Courtesy Super Evil Megacorp
Every month, 67 million people log on to play Riot Games’ hit League of Legends, and more than eight million people play Valve’s Dota 2. Both belong to a special genre of videogame called Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas, or MOBAs, and both games are played on good old-fashioned PCs.
But what if those millions of fans could be lured to a MOBA on tablets, sales of which are growing at unprecedented rates? That’s the argument put forth by Super Evil Megacorp, a stealthy two-year-old startup with veterans of Riot, Rockstar and Playfish in its ranks.
“There’s a possibility that MOBAs were born on the wrong platform,” Super Evil CEO Bo Daly said in an interview with Re/code.
The company is pulling the curtain off its own in-development MOBA, Vainglory, which will live only on tablets. It also announced today that it had raised $15 million in funding to get that game out the door, nearly $12 million of which came from a new round that will put General Catalyst Managing Director Adam Valkin on the board.
Playfish co-founder and early Supercell investor Kristian Segerstrale is joining the company as COO and executive director. Segerstrale and Daly repeatedly called Vainglory an “unapologetically core” game, which is code for “we want serious gamers playing this.”
“This is not a casual-ified, tablet-ified game,” Daly said. “We would like it to be approachable, but the skill limit needs to be really high.”
Segerstrale added that core gamers, the audience typically found playing games on console or PC, do play mobile games already — he made a point of praising Blizzard’s digital card-trading game Hearthstone, which came to the iPad in April. Indeed, a recent Nielsen study found that half of all console gamers also play on phones or tablets.
“What I think is going to be our challenge is that the vast majority of those games are still the play-at-the-bus-stop sort of games,” Segerstrale said. “We need to introduce longer-session gaming.”
That means tapping into the deep competitive elements of other MOBAs, and taking advantage of improving graphical offerings like Apple’s newly announced Metal API. Like League of Legends and Dota 2, Vainglory will be free-to-play and supported by in-game purchases.
Although Daly said the early days are more about building a brand than making money, the new game will have a high bar to meet: Last year, League of Legends grossed an estimated $624 million for Riot.
Vainglory will launch on iPad first and Android tablets later, with no definite release date yet announced. The game is currently soft-launched in southeast Asia.