Since its release on July 14, 2016, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) has taken the mobile gaming world by storm. Developed by Moonton, a Chinese game developer, MLBB is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game that has gained immense popularity worldwide. The game is one of the most successful mobile games of all time, having surpassed 1 billion downloads back in 2020, and still holds a massive player base of more than 78 million active players within the last month.
However, its success is not without controversies, as the game was sued for copyright infringement. In 2017, Riot Games, the developer of League of Legends, filed a lawsuit against Moonton, claiming that MLBB was imitating the intellectual property of League of Legends, with similar characters, abilities, and map design. Moonton initially denied the allegations, but later settled the lawsuit with Riot Games and made changes to the game to address the similarities. The game’s initial name Mobile Legends has also been rebranded into Mobile Legends: Bang Bang during the process. Despite the initial controversies, MLBB has managed to flourish throughout the years by gradually establishing its own identity as one of the long-standing MOBA games on mobile platforms.
Brief history of Moonton
Moonton is a Chinese video game developer and publisher that was founded in 2014 by Justin Yuan and ZhenHua Xu. The company's first game, a tower defense game called Magic Rush: Heroes, was released globally in 2015. During that period, the Chinese game market was monopolized by various channels, prompting Moonton to opt for an overseas expansion. Overseas markets were considered more mature with a fair market environment and more centralized channels, creating a favorable cycle of growth where success depended mostly on operational capabilities of the developers and the gameplay of their core products. The decision proved wise, as the game attained success, reaching over 9 million US dollars in peak revenue per month.
Moonton gained significant experience in the overseas market following the triumph of its first game. Moving forward, Moonton Technology wanted to introduce the MOBA genre to players worldwide, as the genre was already well-liked in China at the time. As a result, its second game, MLBB, was launched in July 2016.
Founder Justin Yuan claimed that developing a MOBA game is a highly challenging task, with only a few companies worldwide managed to create a successful one during the PC era. Despite acknowledging the obstacles they may face, the company remained confident and invested heavily in the project, resulting in significant losses during the process. They persisted in their efforts, fueled by the conviction that the game had amassed a substantial user base that found the gameplay enjoyable, and that it would eventually yield commercial value and revenue. Their perseverance paid off eventually, as the game's popularity soared, and MLBB has become one of the most globally-trending games as of now.
Reasons behind the game’s success
The MOBA genre typically requires players to learn complex mechanics such as which items to buy, skillsets of different heroes, map and vision control, etc. The abundance of different mechanics in the MOBA genre can make it challenging for players to enjoy since they have to learn many of them simultaneously.
MLBB is known for its newbie-friendliness, which makes it popular among beginners and experienced players alike. The game's user interface is intuitive and easy to understand, allowing new players to quickly learn the mechanics of the game. The tutorial mode is comprehensive and covers everything from movement to basic combat, making it an ideal learning experience for beginners. Furthermore, MLBB has a matchmaking system that pairs players with opponents of similar skill levels. This ensures that new players are not overwhelmed by more experienced players who have been playing the game for a longer time. By simplifying its gameplay, MLBB has made it easy for anyone to play. Despite its simplicity, MLBB is continuously updated to improve its user-friendliness, in order to meet the expectations of modern gamers.
One of the reasons why MLBB is so popular is because of its accessibility. Having a high-end gaming PC or gaming console is considered a luxury that many people can't afford. Compared to PCs or consoles, smartphones are relatively much cheaper and can be used for many other purposes. This makes the innate audience of mobile platforms much larger than that of other devices. As MLBB can be played on a variety of mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, and does not require high phone specifications, it can be played by a wide range of people with different types of devices.
Image source: VCgamers
Additionally, the game is free to download and play, making it accessible to anyone who has a mobile device and an internet connection. The game's microtransaction system allows players to purchase in-game skins, but they are not required to enjoy the game fully. All of these factors contribute to the accessibility of the mobile game, resulting in an increase in players throughout the world.
3. Fast-paced action
Players of typical MOBA games on PCs, such as Dota 2 or League of Legends, know that games can last for 30-40 minutes, sometimes exceeding 50 minutes when both teams are evenly matched. Even PUBG Mobile, a popular battle royale game on mobile platforms, takes around 30 minutes per game if you make it to the final round.
When compared to these games, it's no wonder why MLBB is so popular among gamers, with an average game length of only 10-15 minutes. This is due to the small and compact battle arenas, allowing players to move quickly and engage in fast-paced battles with opponents. The large player base also means faster matchmaking, making it perfect for quick gaming sessions. Players can easily jump into a match during a break or while waiting for something and still have enough time to complete a game.
4. Competitive gameplay
MLBB is known for its highly competitive gameplay, with players from all over the world competing in ranked matches to climb up the game's leaderboard. The game's ranked system is divided into tiers, and the higher the tier, the fiercer the competition becomes. This creates an immensely competitive environment that rewards players for their skill and strategic thinking. To further enhance the competitive aspect of the game, MLBB has regular tournaments and events where players can compete against each other for cash prizes and other lucrative rewards, attracting some of the best players from around the world to participate.
The competitive gameplay of MLBB contributes greatly towards its success by creating a strong and engaged player community. The game's ranking system and regular tournaments provide players with a clear sense of progression and a goal to strive towards, which keeps them engaged and invested in the game. It also attracts esports organizations and sponsors, who are drawn to the game's large and passionate player base. This has helped turning MLBB into a popular esports title, with major tournaments and events held all over the world. According to Esports Charts, MLBB was the third most watched esports game in 2022 according to total hours watched, accumulating an impressive number of 331.47 million hours. The game was also the runner-up in terms of number of peak viewers, second only to League of Legends.
5. Regular updates
Updates are released frequently in MLBB, with new heroes, skins, features, and balance changes being added on a regular basis. The regular updates keep players engaged and interested in the game, as there is always something new to discover and explore. This helps to keep the game from becoming stale and ensures that players are always eager to come back for more. The addition of new heroes and items also creates new strategies and tactics for players to learn and master, further adding to the game's depth. Due to its popularity in South East Asia, the game also introduces several heroes based on the local mythologies and folklores, such as Lapu Lapu from the Phillippines and Badang from Malaysia. These heroes are not only unique and interesting, but they also allow players from the region to see representations of their own cultures and traditions in the game.
Another benefit of the constant updates is that they help to address any balance issues that may arise in the game. As MLBB is a competitive game, balance is crucial to ensure that matches are fair and fun for all players. The regular updates also demonstrate the game's commitment to staying relevant in the constantly evolving mobile gaming industry. With new games being released regularly, MLBB needs to continue offering fresh content and experiences to keep its player base engaged and attract new players.
Despite facing tough competition from other mobile MOBA games such as Arena of Valor, which was released just a few months after MLBB, and the more recent League of Legends: Wild Rift, MLBB has managed to stay competitive over the years. While there are many factors behind its success, it is clear that the continuous effort of the developers and the love from the community have contributed greatly. Although the game is not without its flaws, I believe the developers are committed to improving the game's sustainability, giving fans reasons to look forward to a brighter future with MLBB. In short, MLBB's success is a testament to the hard work and dedication of its developers and the community.
And that sums up Lluvia's thoughts regarding the factors that have contributed to the success of MLBB.