MOBA’s and autobattlers have a lot in common. The biggest autobattlers are game modes in popular MOBAs and both genres started out as a fan mod for an existing game. Autobattlers started out as a fan mod to the popular MOBA, Dota 2. Autobattlers are the hottest new genre in 2019 with big names like Riot Games and Valve creating their own titles. The biggest titles as of early July 2019 are Riot Games’ Team Fight Tactics (TFT for short), Dragonest’s Autochess, and Valve’s Dota Underlords.
But what exactly is an “autobattler”? An autobattler is a strategy game where you obtain characters or “chess pieces” for your team, lay them out on a chess board like playing field, and pit them against 7 other players with their “pieces.” Each round you make money and obtain items. The money is spent on other characters or, depending on the autobattler, the ability to place more pieces. The items are given to certain characters on your team that you want to power up. Each round your characters automatically fight the enemy team and you sit and watch it go down. The strategy comes from the synergies that certain characters have with each other, giving them the right items, and positioning them properly on your board before each fight. Each game has its differences, but the basics are the same throughout.
This has so far been the hottest new genre of summer 2019. TFT alone has been right behind League of Legends in terms of Twitch viewership numbers. In fact, Team Liquid has already signed a former League of Legends pro and coach, Saintvicious, to be a professional TFT and autochess player. There isn’t even an official league to compete yet. This just goes to show how much players and organizations believe in the genre.
I believe that creating this new genre is a very smart move by the developers. Both TFT and Dota Underlords use characters, items, and themes that they already own and use. This means that they can build the game without having to worry about creating new patents for characters or items. They’re also not button reliant, meaning most of the gameplay is done with mouse clicks. This makes the entire genre very easy to port to mobile. Anyone in the esports or gaming industry will tell you that making a mobile game is a no brainer. Mobile gaming is expected to be worth 74.4 billion dollars in 2019 where PC gaming is supposed to reach half that.
Riot was tasked by Tencent a while ago to create a mobile game, but they never did, so Tencent went to a different developer to create a mobile MOBA that is very similar to League of Legends. Riot still needs a mobile game and this is their golden ticket. Valve in 2019 released a mobile version for the game “Artifact” and plans on releasing Dota Underlords for iOS and Android. So, what gives with this new genre suddenly appearing? Well here’s my take: it started out as a fan mod and companies saw it as an opportunity to easily bring their existing IPs to mobile devices. It’s really that simple.