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Smite PAX Aus Interview: The Fastest Growing New MOBA

| 4 Nov 2014 01:29
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Smite developer Hi-Rez studios has some big plans for the game's eSports scene.

When people mention MOBAs, the first two names that come to mind are DotA 2 and League of Legends. However, there is a third MOBA, Smite, that has quietly been growing at an astonishing pace, and may be on its way to joining the two kings at the top. At PAX Australia this year, I had the chance to chat with Hi-Rez Studios Chief Operating Officer, Todd Harris, who talked to me a bit about the game's future, both in terms of the actual development of the title, and how its eSports scene will grow.

Smite's World Championship prize pool recently hit a whopping $1 million, which, while paling in comparison to DotA 2's $10 million+, is a very impressive figure for a game that's only six months old. In fact, Harris told me that Smite has been the fastest new franchise to hit the $1 million prize pool mark in the history of eSports.

What you may not know is that, just like DotA 2's Compendium, Smite's World Championship prize pool has also been partially crowdfunded. At the time of the interview, Hi-Rez had put up around $600,000, while crowdfunding had made up the remaining $400,000, although Harris expects that the crowdfunding figure will also hit $600,000 soon enough. I asked Harris if he was worried about next year - if the game fails to hit the same figure, people will accuse it of dying. "We are sure that we will be able to raise $1.2 million, or more, for next year's championship," he replied, confidently dispelling any concerns.

Despite this considerable prize-pool, Harris explained that Hi-Rez actually offered quite little support to professional Smite players. Professionals are not paid a salary, and instead rely on these winnings, as well as sponsorship deals, to survive. Some of the biggest names in eSports, including Cloud 9, Team Solo Mid, and Dignitas, are bringing teams to the game, so players will have to lean on the support of these organizations for Smite.

We also briefly talked about the concept of all, or partial, women teams, something that I touched on with Riot Games concerning League of Legends earlier in the year. Harris had pretty much the same answer, explaining that the audience of MOBA games is still overwhelmingly male, and while there are no restrictions on female players in the competitive scene, the reality is that there just aren't enough women playing the game.

To remedy this, Harris said that Hi-Rez has taken, and is continuing to take, steps to make the game more accessible to new players. He talked about the game's arena mode, how it eschews the traditional "push minions down a lane"-style of play and just allows players to get in there and battle it out with their champions. He talked about several features in the game that make it more newbie-friendly, such as a system that auto-buys items, and auto-levels skills. Lastly, he talked about how the game is coming to consoles - the first serious MOBA to do so.

"Because of the third person viewpoint, it really lends itself much more to consoles than the other popular MOBAS," Harris explained. Indeed, Smite does feel almost more like an action RPG than a MOBA at times - particularly in the aforementioned arena mode.

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Lastly, we spoke of Smite's incredibly consumer friendly Ultimate God Pack - which unlocks all current and future Gods in the game, for a single, flat fee of $30. It's unusual to have such a generous offer for a free-to-play title, especially when the competition seems happy to gouge us blind. Harris said it made a lot of sense when the game's alpha launched with just 9 heroes, but now that they are at 59 heroes, it's getting a bit out of hand in terms of its value. He stated that while there are currently no immediate plans to discontinue the Ultimate God Pack, he was unwilling to confirm it would always be available. "Never say never!"

Smite is shaping up to become a force to be reckoned with in the MOBA world, and to help celebrate its rising popularity, we've got a six of the PAX Aus exclusive Sydney Shredder He Bo skins to give away. To enter, simply send me a PM with the subject "PAX Aus Smite Skin Giveaway".

The first six people to send me a message will receive a code!

That's all folks! All six codes have been given away.

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