For a game to be successful as an eSport, it first has to sustain popularity long term. What first appeared to be a promising new battle royal, Apex Legends skyrocketed to the top of Twitch, dethroning Fortnite.
This success has since plummeted, thanks to a stale meta and almost no content updates during a first season that was unanimously underwhelming. These issues have given players no reason to come back, and even fewer reasons to be interested in playing professionally and its eSports scene.
The way games like Overwatch and Fortnite are tackling the eSport community makes it plain to see why Apex has and will continue to fall short of these games’ popularity.
While a fundamentally different hero shooter, Overwatch is the gold standard for supporting an eSports community. With an ingrained competitive mode – something Apex lacks – and a clear path to becoming a professional player, Blizzard laid the groundwork for a community that has been popular for years.
There are four stages to becoming a professional Overwatch player. After players prove their skills in the open divisions, they can enter Overwatch Contenders Trials. Each season, players can sign up play to be part of Overwatch Contenders, with a yearly prize pool of $3,000,000.
Successful players can then get drafted to the Overwatch league, whose games are streamed on Twitch, ESPN and NBC.
Contracts for pro players are guaranteed by Blizzard, lasting one year with eligibility for extensions. Players earn a minimum salary of $50,000 along with health insurance and a retirement savings plan. Teams are also required to distribute 50% of their winnings to players.
At the start, the league had twelve teams, adding eight more in 2019. Five in China, two in Europe and twelve in the US. Come 2020, each team will play home and away games in stadiums in their respective cities.
Fortnite, Apex Legends’ closest competitor, is hosting a first party competitive tournament through 2019.
The Fortnite World Cup Online Opens are live from April 13 to June 16. These weekly online tournaments boast a $1,000,000 prize pool, leading up to the Fortnite World Cup Finals July 26 through 28. Hosted in New York, the sold-out event has a $30,000,000 prize pool.
While Fortnite continues to be at the top of Twitch, Apex fell off a cliff in terms of viewership since its release.
Between May 25 and June 1, Fortnite has been the top game on Twitch by a mile, getting a total of 26,521,743 watch hours. That’s 12.5% of Twitch’s total viewership. Meanwhile, Apex – despite having its first official eSports tournament – is rank 14 with 2,391,087 watch hours, making up 1.1% of Twitch’s total viewership.
That’s behind World of Warcraft (5.4%), CS: GO (3.3%), PUBG (2.5%) and Auto Chess (1.3%) according to Twitchtracker.com.
A contributor to Seeking Alpha, a crowd-sourced news service for financial markets called the game “overvalued” saying, “Although Apex did have a strong launch, this traffic was mainly acquired and not organic. EA spent millions to pay streamers to stream Apex gameplay on launch day and a few days afterward. When the streamers quit or stopped streaming Apex, interest in Apex dropped sharply.”
With this drop in interest, only time will tell whether or not players will come back.
Apex players have taken issue with how stale the game has been getting. The first season of the game lasted for four months, only adding one gun, one hero and no map changes. In contrast, the first season of Fortnite lasted under three, since then the game has added many weapons and items as well as frequent map changes and rebalances, making the game fresh and keeping players coming back.
While these things may seem irrelevant to the competitive scene, viewers and by extension, their wallets are the way tournaments are funded.
The first Apex eSports tournament started May 29 and will last eight weeks. With a $50,000 prize pool split up weekly with $10,000 going to the team with the most points at the end.
Between lack of first-party support, meager prize pools and a stale meta, serious battle royal players are going to have a hard time validating Apex Legends as their time commitment over Fortnite.
With season two coming in a few weeks, Apex needs to regain popularity to get eyes on the game. When viewers come back, prize money goes up, and more people find it worth it to commit time to master the game.
Developer support is the name of the game when it comes to making a successful eSport. Whether Respawn wants to commit like Blizzard did with Overwatch and Epic did with Fortnite has yet to be seen, but the future of Apex as an eSport might depend on it.3