Season 16 of Apex Legends is about to begin. The game is now four years old, and there is a mix of anticipation and trepidation about the future of the franchise. Dexerto spoke to the game director and design director at Respawn, and asked some of the community’s most pressing questions.
The new season will be the first in the game’s history not to release a new Legend. This is just the start of what the developers promise will be continued subversion of expectations over the coming seasons this year and beyond.
EA confirmed at their most recent earnings call that the Apex franchise had unperformed expectations, citing “challenging market dynamics.” This felt like a clear nod to the competition, such as Warzone 2 and Overwatch 2, likely to steal away the attention of some Apex players.
Apex Legends Mobile is being shutdown, and an unannounced single-player Apex game has been scrapped. So, how can Apex, a four-year-old game, maintain its position as a leading battle royale title, as the competition keeps coming?
The future of Apex Legends
“We’re committed to the philosophy of evolving the game,” said Evan Nikolich, senior design director on Apex Legends. “We will keep building on the core game and evolve, reacting to the community and adding new content.”
Nikolich compared Apex to other long-lasting live-service games CS:GO and League of Legends. These games have maintained popularity for over a decade, and Respawn hopes Apex will have a similar 20-year lifespan at least.
“The approach has stayed the same,” said game director Steven Ferreira, when asked about staying resilient vs the competition. “We experiment, learn from that, and make incremental changes. There are some big sweeping changes coming this year in particular, which are more about the game itself, and not about the competition.”
“Apex has grown to a place with so much content, while maintaining the content players know and love. One season to the next doesn’t seem like much, but when you look over the years, you can see how much has changed.”
Ferreira also confirmed there will never be an Apex Legends 2 – unlike rivals such as Warzone 2 and Overwatch 2 – it’s all about building on the core game.
“Sweeping changes” coming to Apex
Respawn said that this year, there will be some major changes to Apex that players are not expecting, and that “nothing is off the table.” Asked if this was similar to when Skulltown was removed, despite being so iconic, Ferreira explained:
“Yes, similar to Skulltown. People thought ‘we can’t possibly change this’ but nothing is precious.” They explained that even if something is “fun individually,” they won’t be scared to address it “if it does harm to the overall game.”
“You’re going to see pretty big highlights this year. The [new] classes are an example of that, even though that wasn’t that precious to people, it was there for a long time. Legends, maps modes, progression, ranked – there is not an area where we are standing still.”
Why skip a new Legend?
For the first time, there won’t be a new Legend to headline a season launch. This was bound to happen at some point – Respawn confirmed as much to Dexerto last year – but it’s a risk nonetheless. Will players feel shortchanged? Will it dampen hype for the new season? Will the season get stale faster?
These are no doubt questions Respawn have considered, but Nikolich explained that they think of the game like “tending a garden.”
“It’s a shift from ‘predictable’ updates, we’re not just tending the garden – if we don’t trim the weeds, it becomes overgrown.”
Another big change is the removal of Arenas in Season 16, and Nikolich gave this as an example of something that was overgrown in the garden, and so they weren’t afraid to sunset it entirely. “Arenas wasn’t doing the job.” Although, for Arenas lovers, Nikolich didn’t rule it a return entirely: “We’re looking at it.”
Also, don’t worry – there will be a new Legend next season.
How different is the Apex team now vs four years ago?
In the past two years, a number of high-profile developers on Apex Legends left Respawn for pastures new. These included the former game director, map designers, communication directors and more.
Asked about how different the team is now vs when Apex launched in 2019, Ferreira explained that “the team reflects the game” – as it’s always evolving.
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“We hope [Apex] is still around in 20 years. [Developers leaving] is a natural progression, I don’t know many devs that can work on one game for 15 years straight.
“We’re always trying to keep the team fresh, and we want as many people who are as passionate about playing the game as they are making it. The team makeup is definitely larger, but a significant part of the team was here from before launch too.
“We have some news about the continued growth of Apex and Respawn and general coming. One day, we hope we’ll have people joining the team who grew up playing the game.”
Nikolich, agreed, explaining that while new people join, the “values of the team and pillars of the game, those are strong. We stay true to what Apex is, we never want to change Apex into something it isn’t, we want to keep it a competitive BR shooter.”
For players who might have been worried about devs departing the team, they acknowledged that “from the outside, change can be concerning,” but compared it sports teams changing players – “the franchise stays the same.”
Monetization in Apex Legends
Monetization is a necessary component of any free-to-play game. Apex Legends has tried to strike the balance between value for players and sustainability for the business. Sometimes, players feel that balance hasn’t been achieved.
Asked about recent complaints from the community regarding recolors and collection events, Nikolich and Ferreira were transparent.
On recolors specifically, Ferreira explained that the team likes recolors because it gives new players an opportunity to get something that other players have, without just re-releasing the same skin again. However, they confirm that they have “100% seen the feedback. We’ve heard loud and clear.”
In the last collection event of Season 15, players who completed the collection were rewarded with a reactive Peacekeeper skin – a recolor too. This angered many, as typically the collection event reward is an heirloom or mythic skin, and so a weapon skin felt like a significant downgrade.
Ferreira admits that the team did not expect the negative reaction: “We thought players would really like the opportunity to get it.”
“But we learned some lessons. You won’t see that collection event reward again, I can pretty much guarantee that. The intent is always to do something players enjoy and see value in, definitely not trying to upset anyone.” As well as feedback on social, they also use data about where players spend their money and what content they value most.
Nikolich added, “We want people to feel good about the money they spend, to feel good to get something new, not cheap.” He also advised players to give feedback both verbally and “with your wallets – don’t spend money if you don’t want the item.”
The infamous cross-progression question
As time came to a close in our chat, it was important to ask once again about cross-progression, by far the most-requested feature in Apex Legends. Ferreira confirmed:
“We’re definitely excited about cross-progression coming. It was trickier than expected, and we want to make sure it’s ready. Also because you only get one crack at rolling something like this out.”
Ferreira expanded on this, explaining that there are different ways that cross-progression can be implemented and that they “want to set it up the way we want it.”
“I don’t have a definitive date, but it’s definitely coming.”
Season 16 of Apex Legends begins on February 14, with Team Deathmatch, a revamped Legend class system, and a new weapon. You can check out all of Dexerto’s Season 16 coverage here.