I've lately heard the term Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) used as a video game genre. The Wikipedia entry redirects to the "Defense of the Ancients" genre, hinting that this is used exclusively to describe DotA-like games (e.g. creeps, lanes, heroes, towers etc. etc.)

However, I've also seen this term used to describe games that deviate further away from DotA (in my opinion) such as Monday Night Combat or Bloodline Champions (here's one source, though I've seen other places where these games are mentioned as MOBAs).

So, what exactly does MOBA mean? What are the characteristics of MOBA games?

  • Been asking the same question since I started playing LoL
    – camiloqp
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 15:40
  • Hmm, "Multiplayer Online Battle Arena" sounds like it would cover something like the multiplayer minigames in Dead Rising 2. Commented May 30, 2011 at 15:41
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    It sounds like a catch all term turned genre to mark the popular gaming style that doesn't fall into RTS, MMORPG, or FPS. Has anyone referred to TF2 this way? Great question!
    – Robb
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 15:44
  • @Robb - I think you have the right of it, though TF2 is strictly a class-based FPS. Commented May 30, 2011 at 16:24
  • One gamedev tried to propose the term "LOMA" (Lord Management) which is a much better term than the "useless" MOBA. Unfortunately it didn't take off.
    – Coxy
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 1:49

2 Answers 2


There is not a clear definition of MOBA out there, so let's define it.

MOBA is a genre definition for multi-player games where not only two parties struggle for resources or attack/defend, but each party/person is against all others in a confined space, therefore the term arena.

Battle arenas in real terms had a pre-defined resource collection: Multiple entry points for opponents, and spread out in the arena, weapons and shields.

Loosely defined, one can see it as a mixture of RTS/RPG and Free-for-all deathmatch, the emphasis is in some games on the former part (DoTA-type games) and in others on the latter (Monday Night Combat).

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    +1 for "There is not a clear definition of MOBA". Commented May 30, 2011 at 16:23
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    Won't that also cover games such as Quake (in multiplayer mode) and Team Fortress?
    – Oak
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 16:24
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    Multiplayer shooters (Unreal Tournament, Quake, Battlefield Series, etc.) are too haeavy on the shooter side and don't need much battle strategy other than proper map control and timing. Team Fortress Arena mode, maybe. Still a bit weak on the resource management side.
    – DrFish
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 16:30
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    MOBA is just DoTA-type as far as I can tell. LoL like to call it MOBA rather than DoTA-type to build brand differentiation from DoTA2, etc.
    – Nick
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 14:52
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    @Oak That is a common criticism of using MOBA as the name of the genre. In less polite circles you might see people use the abbreviation of Aeon of Strife Style Fortress Assault Game Going On Two Sides instead. The reason this more specific name isn't more widely used should be obvious. Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 14:53

A MOBA will usually have the following:

  • Creeps: AI that you get "money" for killing

  • Heroes: Playable characters that have something that makes them different from other Heroes

  • Ancient: A "base" that each team has one of and the objective is to kill your opponents'

  • Resources: Upgrades and consumables bought from the "money" earned from killing creeps

  • Limited amount of Arenas: Games do not stress map knowledge, but instead resource usage

With that said, the term MOBA is a bit like saying MMO. The acronym is very general but has a specific connotation. Multiplayer Online Battle Arena could mean just about any online shooter, but it really doesn't. They are games that involve high amounts of strategy and team work over "thumb skill." There can be some deviation over where the strategy lies, like between DotA 2 and Monday Night Combat. DotA is all about resources, you have very little control over your Hero's movement. You tell him/her where to go and what creep to whack. You spend more time looking at your inventory, store, and cool downs. Monday Night Combat seems to be (never played it) more about character movement with power ups being second. Bloodline Champions (again never played it so I could be wrong) seems to a third person shooter with a MOBA feel, but not truly a MOBA.

Games like Quake and TF2 (since you mentioned them) is all about "thumb skill" and map knowledge. The faster reaction times you have, knowledge of "rat lanes" (paths everyone takes), and the skill of knowing where people's heads will be the better you would do at regular shooters.

  • +1, but I think changing "always" to "usually" in the first line would be a big improvement to this answer. As you say, the acronym is very general. For example, MNC characters are less like heros, and more like classes. There were also several maps, and map knowledge was somewhat useful on a few of them.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 21:55
  • @DCShannon That's why I did say "limited amount" and "stress." You can benefit from knowing where certain monsters are in DotA's arena, but its not as essential as knowing where the blueberries are always going to come from in other shooters. Unless I'm mistaken, which I could be, you can't customize MNC's heroes. A class you can customize. So TF2's classes may be better described as heroes. Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 22:05
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    It looks like the classes have been expanded and are more like heroes now. They're called 'pros'. Originally there were just six, and they didn't even have names. Just Assault, Support, Assassin, Tank, Gunner, Sniper. None of that changes my main point about 'always' versus 'usually', though. It's a bit of a fuzzy definition, so 'always' is going to lead to trouble.
    – DCShannon
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 22:16
  • OK, I'll change it. I could see the Internet getting sassy about it. Thanks for the suggestion. Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 22:18

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