|Release||February 4, 2019|
|Genre(s)||Battle royale, first-person shooter|
Apex Legends is a free-to-play battle royale game developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts. It was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on February 4, 2019, without any prior announcement or marketing.
The gameplay of Apex Legends fuses elements of a variety of video games, including Respawn's own Titanfall series, battle-royale games, class-based shooters, and those with evolving narratives. In each round, approximately sixty players in squads of three will skydive on to an island, with one player controlling where their squad lands. The teams must then scavenge for weapons and equipment in order to fight other players, during which time the play area is gradually constricted in size until only one squad remains and therefore wins the match.
Work on the game began sometime around late 2016 and early 2017, though the project remained a secret right up until its launch. The game's release in 2019 came as a surprise, as until that point it had been assumed that Respawn Entertainment was working on a sequel to Titanfall 2, the studio's previous major title.
Apex Legends received positive reviews from critics, who praised its gameplay, progression system, and fusion of elements from various genres. Some considered it a worthy competitor to Fortnite Battle Royale, a similar game that had gained massive popularity in the previous year. The game surpassed over 25 million players by the end of its first week, and 50 million within its first month. According to EA, as of July 2019 the game had approximately 8 to 10 million players a week.
Apex Legends is a battle royale game in which up to 20 three-man squads land on an island before searching for weapons and supplies to then attempt to defeat all other players in combat. The final team alive wins the round. The game is set in the same sci-fi universe as Respawn Entertainment's Titanfall franchise.
Unlike other prominent battle-royale games, Apex Legends is also similar to "hero shooters", in that it allows the player to choose from a selection of player characters before each round, each with a unique set of skills. The characters are known as "legends" within the game.
The game focuses heavily on teamwork and includes a much praised system of nonverbal communication, known as "Pinging", which allows players to use their game controller in order to communicate to their team things like directions, weapon locations, enemies and suggested strategies.
Using the "Ping" command will create an icon (a so-called Ping) to appear at the location where the player is looking which is accompanied by an appropriate voice line from the player's in-game character. The Ping will be visible to the player as well as their teammates for a short duration. The Ping icon defaults to a "Go" command, which suggests to the squad an area to explore. However, if the player is looking at something specific (such as a weapon or a piece of equipment) then the Ping icon will change contextually to highlight the presence and location of that object.
The Ping command system also has more advanced functionalities, such as tapping the Ping command twice in quick succession to highlight enemies, holding down the Ping command to bring up more detailed options, Pinging when you need ammunition or equipment, context-based Pings which are unique to characters within the game, and being able to respond to or cancel prior Pings.
Players who become knocked down in the course of a game can be revived by their teammates. Should a player be killed completely, they can still be resurrected if their team members collect a banner, which appears at the place where they died, and bring it to one of several beacons on the island.
The gameplay of Apex Legends is considered to be very fast-paced and action-packed, as intense firefights will break out frequently between rival teams and with the game allowing players a very high level of movement speed and freedom.
Apex Legends is a free-to-play game meaning that there is no initial purchase required in order to play. The game instead includes a system of microtransactions and loot boxes which allow the player to spend both real money and in-game currency on cosmetic items, such as outfits for the game's "legends" and new colors for weapons.
The developers of Apex Legends have outlined their roadmap for the game's first year of additional content, with a new game season planned for every three months. Each new season is intended to bring with it the release of a new playable character, new weapons and purchasable cosmetic items.
The game's first season started on March 19, 2019. Associated with seasons are time-limited battle passes which reward players with new cosmetic items, should they complete in-game challenges during the season. Alongside new cosmetic items, seasons can also bring changes to the map and additional gameplay elements.
|1||Wild Frontier||19 March 2019 – 18 June 2019||The first season of Apex Legends introduced a new playable character known as Octane and included a number of bug fixes and quality of life improvements, including adjustments to so-called "hitboxes" and unique skills of the game's characters. Season 1 also brought with it the game's first battle pass and a large number of new cosmetic items.|
|2||Battle Charge||2 July 2019 – 1 October 2019||With season 2, the developers introduced another playable character called Wattson and also re-designed the layout of the game's island. Following an explosion (shown in the season's trailer), roaming alien wildlife, known as leviathans and flyers, have been attracted to the island and destroyed large areas, rendering parts of the map unrecognisable from the previous season. Season 2 also released a new weapon and introduced a new ranked mode of play, allowing players of a similar skill to play against each other, and adjusting a player's ranking based on their game performance.|
|3||Meltdown||1 October 2019 - present (ends 4 February 2020)||A new legend named Crypto is introduced who has tried to rig the Apex games. A new weapon known as the Charge Rifle is added and changes to Ranked will be made. The season also comes with a brand new battle pass. A brand new map, named "World's Edge" is also introduced, which has players fighting through volcanic and frozen landscapes. The map also includes a train which travels throughout World's Edge. The season also changes up the meta by removing certain attachments and introducing new ones whilst changing what current items can do.|
As an independently owned studio, Respawn Entertainment had previously developed Titanfall (2014) and its sequel Titanfall 2 (2016), both of which were published by Electronic Arts (EA) who eventually acquired Respawn Entertainment in 2017.
According to design director Mackey McCandlish, initial design on Apex Legends started before Titanfall 2 had shipped in 2016 and as of 2018 the entire Titanfall team at Respawn Entertainment was working on the project; however, executive producer Drew McCoy stated that work on the game didn't begin until the spring of 2017. He also confirmed that the game had approximately 115 developers working on it, making it the studio's most labor-intensive project. Titanfall 2, by way of comparison, had around 85 developers.
While the initial development had been for a potential sequel to Titanfall 2, the success of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds as well as Respawn Entertainment's recent acquisition by EA had caused them to reconsider their plans. The studio had previously tested Titanfall concepts in a survival game format which they found to be promising, and subsequently started applying these design elements in a battle-royale framework. The designers decided that having the pilotable Titans (large mecha) from their previous games would not work well in a battle-royale setting and instead focused on creating strong character classes which felt appropriate for the Titanfall franchise.
Respawn Entertainment CEO Vince Zampella told Venture Beat that Apex Legends, as a live-service and free-to-play battle-royale game, was a new challenge for the studio and represented a new way for them of developing games. Their design philosophy was focused on "chasing the fun" and designing all the mechanics around team-based play, rather than solo play. The final decision on major design factors, such as the size of the teams, the number of teams and the size of the map, were all based on what felt "most fun" to the developers and were strongly guided by "gut feeling".
Design director Mackey McCandlish also stated that, with Apex Legends, they were looking to challenge the conventions of the still relatively young battle-royale genre and to add their studio's unique touch to that class of games. They felt that the choice of three-man squads and a limit of 20 teams gave players on average a greater chance to win and also felt more in line with the type of intimate gameplay they were hoping to achieve. McCandlish also claimed that the studio felt the need to create a "defensible space" in the battle-royale mode which could not be easily imitated, and that the communication system, the three-man squads and the smaller playing area were all aligned with this goal.
As part of the development process, the game underwent extensive playtesting to ensure that all elements felt fun and balanced. Collectively the developers spent 100 to 200 hours a day trying out the game, a process which executive producer Drew McCoy called "probably the most important part of development". In order to refine the game's non-verbal communication system, the studio playtested the game for a month without the use of voice chat and applied fake names to the playtesters to predict how most players would experience the game.
Uncharacteristically for EA, the development of Apex Legends was kept secret until its release with no prior marketing or advertising. The release of the game therefore came as a surprise when it was revealed in 2019, not least as until that point it had been assumed that Respawn Entertainment was working on a sequel to Titanfall 2 rather than a battle-royale game – in late 2017, a source at Respawn Entertainment had told Kotaku that Titanfall 3 was planned to be released towards the end of 2018. McCoy told Eurogamer that the surprise announcement was intentional as they were concerned of community backlash when it was revealed that, rather than working on a sequel to Titanfall 2, they had developed a free-to-play battle-royale game. McCoy believed that Apex Legends would be well received only if consumers were able to play as soon as it was announced, rather than spend a prolonged period of time hearing or reading about the game.
Upon the game's announcement, it was widely speculated that EA was behind the decision of Respawn Entertainment making a free-to-play battle-royale game with loot boxes, rather than a sequel to Titanfall 2. However, McCoy has stated that there was no pressure from the publisher and was quoted by Gameinformer as saying:
[...] we decided to make this game. Not to be throwing EA under the bus, but this wasn't the game they were expecting. I had to go to executives, show it to them, and explain it and...not convince but more, "Hey, trust us! This is the thing you want out of us."
[...] This is a game where we had to say, "This is what we want to do. Help us get there."
They had no hand in development or anything about this game.
The game is built using a modified Source engine, the same engine used for Titanfall 2, however with a number of necessary adjustments to allow for the increased draw distances and the large game map. Apex Legends is believed to be pushing at the technological limits of its game engine and as a result, the game compromises on dynamic display resolution, with the quality of image and frame rate suffering particularly on console versions and on lower-end PC devices.
Prior to launch, McCoy confirmed there were plans to implement cross-platform play to the game in the future, though claimed that game progression and in-game purchases cannot be transferred across systems due to hardware limitations. McCoy has also expressed the desire to eventually bring Apex Legends to iOS, Android and Nintendo Switch, though there are no current plans to this effect.
According to anonymous reports, the Chinese corporation Tencent is currently working with Electronic Arts to bring Apex Legends to China, as partnering with a local Chinese firm is a requirement for Western media companies wishing to make their products legally available in the country.
Shortly after Apex's launch, it was seen as a potential esport competition, and Respawn had anticipated establishing events once the game had been established. As early as March 2019, various esport team sponsors began to assemble Apex teams for these competitions. ESPN launched its EXP program to showcase esports events running alongside other ESPN-managed sporting events. The first such event was the EXP Pro-Am Apex Legends Exhibition, run on July 11, 2019 alongside the 2019 ESPY Awards. An EXP Invitational event with a $150,000 prize pool took place alongside the X Games Minneapolis 2019 from August 1–4, 2019. However, as a result of the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings that occurred over that weekend, both ESPN and ABC opted to delay broadcast of the event out of respect for the victims of the shootings.
Upon release, Apex Legends received generally favorable reviews according to the review aggregator Metacritic. Some publications, including Destructoid, Game Informer, GamesRadar+, and PC Gamer, called it one of the best takes on the battle-royale genre thus far, and a worthy challenger to Fortnite Battle Royale's dominance of the genre.
Critics lauded the combat in Apex Legends. Destructoid referred to the gunplay as the best they had experienced in a battle royale thus far, however they felt let down that some of the mechanics from the previous Titanfall games were not present. Javy Gwaltney of Game Informer, on the other hand, claimed that the omission of the Titans and other elements from previous Respawn games was not a problem, and found the combat to be satisfying and the gunplay powerful. He added that the addition of heroes has the ability to make for more exciting combat than in other battle-royale games.
Reviewers also praised the non-verbal communication system in the game (known as the "ping system") with most considering it to be highly innovative. Polygon's Khee Hoon Chan opined that it "rendered voice chat with strangers largely unnecessary", and was emblematic of Apex's accessibility and astuteness. Destructoid likewise enjoyed the mechanic, predicting that it would become the new norm for the video games industry in battle-royale games. Rock Paper Shotgun called it the "gold standard for non-verbal communication in games" and noted that, while not an entirely new concept, Respawn Entertainment had refined the idea.
Apex Legends also received critical praise for the perceived diversity of its playable characters, which include a gay man and a non-binary character, though some reviewers felt that the nature of the game did not allow for a narrative which properly highlights this diversity.
Player-count and revenue
Eight hours after its launch, the game surpassed a million unique players, and reached 2.5 million unique players within 24 hours. In one week after release it had reached 25 million players, with over 2 million peak concurrent, and by the end of its first month it reached 50 million players. Within its first month available, Apex Legends earned $92 million in revenue across all platforms, which was the highest amount earned by any free-to-play game during its launch month. Throughout the month of April, it earned $24 million in revenue, which was 74 percent less than the amount it earned during its launch month.
Apex Legends was announced on February 4, 2019, the Monday before EA had reported its latest quarterly financial results, which did not meet expectations and caused EA's stock value to drop 13% the next day. However, as news and popularity of Apex Legends spread, analysts saw the game as something to challenge the dominance of Fortnite Battle Royale, and by that Friday, February 8, 2019, EA had seen its largest growth in stock value since 2014 on the basis of Apex Legends' sudden success.
In July 2019, EA told investors that the game had 8 to 10 million players a week and also credited Apex Legends with the company's recent upturn in live services earnings as their Q1 2020 financial results exceeded expectations.
'Iron Crown' event and loot box controversy
With the introduction of a so-called limited time event in August 2019, known as 'Iron Crown', the developers also released a number of new purchasable cosmetic items within the game. The vast majority of these new items could only be acquired through purchasing loot boxes, and the most sought-after item (a cosmetic axe for one of the player characters) could only be purchased at an additional cost after first having obtained 24 other purchasable items.
Players and media outlets decried that as a result of this transaction model, the cost of the most sought-after item was approximately $170 (or £130) – a pricepoint which Forbes called "hilariously out of touch" and compared negatively to most other major microtransaction models in the industry.
This resulted in a negative backlash from the player community and from industry journalists, particularly on Reddit, where members of the Apex Legends community forum traded insults with developers of the game with increasingly strong language being used by both parties.
As a result, Respawn Entertainment apologized for what they agreed was unfair monetization and promised to allow players the chance to purchase cosmetic items directly (rather than rely on loot boxes), albeit at an increased price. Respawn Entertainment CEO Vince Zampella also apologised on Twitter for members of the development team "crossing a line with their comments", while also defending that they stood up for themselves against alleged death threats and insults aimed at their family members.
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