As the Apex Legends Global Series heads into the Winter Circuit on January 29, we spoke to the ALGS commissioner John Nelson about the future of Respawn Entertainment’s battle royale as an esport.
Looking back on the past year and disregarding obstacles outside of your control, how do you feel about the growth of Apex Legends as an esport?
I think Apex Legends esports is in a great place. Obviously we set out at the beginning of this year to have a much different Apex Legends Global Series then we ended up with, one that was set to have at least 12 live events — and the world said “you can’t have any, it must all be online.” But we’ve really hit a groove now with the online circuits and found a formula for Apex Legends esports (while it needs to be online).
And it’s really working: working for the players that are participating and we’ve been seeing viewership grow over time as well. We had to work through a lot of adversity this year, but are really excited about where we’ve ended up and are poised to return to live events as soon as it’s safe to do so.
Apex Legends enjoys an eager casual fanbase and a lot of the game’s content is geared toward that group. Is there a lag in esports growth compared to casual growth?
I definitely haven’t observed something like that. In some ways, the opposite is true. Each season, we’re seeing more and more players engaging with the game’s ranked leagues, which is really where a lot of players get their competitive start: They measure themselves within the ranked leagues and then graduate, to a degree, into the Apex Legends Global Series.
So, really, the increased enthusiasm around the in-game ranked system and seeing ALGS players like ImperialHal being influencers in the game really goes to show how, from a viewership standpoint, even if it’s not ALGS content all the time, how enthusiastic viewers are about watching some of the best players in the world.
Considering the aforementioned content drops, how much dialogue is there between Respawn’s esport and casual teams to ensure new additions fit competitive goals? Essentially, how much focus is on ensuring that things that are great at a competitive level do not turn cheesy at the professional level?
I think there’s a couple different angles for this one. First, I can say that the Respawn development team listens to feedback across the skill spectrum, but, in particular when talking about esports, they’ve listened to the professional community and their thoughts on how to improve the game in certain ways.
Although I can’t speak to specifics, I think that, in 2021, we will see things come to the game which are improvements based specifically on professional player feedback.
18 hours in and i still dont miss pic.twitter.com/bRB5Txs8Yn
— ImperialHal (@TSM_ImperialHal) December 31, 2020
What we see a lot in games that have legends with particular abilities is that, based on the skill level, we might see the use of different guns and different legends at a Gold level, a Diamond level or an ALGS Finals level. There’s differences there.
And I think that contributes to a healthy game, with guns or legends that have a prevalence or a usefulness at some skill levels, but maybe not others. The community gets to enjoy those things in different ways.
At what point does there become a split, where, as an example, attachments are permitted in the base game but prohibited in the ALGS?
We take those things legend by legend and item by item, but I have tremendous faith in the Respawn development team to be able to design things that are balanced with each other and to take feedback from the community when necessary to continue to make the game balanced moving forward. But there are even instances now where we’ve made changes to remove things from competitive play, the Gold Knockdown Shield is a good example of that — which hasn’t been a part of the ALGS since this summer.
With regards to legends and abilities, other esports like League of Legends and Overwatch have introduced hero bans (or selection restraints). Is that something the ALGS are considering as the game’s portfolio of legends grows?
It is. I don’t know that it’ll ever truly be a part of Apex Legends esports, but it’s definitely something that we consider. It also just brings another interesting dynamic to the esport itself. It drives conversation between fans and between analysts of the gameplay, just trying to predict what a team’s bans are going to be and how they are going to strategize based on the bans that have come out and the legend pool that is available to them.
It definitely has some positives there. We’re obviously not in a place yet where we need to implement something like that, but it’s definitely a thought that we’ve given consideration to for the future.
Speaking of RNG-based issues, there have been concerns about ring logic and how it affects the game at a competitive level. Have you guys seen and considered community suggestions for introducing preset ring movements?
Absolutely, we’ve seen that sort of suggestion or, at least, the suggestion that there be a little more regularity to ending circles within ALGS play. And, again, I can’t speak to any specifics of things that may come to the game in the future, but I can say that we’ve heard that feedback and have had discussions around potential solves for it.
What you brought up previously—having more regularity to the ending circles or more predictability—is one of the things that we’ve been discussing.
Compared to Autumn, what wrinkles should fans expect from the Winter Circuit?
We made some slight tweaks to the way that spots are awarded in the playoffs. We moved our broadcast from Mondays to Sundays, so I think our Winter Circuit broadcast will benefit from being on the weekends and all of our fans who have some more time to devote to watching the ALGS on the weekend than they do on the weekday.
Like I said earlier, we’ve really found a groove with these circuits so there wasn’t a whole lot to change between Autumn and Winter. One of the big things is that we did increase the prize pool, which is up to $750,000 now. What that really represents is the growth of the Apex Legends Global Series. It reflects that growth and should be seen as an expectation moving forward of prize pools at least that large.
Aside from the prize pool, what are plans for the ALGS placement points earned by teams during each circuit?
It has always been our intention, since we launched the Apex Legends Global Series, for ALGS points to be a determining factor in qualification for live events. So once we are able to return to live events we intend to make good on that.
- Read more: $750,000 Apex Legends ALGS Winter Circuit
For the better part of this year and how we’ve had to pivot the ALGS, a lot of players have wondered, outside of this self-contained circuit, ‘what are my points for?’ and we very much intend to use them as intended as qualifications for live events once those are physically possible again.
And I’m assuming part of that will entail interregional events?
When I say returning to live events I’m talking about returning to global live events. It’s been since September of last year at the Preseason Invitational since we’ve been able to crown a global champion and we’re really looking forward to the day when we can do that again.
At the regional level, is a different approach to the meta by each region something that viewers should expect to see?
It is actually. From APAC North to APAC South to Europe, North America and South America, each region really has their own meta.
Summer Circuit Playoffs, for example, we saw, in APAC North, a Revenant on every single team — and I’m not sure that we saw a single one in the Americas’ playoffs. And, again, throughout the Autumn Circuit, we’ve seen that sort of thing play out where each region sort of has their own meta.
So from the one standpoint of just wanting to be able to crown a global champion, I can’t wait for live events. but also I can’t wait for these regions, that have had their siloed competitions for a long time now, to mix metas and see what happens when those different legend combinations come together again.
After a delay, the ALGS Winter Circuit will begin on January 29. It will be followed by the Apex Legends Global Series Championship, which will host the best 60 teams, and a $1 million prize pool.