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Super Evil Megacorp is betting there's demand for a 'core' mobile MOBA Exclusive
June 5, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

The team at San Mateo-based startup Super Evil Megacorp are betting there's a market for free-to-play MOBA games on tablets, one they hope to corner with the upcoming launch of their debut title Vainglory.

"We're convinced that in the next 6-18 months, somebody is going to launch the seminal game on these platforms that will finally get core gamers to pay attention," newly-hired Super Evil Megacorp COO Kristian Segerstrale told Gamasutra. "We're working to create the best home for core gaming talent to go out and explore that."

You may remember Segerstrale as the Playfish co-founder who went on to serve as Electronic Arts' vice president of digital content after the company acquired Playfish in 2009. He parted ways with EA in 2013 and began investing in startup companies, among them Supercell (Clash of Clans) and Super Evil Megacorp.

Super Evil most recently raised $11.6 million in investment funding from General Catalyst and Raine Ventures in advance of the launch of Vainglory for iOS, which is being tested in select Southeast Asian mobile markets and will be rolled out to more territories "when it's awesome," according to Segerstrale.

The company has been developing the free-to-play mobile game for roughly two years using its own proprietary engine technology and an estimated $3.4 million in financial backing. Daly says Super Evil shied away from using off-the-shelf engines like Unity or Unreal because building its own tech stack allowed it to "remove latency from the equation as much as possible" and optimize the engine for the company's specific needs.

"If you look out across the console space, all the really truly great, successful companies own their own tech," said Super Evil CEO Bo Daly. "To recruit talent out of the highest-end console space, you've got to convince them that their work is going to look so good on that iPad that it's worth it for them to make the jump."

The company bills itself as a bastion of mobile-curious AAA talent and counts a number of former Riot, Rockstar and Blizzard employees among its ranks, though it's careful not to advertise as a competitor to those studios.

"I don't think we compete with League (of Legends) or Dota; those games are in a class of their own," said Segerstrale. "Vainglory is a game for play it on your sofa, with your friends."

Yet Super Evil is clearly trying to duplicate the lasting appeal of those games; both Segerstrale and Daly say they'd like to see players stick with Vainglory for years, hoping that what they perceive to be 'core' game enthusiasts -- people who schedule their lives around the games they play -- will pick the game up (it's free, after all) and never put it down.

To that end, Super Evil is very careful to advertise that Vainglory will not include what Daly refers to as "slash and burn" monetization systems: performance-enhancing items, arbitrary time limits and energy systems.

"It's not pay-to-win," said Segerstrale. "No timers, no energy mechanics. We promise."

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James Yee
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Well... here's hoping your game's title isn't self-defining...

Fabian Fischer
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Probably not. Touch controls and action games will never work together properly.

Tyler King
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I think if a company really wanted to attack this market and have it really hit the masses and make people pay attention it would need to include iphones and ipod touches. I know many more people, especially young people, with ipod touches or iphones who would love a good game like this. Whereas the few people I know who have an iPad and would be interested in playing this, will never dedicate lots of time to it because they would rather play LoL or Dota 2.

I realize that this provides issues for game balance and design, but they are missing a huge chunk of the mobile market(and a lot of the competitive gaming ones) by only having iPads. I do understand that there are many extremely successful tablet only games out there, and many successful free ones. But whether they want to admit it or not they are competing with LoL and Dota 2, so I would think they would do everything in their power to get the game to as many people as possible.

Greg Scheel
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Super Evil Megacorp?

Hey, at least they are honest.

David Brooks
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If I'm sitting on my sofa as Segerstrale suggests, I'm playing a real action game on a console or PC.

Jonathan Riedler
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There are simply so many fundamental issues to be resolved with tablets for gaming before you could even think about a real time mobmoba that can remotely offer competetive matches. (WiFi connections are really much less stable than you might think, having these 20 secs reconnecting is a killer for such games. People usually play games on tablet while watching something else or being in company, plenty of distractions. Tablets tend to even run out of juice fast with demanding games even if plugged in and it is irritating to have that cable at one side. holding a tablet with one hand and plaing with the other gets tiring fast. playing with the tablet standing on a table will give you serious pain in the neck pretty fast, ... I could go on)

There is already a good number of high quality games for tablets and in my personal opinion, people are not ready yet for mobile games that require 10-15 minutes of all your attention. Sure, some people are, but they are such a tiny fraction of the whole app universe that you will very soon doubt they exist at all when you look at your statistics during beta.

I do believe that we will see really awesome games on tablets within 2014, but I doubt it will be a LoL clone.

Ian Uniacke
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I firmly believe that the person who creates a successful eSports title on mobile will be the first company to earn 10s of billions of dollars for a game. That being said, I don't think it's going to happen with a hard core game. It has to be something that will appeal to the masses like football or baseball does.

Although that being said I wish them the best of luck. :)

Mark Troyer
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Strange that ~2 years ago, also out of San Mateo, a company called A Bit Lucky made a MOBA game for the iPad called Solstice Arena. They tailored the MOBA experience pretty well to what you expect from a tablet game in my opinion. They also launched the game on Steam last October which makes me wonder if the tablet market is really asking for a full fledged MOBA experience. Tablets are great for certain experiences but if I want to do a highly competitive team game, I'm sitting at my PC with a mic and headphones.

I wonder what Super Evil Megacorp will do differently to adapt to tablets and whether or not they should also launch on PC as a backup plan.

Samuel Green
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I played Solstice for a while and thought it was ok. It did feel great on mobile (something which Fates Forever fails to do in my opinion) and I liked their farming mechanic (collecting permanent buffs instead of hitting creeps), but it just didn't hold me. The character design was a bit naff (there was a dog with a bucket on it's head) and it was pretty much just a deathmatch arena game.

No-one has managed to replicate the objective based gameplay of Dota or LoL, which is so very important. Map control, timing windows, early/mid/late game differences in strength... a lot of this is dependent on a large map that's somewhat defendable and takes time and risk to traverse. I've never seen that work so far in Solstice Arena or Fates Forever. Big maps on tablet are always an issue because of the camera locked onto the hero.

Samuel Verner
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there are several core moba mobile games on the market. what? you haven't heard about them and cannot find them in the top 100? well, it's because touchcontrolls and real core games don't fit togehter.

Curtiss Murphy
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This may be a flawed idea. Maybe the Evil-Do'ers can pull it off, though I'm skeptical. Mobile + extended play time + competitive real-time ... Only Hearthstone has gotten even close to an acceptable experience on that front, and it's not twitch based. I wish Super-Evil lots of luck, they'll need it.

edwin zeng
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Ironically, I foresee SOBA instead of MOBA, as a good choice for a sub-genre. Meaning to say, it has to be single-player with asynchronous multiplayer, and it cannot be the sole focus of the game. It must be redesigned with other mechanics that other games and game-apps have done.