The instant success of Apex Legends sent waves throughout the gaming industry and changed our whole perspective on how success could be achieved. It went on to become the top viewed and played game in the world within days, toppling Fortnite off its throne in the process. Unlike Fortnite, Apex Legends had no hype, no announcements, and no adaptation or growth time. It just dropped out of nowhere and instantly became the new king of Battle Royale. What took Fortnite a few months and a total change in direction to achieve, Apex had done that right from the start. Some would argue though, that the game already had the formula for success as the Battle Royale genre had already matured enough by the time it came out and Respawn only needed to make the game better than Fortnite.
This meant using conventionally robust battle royale mechanics paired with solid gameplay (which Respawn had already done with Titanfall) and adding the cherry on top that would differentiate the game from Fortnite. This was the introduction of things like the ping system and the hero system. The fact that the game didn’t have any building mechanics, a feature a lot of people disliked in Fortnite paired with the fact that it was free meant that the game was pretty much destined for success. Apex Legends, in its first week alone, managed to gain more than 10 million players. The number went on to grow up to a staggering 50 million. However, Apex Legends might not be the sweet prince on a prancing horse we all expected it to be after all.
What is happening to Apex Legends?
Don’t get me wrong, Apex Legends is still massively successful and is still one of the most viewed and played games. However, the trends and the community opinions aren’t exactly encouraging. The player base for Apex has already started to stagnate. The interest and views for the game have just dramatically dropped during the past month. The Google search numbers have been on the downslope for some time now as well. Consequently, most of the big streamers have also moved on from the game and are switching back to Fortnite or other games. The game has seen a massive decline in the number of hours watched on twitch too, going from over 40 million hours to 10 million in just a single month. This is a cause for concern as according to some people, the game is still subjectively better than Fortnite.
In addition to that, the downfall of Apex Legends meant Fortnite coming out on top again. The games industry is a cruel business. If you go down from the top spot and show any signs of stagnation, people just assume that you’re dead and it is pretty hard to recover from that situation. So, the question arises. What is actually happening to Apex Legends? Well, the answer would be, nothing and that’s exactly what the problem is. Yes, Apex Legends is actually well on its way to irrelevance. It would still be an overstatement to say that the game is actually going to die. However, making such predictions might not be far off from what’s happening. Here’s why.
Why is Apex Legends stagnating?
1. No Content
The number one reason for Apex Legends not being able to keep up with Fortnite and retain its top spot is pretty simple. The game just does not have enough content. Apex Legends has been out for over 2 months now and during that time it has only had one new character and weapon. In addition to that, there is still only a single playable game mode in the game. The map hasn’t changed either and it doesn’t take time for things to start to feel old. Yes, the game is still brilliant with amazing gameplay mechanics but sometimes that just isn’t enough to maintain player base as things start to get repetitive and boring. Apex Legends has also only had like 3 major updates and patches since launch including a Season 1 and Battle Pass that did not really offer anything special over the competition either.
In contrast to this, everything is efficient and rosy on the Fortnite camp. Sometimes, gaming is a zero sum business and one man’s win is another man’s loss. This is the case here as well. You see, Epic Games is just too big for Apex. The company has thousands of employees with most of them working on Fortnite. The game receives weekly updates adding just so much content that you could actually not play the game for a week and come back to a whole new experience. In the past 2 months alone, Fortnite has had dozens of new gameplay mechanics, game modes, weapons and other items added into the game. Fortnite’s art style and overall setting also makes it easier for the developers to add a bunch of weird stuff and not make it look out-of-place. Apex Legends just cannot keep up with such competition.
Another reason for Apex Legends doing poorly now is the lack of matchmaking options. The game just does not have any sort of real matchmaking and instead pairs you up with random players. This means that someone with a million hours and kills can get matched up against someone who is just playing their 4th game. The disparity in skill level between these two players would be massive and would just result in a bad overall experience for the lesser player. While Fortnite and other Battle Royale games suffer from the exact same problem as well, they’ve been out for a lot longer and have had a chance to develop an actual loyal fan base. Apex Legends could have possibly done a lot better if it had just added some sort of ranking and matchmaking mechanics.
Putting players of similar skill levels against each other in a match can have a significant impact on the actual enjoyment of the game. Consequently, as players enjoy the game more, they would tend to come back to it more often and play it for a longer period of time as well. However, it is just sad that Battle Royale games have been let off the hook in this regard for such a long time. They have just been extremely lazy when it comes to matchmaking as good matchmaking systems are pretty hard to implement. In my opinion though, as the skill ceiling gets even higher, the disparity will grow. This will result in a greater portion of player base feeling unsatisfied with the game. The problem plagues all the Battle Royale games and not fixing it could damage the whole genre.
3. Streamers and Esports
Streamers are an extremely important factor for the success of a game these days. Some of the biggest streamers on twitch like Ninja and Shroud have been the key forces behind driving both Fortnite and Apex Legends to such success. Millions of people watch these livestreams and videos resulting in a very high percentage of engagement and potential customers for the game. So, as expected, companies value these streamers very highly. EA paid popular streamers millions of dollars to play Apex Legends and promote the game. This made the game gain quite a lot of traction and played an important role in the initial success of the game. However, as time went by, the streamers started to get tired of the repetitive content of the game as well and reverted back to Fortnite.
Twitch streamers have a lot of influence over their audiences. Some people take their word as gospel and really value their opinions. So, if a streamer says that he doesn’t like a game anymore, chances are that his fans would tend to skew towards that same judgement as well. So, losing key streamers to Fortnite again also meant that Apex Legends was inevitably going to lose views and players. Fortnite has also managed to throw many tournaments with millions of dollars in prize money. This has lured a lot of people into actually getting good at the game and competing on the big stage. Just adding that competitive element paired with prize money lures a lot of attention towards the game. On the other hand, Apex Legends doesn’t have any esports presence and it just doesn’t have enough content to do that either.
Apex Legends is still a massive hit for Respawn and EA. There is no denying that it has the accolade of being one of the fastest growing games of all time. However, keeping that top spot is what matters. When you’re up against the likes of Fortnite, competing can be a real nightmare. While Apex Legends is still consistently in the top 5 most viewed games on twitch, the interest in it is clearly fading. The reasons behind it are also pretty black and white.
Respawn entertainment needs to double down to sort these issues out as soon as they possibly can. Apex Legends needs consistent injections of meaningful content in order to stay relevant. The game has a lot of potential but this industry is cruel. We’ve seen multiple studios and games dying because of stagnation. We’ve just got to hope that Apex Legends doesn’t end up being one of them.