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Snealiv avatar 4:46 PM on 12.10.2012
Pour One Out: Super Monday Night Combat

The Game: Super Monday Night Combat

Release Date: April 19 2012

Super Monday Night Combat, sequel to the moderately popular XBLA game Monday Night Combat, was one of the first major attempts to bring first-person-shooter elements into MOBA genre. Cruising off the surprising success of the first game, Super Monday Night Combat instituted major improvements in key areas over the first game. It brought the title over to PC, tightened up gameplay elements and balance issues to make Super MNC viable as an eSport, and adopted the League of Legends free-to-play model.

Considering the first game sold over 300,000 copies on a single platform, combined with the explosive popularity of MOBA games on PC, Ubernet's optimism in Super MNC seemed appropriately placed. Super Monday Night Combat had all the necessary pieces in place for a successful new MOBA game.

And succeed it did; for about two months. Early months seemed promising, as servers regularly saw ~4,000 concurrent players. Though the number seems low,it was actually respectable for a new MOBA game.

However, Ubernet had a tough time keeping players interested in subsequent months. Around June Super MNC started to see a steady decline in users. While not a great sign, the playerbase in new multiplayer games tends to shrink during early months as a game finds its dedicated fan base. So Ubernet started releasing new characters, items, and game types to encourage players to stick around as they waited for the decline in players to level off.

But the numbers kept falling. And falling. And falling.

When the player base finally leveled-off, it became clear that SuperMNC was beyond salvation. Servers queues increased with the drop in players, and it was common for players to wait more than 30 minutes to find a match. Even during peak hours, the number of concurrent players topped-off around 300.

Now a days, Super MNC only makes headlines for its desperate attempts to find an audience across every digital delivery platform imaginable. Super MNC is currently available on Steam, Amazon direct download, and even the new Kongregate download service.

And it still can't break 300 concurrent players.


What went wrong?
It's hard to pinpoint the exact reason for SuperMNC's decline; the developers could not have done much else to help out their game.

Ubernet updated the game every Tuesday with balance fixes and character rotations, par for the course for MOBA games, and they responded to player feedback in a timely manner.

Though Ubernet dropped the ball on the timeliness of their additional content. The first new characters was released in July, three months after Super MNC's launch. But by then just adding a new character was too little, too late. Over the coming months Ubernet added three new arenas and two new gametypes, but they released to the echos of an abandoned player base. The most-recent addition to Super MNC was Hobo Robo, who looks exactly as the name sounds, in October.

In addition to untimely support, Super MNC unfortunately shared some mechanics with other, more-popular games. People who play MOBA games passionately often focus their time on a single game. As a result, Super MNC competed with League of Legends and the Dota 2 beta for player attention. The free-to-play MOBA audience is so entrenched in its current games that they don't feel the need to branch out. League of Legends is a sport, and while Super MNC had eSport potential, the game never gained enough traction to break into the public's eye.

Though Ubernet played a large part in the failure of Super MNC to become an eSport. . There were very few, if any, Super MNC tournaments or special events. When Valve launched the Dota 2 beta, they held a public tournament with a $1,000,000 prize. This tournament helped Dota 2 gain publicity, and cemented its place as an eSports.

The most publicity Super MNC ever received was the occasional Twitch stream, and it was never seen on major eSport streaming channels.



Why does it matter?
Super MNC was a beta test for the First-Person-Shooter/MOBA genre. It had a substantial budget, a committed development team, and an attractive free-to-play marketplace. If Super MNC succeeded, other FPS-MOBA games would have quickly followed suit.

But it didn't. And the MOBA genre remains relatively unchanged, just as it has for the last several years.

And all the while the MOBA genre continues to grow stagnant. Each of the major contenders differs in relatively minor ways, and any newcomers who offer interesting takes on the genre are continually shut out.

Super MNC represented evolution and change in the MOBA genre, and its failure discourages other developers from taking major risks to change the MOBA genre and halts its evolution as a result.

If this lack of evolution continues, MOBA games may very well be on the same path as adventure games in the mid-90s and fighting games in the mid 2000s.



Grab a drink
Super Monday Night Combat was a fun game with an interesting premise, and made a solid attempt to evolve a rather stagnant genre. It's a damn shame that it couldn't find an audience.

Here's to you, Super MNC.



Pour one out is a bi-monthly column where I spotlight great multiplayer games that never found a community. If you have a suggestion for an under-appreciated multiplayer game, leave it in the comments!

 
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