang, for instance, has a Twilight Pass available for players. This pass allows for season-long access to an array of exciting rewards. Players who opt for this pass can enjoy exclusive benefits like unique skins, and trial cards for both skins and heroes, alongside a special Pass-exclusive skin.

Similarly, Wild Rift enhances the gaming experience by presenting its own Wild Pass to its player base. This pass opens up more opportunities for players to obtain exclusive in-game items and rewards, enriching their gaming experience and keeping them engaged for longer periods.

In addition to these game-specific passes, offering multiple types and tiers of subscriptions is a forward-thinking approach in the MOBA gaming market.

This can include special VIP subscription offers packed with additional perks and bonuses. Such offers are particularly appealing to the most loyal and dedicated players, who are keen on maximizing their gaming experience. This strategy not only boosts revenue for the game developers but also significantly enhances player satisfaction and loyalty.

Esports

MOBA games shine as the pinnacle of the esports world.

Esports, where players compete in organized video game events, magnetizes a massive audience due to its intense competition and showcase of skills. The MOBA genre rules here. According to Esports Charts, Mobile Legends Bang Bang leads in esports viewership, among all genres. League of Legends and Arena of Valor are also in the top 10.

Tracing back to 2011, the first League of Legends World Championship was hosted in Sweden, where teams battled for a $99,500 prize pool. This event marked the beginning of MOBA’s dominance in esports. In 2013, Riot Games launched the LCS (LoL Champion Series), further solidifying its game’s position in the esports universe. This league quickly grew to become one of the most notable esports competitions globally, with generous multi-million-dollar prize pools.

The 2019 League of Legends World Championship pulled in over 100 million viewers, highlighting the ever-growing appeal of MOBA esports. This immense interest is also reflected in the escalating prize money, with Dota 2 International 2019 offering a groundbreaking $34 million, underscoring the substantial growth and investment in MOBA esports.

Events

As we’ve learned, live tournaments and events stand as an important component of the MOBA games market. Beyond tournaments, a rich diversity of in-game events including seasonal and themed events have a significant appeal.

These events, full of extra rewards, special perks, and exclusive cosmetic items, act as a magnet for player participation. They infuse the gaming experience with renewed excitement and ensure players are consistently engaged and immersed in the game.

One standout trend within the MOBA event world is the concept of cross-game events. A prime example is Wild Rift’s “Soul Fighter” event held during the summer. This novel approach to events blends elements from different games, offering a fresh and exhilarating experience for participants.

For instance, the Teamfight Tactics in the Soul Fighter event introduced players to an innovative game mode, immersive narrative experience, an Event Pass, and more, broadening the horizon of the in-game world.

Additionally, many MOBA games capitalize on the event hype by offering exclusive event passes.

Mobile Legends Bang Bang is among the games leveraging this strategy. Players embarking on these events are set on a quest to complete various tasks, earning them both free and premium rewards throughout the event duration. This mechanic not only serves as an additional revenue avenue for game developers but also enhances the overall gaming experience. This results in players who remain engaged and invested.

Casual Approach

Success in MOBA games isn’t confined to traditional paths. Some games have brilliantly demonstrated that a casual approach can also carve a niche within the genre. Take Brawl Stars as an example.

It’s a game that stands out by offering shorter playing sessions and simplified gameplay, all packaged within a cartoonish aesthetic. This design strategy broadens the MOBA appeal, pulling in a diverse group of players who may find typical MOBA games too time-consuming or complex.

By toning down the intensity and complexity, games like Brawl Stars make the MOBA genre more approachable for casual gamers.

This casual tilt doesn’t just attract a broader player base, but it also presents a refreshing alternative in a market populated by more intense, competitive games.

Social Features

MOBA games inherently emphasize teamwork and community bonds, making the integration of additional social features a crucial component. The trend of incorporating guild mechanics is an example of this.

For instance, Honor of Kings brilliantly taps into this trend. It effectively utilizes guild mechanics to bolster player retention.

The game ingeniously features two distinct guild systems, Legions and Squads, each offering different levels of engagement. Legions resemble traditional large-scale guilds, while Squads provide a cozier atmosphere with a seven-player limit.

The dual system emphasizes continued engagement and allows players to collectively level up their guilds, thus creating a compelling reason to remain active within these communities.

This active participation isn’t just about camaraderie; it’s also rewarding.

Players earn clan coins, a form of social currency, as they contribute to their guild’s growth. Additionally, the option to engage in guild battles adds another layer of excitement and engagement.

Expanding into Entertainment

The world of MOBA games is no longer confined to the digital battlegrounds of gaming platforms. It’s entering the entertainment industry, reaching new audiences, and offering existing fans fresh content to enjoy.

The successful integration of MOBA game themes into animated series is evident on platforms like Netflix.

Two series underscore this trend.

Even though DOTA 2 is not a mobile MOBA game, its influence has transcended its platform, inspiring the Netflix series, “DOTA: Dragon’s Blood.”

The acclaimed game League of Legends also expands its reach with the Netflix show “Arcane.”

These series both underscore and contribute to the growing cultural impact of MOBA games, establishing them as more than just games, but as significant elements within the broader entertainment landscape.

This movement into new forms of media not only provides additional revenue streams for game developers but also enhances the overall visibility and appeal of MOBA games.

MOBA Games Market: A Summary

In conclusion, the MOBA games market is dynamic, constantly evolving with new trends.

Whether taking a more casual approach or offering extensive and competitive gameplay, MOBA games continue to redefine their boundaries, offering something for every kind of player.

As we witness the expansion and diversification in the MOBA games market, it’s exciting to think about what the future holds for this genre.

Your thoughts and perspectives are valuable in this conversation. Feel free to share your insights and opinions in the comments section below.

Originally published at https://www.blog.udonis.co

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