In today’s overcrowded and ultra-competitive battle-royale market, it seems nearly impossible to successfully differentiate your game from the rest, but that’s exactly what Respawn Entertainment’s latest hit, Apex Legends, managed to achieve. It was released for PC, PS4, and Xbox One on February 4th, 2019.
Apex Legends is a competitive, first-person, and hero-based shooter. Its use of “Legends” as hero classes is similar to the approach used in Blizzard’s Overwatch, but unlike Overwatch, Apex Legends is a free-to-play battle royale game. Specifically, the hero classes take form in each character’s hero-specific abilities that synergize with friendlies or terrorize enemies.
Apex is also a loot-collecting multiplayer game played in squads of three. Most battle royales focus on one vs. all game modes, so for Apex to have a default game mode using teams of three sets it apart. It also means that there is a specific and cooperative game dynamic that the developers intended players to experience.
The developers have equipped each character class with abilities that can sway the tide of battle if properly coordinated with squad mates. Pathfinder, for example, creates a zip-line that can be used by your entire squad to quickly traverse vast distances, but beware; enemies can hitch a ride as well. Gibraltar has a shield that he can drop to defend his team and Bangalore can create a smokescreen that completely obscures a large area from view. Both abilities can be used in offensive or defensive situations.
Not only do the character abilities encourage teamwork and coordination, but so does Apex’s hugely popular “Ping” UI system. With a single button, players can use context sensitive functionality to suggest a destination, warn squad mates about an enemy, or point out useful items.
Apex Legends takes place in the Titanfall universe. Players are able to use guns and abilities that have been previously seen in Titanfall games like the grappling hook, or the “Mozambique” handheld shotgun. It does not, however, feature any titans or giant mechs. For this game, developers chose to focus entirely on the hero classes and their abilities for robust gameplay.
Some have asked why titans are not a part of a game set in the Titanfall universe, but there is an immediate and apparent answer: Everything in this game is elegantly and intelligently set up for easy and meaningful team play, while titans as we know them from the last game are contrastingly too powerful and single-player oriented.
The most striking thing about Apex Legends, however, is not an element within the game, but the fact that it was announced, marketed, and released all on the very same day. This was an explosive and bold strategy that seems to have paid off, with Polygon reporting that Apex had reached over 50 million unique players within their first month after release. In contrast, it look Epic Games’ Fortnite over a year to reach the same number of players.
We reached out to Arturo Castro, the director of marketing at Respawn Entertainment to comment on this strategy. “We first focused on what would be our point of difference in the FPS market and the Battle Royale space,” he said, adding that the “announce and drop” strategy was worked on for close to a year during development.
According to Castro, he and the rest of the team at Respawn concluded that the best strategy in a saturated and competitive games market was to let their game “speak for itself,” given their confidence in the product and their involvement of several of today’s most popular streamers in the plan. Seeing similar patterns in the music industry, they coined it the “Beyonce Strategy.”
When asked what the most crucial element to the success of their strategy for Apex was, Castro replied, “having a truly coordinated effort while keeping it secretive. That’s what made it special.” and that they had “spent months agonizing over every asset,” adding that the team spent countless hours nitpicking their outward media and timing their messages exactly, all while keeping everything about the game under wraps.
The cohesion, teamwork, precision, and effectiveness that could organize such a massive launch event in such a short time is what Castro attributes to its success, adding “We basically crafted a 2 day campaign that had all the elements and ingredients that would typically be found in a 6 month campaign. I couldn’t be prouder of the work the team did.”
Apex Legends is currently available for free on Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC.