EA Pulls the Plug on Dawngate
It’s been about five months since I last checked in on EA’s attempt to break into the free-to-play MOBA genre but it seems as though that it hasn’t gone to plan. After six months in open beta and another twelve months of closed beta before that, EA has cancelled Dawngate and are getting out of the MOBA game for the moment.
Dawngate was developed by EA-owned studio Waystone Games. They have been working on this game for a few years now as it launched in closed beta in May 2013. However, it only has 90 days left in its life expectancy. The official announcement of Dawngate’s cancellation noted that Dawngate would shut down in 90 days which is February 2, 2015.
In a statement on Dawngate’s website, Waystone general manager Matt Bromberg made the following statement:
“Today, I have the unenviable task of announcing that we’ve decided to stop development of Dawngate…
“Whenever we begin a game project, we do so with great hopes and expectations. In this case, we chose to enter a new genre for EA in MOBA, one that we knew going in was extremely competitive. We built a game in Dawngate that wasn’t simply a clone of existing MOBAs, but one that truly pushed the genre forward in many ways. Dawngate has been in beta for almost 18 months, including a full open beta for the past six months. Through that time, we’ve taken a lot of feedback from players and delivered lots of new features and innovations. And although the game has grown, we’re not seeing the progress we’d hoped for. This isn’t the outcome we wanted, but beta testing is about learning and improving, and ultimately, about making difficult decisions about how to proceed…
“As a part of the process of closing down Dawngate, we’ll continue to operate the game for the next 90 days. All players will be entitled to a full refund of any money spent during the beta.”
If you recall my open beta impressions post, I didn’t really see what was special about Dawngate and specifically noted complaints about the community and the monetization model. Dawngate’s attempt at something different under the “break the meta” slogan was also part of the inspiration for my column about how MOBAs could succeed if they looked and played differently in a way that new players could see.
I can’t really say that I’m surprised that Dawngate didn’t take off in a way that was to EA’s satisfaction. They want to be on top of the pile but they came into the game too late to be able to do that with Dawngate. The best they could have hoped for was top five, maybe in the top three. Without that eSports hype to generate interest with elite players, teams and streamers with fan followings and without an apparent differentiation from the big two MOBAs, Dawngate was in trouble from the start.
Those are really symptoms of the real issue, though. The real issue is that EA didn’t really put any heart into it. Dawngate often came off as LoL-style MOBA equals cash. EA should have put some money into marketing, eSports and let Waystone loose to make a unique MOBA. Maybe they’ll learn that if they get back into the MOBA game but they have to learn that a game doesn’t sell based solely on the fact that it exists.
EA has yet to confirm what effect this would have on staffing at Waystone Games. Hopefully they keep most staffers on-board for their next project. With some luck, they’ll even be given a bit more creative freedom when making that next game. A project that comes off a bit generic won’t get noticed in a crowded games industry.