Part chess and part team sport, Multiplayer Online Battle Arena -- or MOBA -- is a gaming genre that’s becoming extremely popular as an esport.

MOBA is one of the most successful esports genres so far, with professional leagues and teams springing up all over the world. (Source: Twitch)

It pits two teams of five in a closed map, with the first team to demolish the enemy’s base declared the winner. So far, so simple. But in a MOBA, players control a “champion”: A character with a unique skills. There is usually a huge variety of champions in MOBA games, each with distinct strengths and weaknesses. Success depends on making sure your team has a balanced array of skills.

Players control these champions through a third person perspective. Most MOBA games have a single map, with three “lanes” leading from your base to the enemy’s. Each lane is defended by turrets and “minions”, computer-controlled enemy characters. There are also wild monsters, unaffiliated with either side. Defeating these will power up your champions -- making them stronger for the push to the enemy base.

MOBA games encourage teamwork, with champions assigned different roles. Sample roles include:

- Tank (absorbs damage for weaker teammates)
- Support (heals and enhances teammates’ abilities)
- Carry (typically does the most damage late in the game)
- Jungler (takes out wild monsters)

We wouldn’t have esports as we know it today if it wasn’t for MOBA games, which are arguably the most viewer-friendly games out there.  

Riot Games’ League of Legends is the world’s most popular esports title, and Valve’s Dota 2 hosts the world’s richest esports tournament. In 2018, the prize pool for The International, Dota 2’s premier tournament, reached over US$25 million.

Besides League of Legends and Dota2, other notable MOBA games include Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm and Hi-Rez Studios’ Smite, which have countless fans worldwide.

The League of Legends World Championship sold out China’s most famous stadium, Beijing’s so-called Bird’s Nest, last year. (Picture: AFP)

Mobile gaming is also embracing the MOBA genre. Tencent’s Arena of Valor, known as Honor of Kings in China, is essentially League of Legends on mobile. It has 200 million users in China and is also making a push to become an esport.