Arena of Valor is the biggest game you've never heard of - and it's coming to Switch
Tencent's play for western console gamers.
In the world of mobile gaming, there are few titles that can compete with Arena of Valor. With a player base that has peaked at over 200 million players, the MOBA is a veritable kingpin of pocket gaming. And in September, Tencent will bring this free-to-play juggernaut to the Switch.
According to Project Manager Edward Gan, the game is all about making the MOBA experience more accessible to players - both in terms of portability and ease of gameplay. Compared to other MOBAs such as Dota 2, Arena of Valor for Switch has a number of features to ease new players into the genre. There's an "auto-buying" feature, for instance, that will automatically purchase necessary items for players. If this had been around when I'd tried Dota 2, I guess I wouldn't have accidentally bought two boots of speed (I saw one boot on the photo and assumed I needed a pair). This feature can apparently be disabled once players have mastered the item system.
Another addition to make things easier for new players is the ability to earn gold from "damage caused". In most MOBAs, players have to kill the object they're attacking in order to earn gold - a rule which makes life difficult for new players to gain currency. Gan stated that in Arena of Valor Switch, players will not "really need to deliver the last hit to gain gold," thus opening the game up to newcomers.
Despite Arena of Valor's roots in mobile gaming, the possibility of cross-play between mobile and Switch has been completely ruled out. "They are basically two different games," said Gan. "They are so different in terms of control... you can view this as a different build." But mobile players will not be forgotten - players who have already unlocked heroes on the mobile version will initially receive extra gold on the Switch version.
While mobile gaming is the predominant form of gaming in Asia - and indeed, Arena of Valor has seen most of its success there - consoles have always been more popular in the west. The move to Switch is essentially Tencent's attempt to break into this market. In Gan's words, Tencent's hope is that the Switch, as one of the most "exciting and fast-growing" platforms, "will bring a lot of awareness of the game to western markets, as these are very console-concentrated". Arena of Valor's recent foray into the world of mobile esports is also part of this attempt to break into western consciousness.
In the brief time I've had with the game at Gamescom, Arena of Valor seems like a smooth and simple version of MOBAs which have previously failed to engage me. The UI is far easier to understand, and the game runs well on the Switch - according to Tencent, it averages at 45 FPS. With feedback from players in its betas reportedly being positive, Arena of Valor could potentially see huge success as a MOBA for casual players.