What Can Game Developers Learn from Apex Legends' Success?Mar 15, 2019 | 1 Votes by Mikhail 10 rate Apex Legends surprised the gaming world when it was suddenly released last month. Since then, it brought a lot of fun to its 50 million concurrent players...and lessons to a lot of game developers out there.
Apex Legends landed last month and since then, it became an instant legend. Its overnight success isn’t a mere coincidence though. The team who made it, Respawn Entertainment, also made the quality yet virtually less popular Titanfall series. Add in consumer-friendly practices, beating the system, new mechanics, and not letting your publisher (in this case, it’s EA) interfere with your project, you’re bound to have a huge hit.
We’ve learned much from Epic Games’ Fortnite and Apex Legends brought in a few good lessons both game developers and publishers should learn from and even go as far as emulate. Let’s take a look some of them:
Once again, fair monetization is fun
Apex Legends is a free-to-play game, and much like Fortnite, it has fair monetization elements. By fair, we mean “you don’t have to spend a single cent to enjoy the game” kind of fair. Microtransactions are limited to cosmetic items like weapon and character skins, character banners, quips (things they say after a kill), and different animations. Granted, nothing gives paying players any gameplay advantages.
The game has a lot of “currencies” including coins you earn when you level up, as well as “crafting metals” you can get from loot boxes you receive whenever you reach certain levels. In turn, these can be used to purchase cosmetics, while the coins themselves are mainly for buying new legends. Though the grind to have enough currency to get what you want is quite lengthy it’s still fair because hey, it’s free-to-play.
When done well, loot boxes can be appreciated
Lootboxes have always been a subject of controversy. In a nutshell, it is an in-game reward akin to gambling. You buy one and the rewards inside it are random. At times, there are even duplicates and are part of an item instead of a part itself. It is frustrating and in a way, anti-consumer. Electronic Arts, in particular, is known for relying on this on titles like Battlefield 1 and Star Wars Battlefront II. The latter turned into a huge PR flop because of loot boxes.
Apex Legends has loot boxes, called Apex Packs. Unlike the games that came before it though, it’s executed well. You’re given loot boxes + currency rewards whenever you progress. Plus, they don’t contain parts of a single item, instead, they contain full items. If you’re lucky, you could get rare or even legendary weapon skins.
You need to take risks to avoid bad press
Apex Legends dropped out of nowhere like a Pathfinder main using a zipline to creep up from behind you to fire a Peacekeeper to the head. It was never marketed, nor there were any prior announcements leading to its release. Respawn took a huge risk, and it paid off.
Well, EA, which bought Respawn a couple of years ago, wasn’t exactly in good form recently. No one can ever forget the disaster that was Mass Effect Andromeda, Star Wars Battlefront II and Battlefield V. Two weeks after Apex Legends, Bioware (also part of EA) released Anthem which is, unfortunately, this year’s biggest disappointment. Moreover, the fires of EA’s loot box issues have not been stoked yet.
Respawn took the risk of not marketing Apex Legends to avoid the PR disaster swirling over the heads of their publisher. Imagine if they marketed it and said there were loot boxes. The game would have received flak even before it was released.
Battle-royale games can (and should) be fast-paced
Compared to most of its battle royale peers, Apex Legends is arguably the most fast-paced BR today (unless if you count Tetris 99). Its small map and loot distribution encourage and reward aggressive play. Sure, camping for healing and strategic purposes is a valid tactic, but you’ll get nowhere and deprive yourself of decent loot if you do it all game long.
This is what battle royale games should be, not snore fests where you’ll be deprived of any sort of action for 20 minutes before you’re popped by a sniper half a kilometer away.
Games should be polished experiences upon release
The number of battle royale games (and games in general) on open early access and beta is staggering. Some stay on this phase for months, which is just...terrible. Changes gradually come to these games in the form of content updates, gameplay tweaks, and bug fixes. Though some of them can be fun, the changes are drastic and usually, you’re left with a subpar experience.
In Apex Legends’ case, the game was polished upon release. Bugs and technical issues were far and few in between, and it was a complete experience overall. Sure, they’ll be adding more weapons and content soon, and the game is far from perfect with a few gameplay elements needing a couple of tweaks, but if you compare it to its peers, it had the best release. If you don’t have a polished product yet, don’t release it.