NOV. 6, 2014 • Development on the ambitious MOBA title Dawngate is being stopped by Electronic Arts. The F2P PC game, which was being developed by internal studio Waystone Games, was deemed not to be making sufficient progress to continue. The goal of the development team was to create a MOBA that could compete with League of Legends and Dota 2 while introducing features and game mechanics that would set Dawngate apart from those titles. Dawngate has been in beta for 18 months and was Waystone’s first project since the studio was launched in 2011. Users can continue playing the MOBA for an additional 90 days, and EA says it will refund any money spent to date by beta players.
Impact: It’s very difficult to support multiple competitive team PC games. Dedicated competition eats up a tremendous amount of time and players that are drawn to these matches gravitate to circumstances where the path to success is clearly laid out. In the early days of RTS league competition, there was significant resistance to switching from StarCraft to Total Annihilation because the latter had very different game mechanics. League of Legends and Dota 2 are inspired by the same mod to Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, and both share similar game mechanics. This permits players to share the same strategies to compete well in both. Dawngate’s developers, sought to introduce a huge, fully developed story arc, plus an intricate lore system that interacted deeply with game maps and hero characters. Unlike its MOBA competitors where the attributes of playable characters are well defined and understood, Dawngate further introduced a high degree of strategic customizability to its playable characters. These new feature sets were successful in setting Dawngate apart from League of Legends and Dota 2. EA has not gone into detail regarding how Dawngate was falling short of expectations. We suspect, however, that the game’s differences likely became an impediment to player acquisition. It is no easy thing to pull away from a successful player strategy in established MOBAs to embrace a new title with a steep strategic learning curve. Even if the free time is available to do so, the mindset of the competitive player is such that there is little desire to part from an environment where winning and dominating are well understood. From what we observed of Dawngate beta discussions, customization and the impact of lore on individual maps and characters often led to battlefield dynamics that were not well understood by new players, and engagements that lacked a clear-cut order of battle favored by those coming from established MOBAs. Once again, with a little time and preparation Dawngate’s mechanics have their own virtues and rewards. But the needs of competitive players are different from other core gamers, which means the market capacity for individual MOBAs is more limited than other core PC Games. What’s more, these games all have big learning curves where it takes a lot of time to get really good at them, so there is a switching cost in moving from one to the other. The more differences between MOBAs, the higher the cost. If we are correct, then Dawngate likely needed to draw in more new MOBA players than it was pulling away from League of Legends and Dota 2, and there just were not enough of the newly devoted to warrant continued funding.