MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games) have become so popular, it seems like every game developer has their own, including two of the most well known gaming companies, Valve (Dota 2) and Blizzard (Blizzard All-Stars). Hi-Rez Studios, the creators of Global Agenda and Tribes Ascended, is no exception. Their MOBA, SMITE, which recently went into open beta, had a big announcement at GamesCom. Yesterday Hi-Rez announced with the following trailer that they would be partnering with Tencent, one of China’s largest online juggernauts, to help publish SMITE.
Tencent publishing SMITE is a big deal for many reasons. To fully understand you first have to realize just how huge Tencent is. In the trailer they throw out some numbers about how many users their games have, but Tencent also owns QQ, China’s most popular chat program, and TenPay, which is basically a Chinese PayPal that is so popular that you can use it to pay your bills and pay for mass transit in some cities! So imagine Google, PayPal and a modern MSN messenger combined. Then add on one of the largest online gaming companies in the world. Then place them in the most populated country on the planet. So yeah, Tencent is big.
Tencent’s size will allow SMITE to be anywhere they want it to be in Asia and will give it a credibility that few eSports games have. If Tencent wants SMITE in a certain game tournament, you better believe it will be there, especially in Asia. This surge of support will help it establish itself in the competitive gaming market, which is what it has already been trying to do (as made obvious by SMITE’s built in Twitch.tv support).
If you don’t believe me, look at the other super popular MOBA, League of Legends. In 2011, Tencent invested $400 million dollars in Riot Games, the developers of League of Legends, and now it is one of the largest eSports games, averaging 12 million players per day. With Tencent now backing LoL and SMITE, I think I know which two MOBAs will have the most representation in eSports in the near future.
It is interesting to have Tencent supporting two, apparently competing games. Both games are MOBAs, sure, but once you actually play them, they are surprisingly different. I have spent time with both games, and even though they are technically the same genre they are unique enough that I don’t think they will have any problems coexisting, especially with Tencent’s gargantuan support. SMITE is far more action-based, considering almost everything is a "skill-shot" (an ability you have to aim) so it appeals to more of the FPS audience than the RTS group.
SMITE is a lot of fun and is definitely worth checking out, especially the Arena mode. I am excited to see what happens to it as it grows and becomes a mover and shaker in the eSports community, but I worry that it might lose its soul as it grows. It has received enough support to be a successful game, but Hi-Rez, please don’t break the game. I enjoy am enjoying it too much as is.