Less than a month ago, Apex Legends was unheard of. Nearly three weeks after its release on February 4, it is has become one the biggest games in the world. Here's why Apex Legends is taking over.
Battle Royale done right
The battle royale genre exploded after games such as Fortnite and PUBG, and to a lesser extent H1Z1, became mainstream. Since then it has unarguably been the most discussed, watched and played type of game.
Even in 2019, gamers are clamoring for more battle royale options. Then, out of nowhere, came Apex Legends. Respawn and EA's surprise release, and entry into the battle royale market in February has been nothing short of incredible. Even EA themselves wouldn't have expected the title to gain the popularity it has so quickly.
The game is still in its relative infancy, but if its early days are anything to judge it by, it will be around for a long time to come. The developers of Apex produced a polished and enjoyable BR experience from day one, and that made all the difference in the world.
What's the ideal price of a game? Of course the answer to that is: 'free'.
The free-to-play model was first introduced in the late 1990s, most notably in the massively multiplayer online (MMOs) genre. In recent times it has proven extremely successful with Fortnite and now, Apex Legends.
The idea behind free-to-play is twofold. Firstly, it maximizes player count, which is vital for if the numbers dwindle. Secondly, it makes the game as available as it can possibly be. Revenue is generated by in-game purchases. In Fortnite and Apex Legends, these tend to be cosmetic items.
This strategy for Apex Legends is in contrast to PUBG and Blackout. Both maintain the traditional model of having to buy the game, although PUBG is significantly cheaper than the average AAA title.
Notably, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 cost $60 on release, while PUBG was $30. Despite this, Blackout games are are still filled with players, which is testament to just how good of a job Treyarch did developing CoD's first Battle Royale mode.
Video game companies are still trying to create the perfect battle royale game. In the opinion of many, Apex Legends has come the closest so far.
Perfection is, theoretically, an impossible task as it will be impossible to please all gamers. Some prefer fast-paced gameplay, while others prefer a more realistic experience. Furthermore, they want these in varying degrees.
- Read More: What is the ultimate battle royale game?
With that said, the pace of the gameplay, the map design and the shooting mechanics of Apex Legends might have combined to find a sweet spot among battle royale players.
Additional features such as respawn beacons, legends and even finishers have only added to the allure that is Apex Legends. Just ask a avid player how much their main character means to them, and you'll understand the connection that is made between player and legend.
EA and Respawn
Electronic Arts (EA) is the publisher of Apex Legends. Even fringe video gamers will know who they are as they are among the most notable publishers out there and that they have a lot of resources.
Apex Legends has some serious backing behind them, and is sure to receive more of it continues to thrive. Having EA on their side means pull within the video game industry, money for advertising and funds that most developers can only wish for.
Respawn, the developers for Apex Legends, have also done a stellar job in making the game. They've avoided many of the mistakes that other developers, including EA themselves, have made in recent years, meaning that they've kept the community's support.
While Apex Legends is the hottest thing in the gaming world right now, it also has an abundance of popular streamers playing it - the perfect advertisement.
Streamers command the attention of millions of followers around the world. Simply put, if a lot of big streamers are playing your game, you're in good stead.
Twitch metrics show the huge popularity of Apex Legends in February. It currently boasts the best average viewers per stream and has had the highest concurrent viewers, topping out at over 650 thousand.
It still trails Fortnite for the most streamed game which isn't overly surprising. Interestingly, it also trails League of Legends (LoL) for the most hours watched on a game. However, this can be attributed to the major competitive leagues for LoL starting in February.
The popularity of Apex Legends has resulted in various tournaments being held for the game already. These have included Code Red and Twitch Rivals, bringing in a huge number of viewers.
With the likes of Dr Disrespect, Ninja, summit1g, shroud and many more singing the praises of Apex Legends, it's hard to see it failing any time soon.
Comparisons to Fortnite, Blackout and PUBG
In terms of hype, there is no doubt that Apex Legends leads the way. The new Titanfall-esque battle royale experience does have the distinct advantage of being the newest player to the table.
Once this initial honeymoon phase subsides, it will be clearer where it stands among other battle royale stalwarts of Fortnite, Blackout and PUBG.
Due to Apex Legend's unique map, time to kill and intuitive new gameplay, it is hard to offer a direct comparison against its main competitors.
It appears the developers at Respawn have targeted a middle-ground in terms of setting and game speed, while refining some of the more annoying parts of the battle royale genre. Add the fact that you can choose a character with a special set of skills, and it quickly begins to feel very different.
A perfect example of addressing and fixing a problem within battle royale games is the new respawn concept (Not to be confused with the developer Respawn). Battle royale games are unforgiving - if you die, you are waiting for the next game before you return to the action. Apex Legends, though, offers the chance to get a teammate back in the game by taking their card to one of many respawn points.
Of all major battle royale games at the moment, Fortnite and PUBG probably differ the most. One has cartoon-like graphics, is fast-paced and isn't worried about realism. Conversely, PUBG is primarily a slow-paced battle royale experience played in huge maps with an emphasis on realistic gun battles.
Naturally, Apex Legends had been in development for quite some time before its release and it is therefore these two games that were perhaps their yard stick. When looking at elements such as graphics, game speed, gun-play and even the number of perks, it does look like they were trying to encapsulate the best of both.
Much like Call of Duty: Blackout, Apex Legends has had the advantage of seeing how Fortnite and PUBG played out in the public's perception.
Treyarch also had the opportunity to analyze previous battle royale games and adjust accordingly. Blackout is arguably the smoothest battle royale game to date, especially on console, and maintains the unmistakably premium feel of CoD's shooting mechanics.
While Apex Legends has, like CoD, gone for a middle-ground where pace and gun play is concerned, it has found a gap in the battle royale space by introducing a futuristic world where the time to kill is among the highest we've seen.
Elsewhere, Fortnite continues to keep its fan base interested with frequent updates. However, in terms of raw gameplay, it looks like Apex Legends and Blackout have surpassed it in the eyes of many fans.
Apex Legends Numbers
Nothing proves the success of Apex Legends more so than the impressive statistics it can boast. These vary from social media followers, Reddit subscribers and most importantly player count within the game itself.
The mysterious announcement stream, use of top streamers and personalities, and community interaction from the developers made for the perfect marketing campaign in the game's early days and weeks.
The official Apex Legends Twitter account has gone from zero to over 727,000 followers in February alone. To put that in perspective, the official PUBG Twitter has less than double that but was made in April 2016.
Elsewhere, the official Apex Legends Subreddit is also thriving. It has in excess of 500,000 subscribers and shows little sign of slowing down.
Developers regularly respond to community members on Reddit, taking a leaf out of Epic Games' book and the way that they have handled the Fortnite community.
— Vince Zampella (@VinceZampella) February 7, 2019
However, as with any game, player count is king. In any multiplayer game, especially battle royale, a large player count is required to keep waiting times reduced to a minimum.
It has been confirmed that 25 million unique players have entered King's Canyon. Moreover, this was the released number as of February 13. As a result, it isn't unreasonable to assume the actual number surpasses this by a substantial amount as we approach March. Also, there have been a confirmed 2 million concurrent players.
As this number comes from official Apex Legends sources, it's safe to assume this is across all platforms, though.
While there's truly no telling where Apex Legends might be in the coming days, weeks, and months, it's clear that Respawn have a true winner on their hands for the time being.
The true test will be whether it can avoid the pitfalls made by Fortnite and PUBG by finding a balancing between their casual and competitive communities.
For the time being, though, there's never been a better time to be a battle royale fan.