Questions have arisen about Apex Legends and if the game’s growing pains have cost it its incredible launch momentum.
After a surprise release back in February, Apex Legends racked up the records quickly, hitting 2.5 million players in a day, 25 million in a week, and 50 million in a month. Many were quick to compare this trajectory to that of Fortnite, the genre’s game to beat, and to claim that the latter’s time at the top had come to an end.
Fast forward two months and Apex‘s total domination has not arrived. In fact, its viewership numbers on Twitch have fallen off quite hard. While it’s usual for a game’s popularity to drop a bit after launch, Apex‘s 300,000 first-week viewers average has now evened out in the 30-40 thousand range. For comparison, this is not far above PUBG, once battle royale’s top dog, which has been holding steady at 25,000 viewers. Fortnite, meanwhile, is trucking along at 100,000 more than both.
News site Polygon argues that developer Respawn Entertainment’s slow rate of updating is at the root of this decline. Spending most of its visible effort on bug fixes, the game’s seen only three balance patches since release. On the content-side, besides some uninspired cosmetics, only one new Legend and a single new weapon were introduced. Epic Games, on the other hand, has been pumping out new Fortnite content on a weekly basis.
This difference seems to stem from both companies’ design philosophies. Respawn’s stated before that they aim to ship polished updates, instead of iterating in a live environment, which is more Epic Games’ cup of tea. The latter has gotten Fortnite‘s developer in hot water with its competitive player base, but the developer does provide its much larger, casual audience with a game that feels alive and always changing.
Additionally, aside from delivering a general roadmap at launch, Respawn’s played it pretty close to the chest regarding future content. In a recent Reddit thread, one of its developers explained that this is to prevent the community from seeing promises where there are just ideas. This makes sense, but perhaps a better balance between that and Epic’s “any press is good press” approach is required.
It’s important to note that none of this means that Apex Legends is dead. Its appearance at TwitchCon Europe this weekend pulled in over 190,000 peak viewers and professional organizations are still heavily investing in the title. The main reason that we’re even talking about all of this is due to the expectations set by the game’s meteoric rise thus far. That said, it does seem clear that something needs to be done to keep the ball rolling, now that the initial launch hype has died down.
Writer, developer and esports observer from the land of cheese and windmills.