The multiplayer online battle arena is an enormously popular genre. But in the contest for players' time and attention, is League of Legends, or Defense of the Ancients 2 the dominant game? We know that MOBA has become a major force in the world of esports: in 2018, prize money was worth over $60 million, which represented nearly 40% of all esports prize money that year. But which of these games is the prizewinner in this contest? We'll compare the two, and see which one has the edge.
League of Legends
Created back in 2009, LoL definitely has the benefit of a long heritage. It is among the world's largest esports, reflecting its popularity. The 2019 world championship had over 100 million unique viewers. Compare this to the 2020 Super Bowl, which had an audience of 99.9 million viewers, and that gives you an idea of its reach. On Twitch in April 2021, LoL was the 3rd most viewed game, ahead of games like Fortnite, Minecraft, Valorant, and COD: Warzone. But while it might be watched by a lot of people, how many people actually play it?
Well, back in 2011, LoL had an estimated registered player count of 32.5 million, with 11.5 million monthly players. Fast forward ten years, and LoL in 2021 has somewhere in the region of 115 million active monthly users. Concurrent player counts regularly top over 2 million. While the game is also free-to-play, it has still generated enormous amounts of money for Riot Games. In 2020, it was believed to have generated revenues of $1.75 billion.
Clearly, LoL is a big game. But how does it compare to the other leader in the MOBA world - Dota 2? Let's have a look.
Dota 2 was released in 2013 as a sequel to the original Defense of the Ancients. Published by Valve, this gives us the benefit of all the player data from Steam, to give us an idea of its popularity. At the time of writing, Dota 2 was the second most popular game on Steam, behind CSGO, with peak players in the last 30 days of 672,307, and an all time high of 1.29 million concurrent players. This was back in 2016 though, suggesting that its popularity might have waned a little.
On Twitch, Dota 2 is the 13th most popular game for viewers, so some way behind LoL. It's monthly active user base is also some way down on its rival, coming in at around 7.6 million in February 2021. Data on income is patchy, but back in 2017, Dota 2 made an estimated $406 million on behalf of Valve. While this is by no means a small amount, it is way below the sort of revenues LoL generated at the same time. Whether these numbers have increased in the last four years, is hard to say. But the decline in player numbers might indicate a similar fall in revenues.
The winner takes it all
So at the end of this particular battle, there is a clear winner. With a significantly higher user base, more money generated, and far more viewers on Twitch, League of Legends is by far the bigger of the two games, and remains head and shoulders above its competition in the MOBA space.