Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard's all-star MOBA, hasn't been looking too healthy lately. At the end of 2018, Blizzard announced that it was scaling back support, moving developers off the game and killing its competitive league. It perseveres and continues to be updated, however, but it does feel like it's winding down.
According to Blizzard co-founder and former president Mike Morhaime, the mistake was not leveraging Dota's popularity early enough. The original Defense of the Ancients mod sprouted out of Warcraft 3, making Blizzard indirectly responsible for the rise of the genre. But it was one of the last studios to jump on the bandwagon.
"First of all, I think the Heroes team made a great game," Morhaime told VG24/7 at Gamelab Barcelona. "One of my regrets is that we didn’t pursue Dota early enough. Dota was very popular and we were very focused on World of Warcraft at the time—there were more people playing Dota than Warcraft 3."
The first mod, itself based on a StarCraft custom map, spawned plenty of successors, like Dota: Allstars, but it took years for the commercial ones to appear. League of Legends didn't show up until 2009. It took a further six years for Blizzard to catch up with Heroes of the Storm.
"The community was doing a great job supporting it and we didn’t want to disrupt that," Morhaime said. "And frankly we had our hands full trying to support the growth of World of Warcraft. We felt like focusing on Warcraft was the right call at the time. In retrospect—boy, if I could go back in time and say, 'You know what? Why don't we have a small team that’s focused on doing something with Dota? Or why don't we include Dota with the launch of StarCraft 2 and have a mode or something?' I'd love to try doing that a little bit earlier. I think Heroes was probably too late."
That it's still around at all puts it in the success category, though. Like MMOs before them, MOBAs have been pushed aside for new trends, with only the big stalwarts like Dota 2, LoL and Smite tempting players to keep coming back. HoTS might not have as many players as it used to, but the game still hosts events and, back in March, got rid of paid loot boxes.