You would be hard-pressed to find even the most casual of gamers who haven’t tried out Apex Legends, the new free-to-play game taking the world by storm. Apex Legends is the newest addition to the battle royale genre, developed by the team at Respawn Entertainment. You may know Respawn as the ones responsible for Titanfall and Titanfall 2, as well as having links to Infinity Ward, the creators of the famous Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. With this kind of track record, you would expect any future releases to be a hit as well.
One thing no one was expecting, even Respawn themselves, is the monumental success the game has seen in its short lifetime. With the most recent announcement today, Apex Legends has reached 50 million unique players having played the game since its February 4th, 2019 release. To put this into perspective, Fortnite: Battle Royale, the game it seems the entire world is playing, (even Ellen Degeneres and Drake) took over 16 weeks to reach 50 million players; it took Apex Legends 4 weeks. That last part did not come as a surprise though, Apex Legends has been breaking the records set by Fortnite every step of the way, starting when it was announced that Apex Legends hit 1 million players only 8 hours after releasing to the public.
How is all this possible? Especially for a game no one heard about prior to a month ago, considering there was essentially zero marketing for it pre-release. A few things went into this:
Respawn knew they needed to take a unique approach to how they went about showcasing and promoting their new game. As line producer Drew McCoy said himself, “we’re doing a free to play game, with essentially loot boxes, after we were bought by EA, and it’s not Titanfall 3. It’s the perfect recipe for a marketing plan to go awry, so why have that – let’s just ship the game and let players play.” Respawn knew that marketing the game prior to release would likely result in backlash and negative criticism before anyone even played the game. As a result, they went with the risky approach of simply releasing the game and letting the players decide for themselves. It turns out Respawn’s confidence was warranted and gamers loved it.
To give credit where credit is due, Apex Legends is a great game, its success is well deserved. For a surprise release that did not include a beta or any real public testing, it is remarkably smooth with little to no real bugs; something that can’t be said for many games being released in today’s age. I personally have sunk many hours into Apex Legends already and I’m not alone. Testimony from one player claims that it has rejuvenated the “magic spark of gaming” and brought him back to the joy he used to experience when he first started gaming as a child. Reddit user u/Blazzer95 proclaims “It’s amazing, I’ve never been much into battle royales, didn’t like PUBG, Fortnite or COD, this game sparked something in me. The movement, responsiveness, and shooting all feel top-tier.”
Apex Legends is a breath of fresh air, especially for those coming from Fortnite. Fortnite has become stale for many players, it has dominated gaming for almost an entire year, leading Twitch as the most-watched game for 11 months in a row before being dethroned by Apex Legends this February. The skill ceiling and as a result, the skill gap in Fortnite has become exceedingly large, resulting in games being almost insufferable for newer and casual players. Apex Legends offers them the outlet they were looking for with an escape from the building mechanics and constant game-changing updates that come with Fortnite.
Although Apex Legends could stand on its own, you cannot discount the contributions big-name streamers such as Shroud, Ninja, and CouRageJD played in the games rapid success. These streamers along with a few others were all paid as part of the marketing campaign to play Apex Legends as it released. This led to massive hype in the online world and everyone rushed to see what it was all about. The effect these influencers had was tremendous and difficult to truly measure.
These reasons together form to answer how Respawn was able to release a game nobody knew anything about until it launched and within a month be competing with the colossus that is Fortnite for the top spot in gaming as a whole. With the recent release of Fortnite – Season 8, Fortnite has already begun to take back some of its real estate on Twitch. What Respawn does these next few weeks and months will be crucial to the future of Apex Legends. Does Apex Legends have true staying power? Or will its success be short-lived, slowly fading away like many other battle royales before it? Let us know in the comments what you think the future holds for Apex Legends.