Blizzard Entertainment has announced that its crossover MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) title Heroes of the Storm won't be receiving any more major updates. After seven years of active development, the game will join the ranks of Starcraft, Starcraft II, and other long-lasting Blizzard games: it'll still be playable online, but only with the lightest amount of upkeep.
In this case, that means maintaining "seasonal rewards" and regular rotation of the game's free-to-play heroes, many assembled from the Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo, and Overwatch franchises. Future patches for the game will focus on "client sustainability and bug fixing," with balance tweaks only coming "as needed."
The developers are gifting players with a rare in-game mount as a "thank you" for their support over the years.
The last Heroes of the Storm character was released in 2020
Blizzard's support for Heroes of the Storm has been slowing down drastically since 2018, when the company announced that it was ending esports operations for the game and moving some of its developers to other projects. The remaining developers continued to add new characters and skins through 2021, though the last new character for the game, World of Warcraft gnoll boss Hogger, was only released in December 2020.
Blizzard's struggles with its own entry in the MOBA genre remain ironic because it's a genre that technically originated in its own house. The first MOBA was a Warcraft III mod called Defense of the Ancients, or DOTA for short. The mod's developers would later join Valve and release DOTA 2, while a different group of developers would be recruited by Riot Games co-founders Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill to create League of Legends.
Heroes of the Storm would launch years after both games, entering the fray in 2015 with the selling point of bringing together characters from across the company's franchises to help fill out a massive roster. Despite some very impressive technical and creative effort from the team, it didn't manage to gain the same foothold.
Can the market only sustain DOTA II and League of Legends?
A surface read of today's news would indicate that the video game market can only sustain two major MOBA franchises at the moment, as the long-running League of Legends competitor Heroes of Newerth also shut down recently.
That may be true, but it's worth pointing out that the genre has gotten a fresh shot in the arm with new entries on mobile thanks to Honor of Kings and League of Legends: Wild Rift, and Nintendo was able to get in on the action with the MOBA-lite Pokémon Unite.
Blizzard's increased interest in mobile might mean there's room for the company to expand if it decides to take lessons from Heroes of the Storm to portable devices. To get there, company leadership will need to overcome the slow pace of game releases that have dogged the company since Overwatch's debut in 2016.
And of course, the studio is still reckoning with a lawsuit filed by the State of California accusing it and parent company Activision Blizzard of fostering a culture of sexual harassment and abuse.