Apex Legends launched with a thunderous boom onto the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in February of this past year. Although it had a fantastic start, the game has plummeted in popularity, and many are wondering if this is due to problems with the developer, Respawn Entertainment, or if EA has more control than players are aware.
The Start Of Apex Legends
When the game first launched, players were swarming over from all other titles, including the dominant Fortnite by Epic Games. Apex offered fans a pleasing aesthetic in that the design fuses concepts from the Titanfall series.
The game differed from other Battle Royale titles in that players were grouped into squads of three, with diverse classes that demand strategy and careful consideration of playstyle, and weapons that were far more accurate than in other games. As a free-to-play game, Apex Legends looked as though it would skyrocket to the top and remain there.
In addition, there was also speculation that the game would be a dominant entrant in eSports, as it offers players a more consistent experience than games like Fortnite, which has been criticized for its constant change. Right now, Fortnite is giving the world a perfect example of its problematic and hasty updates, with BRUTE Mechs dominating most games and almost every pro player and organization begging Epic Games to remove the unbalanced items from competitive matches.
So, despite being in a favorable position to start, what happened to Apex Legends?
The Battle Pass Problem
One of the problems with competing against Fortnite is that players expect similar value for their consumer dollar. While the game is free-to-play, many players spend on cosmetic items to support the developer.
The first notable issue came in the form of an underwhelming, uninspired, and grind-heavy Battle Pass for its first season of play. Like other games, their version of the Battle Pass contained 100 tiers of unlockable cosmetic items, but these were nowhere near the quality that one would expect from such a popular game.
In total, the pass provided only four new skins, and three of them were unlocked right away at level one. These skins had only the smallest of differences in their paint jobs, leaving most to wonder what the point was of releasing them in the first place. The rest of the items were bland, and in some cases, loot boxes, which frustrate players now more than ever as they do not know what they are receiving and are at the mercy of a random loot table selection.
Most problematic was that the Battle Pass lacked the creative challenges seen in Fortnite, which make acquiring tiers quick and fun. This meant that, in Apex Legends, the only way to level up was to play the game over and over again with no specific plan in mind. The grind was real, the rewards were unappealing, so few bothered to continue as a result.
The Iron Crown Debacle
With the announcement of the Iron Crown Packs, players seem to have hit their limit of consumer exploitation. As a limited-time event, players only have a small window to collect that cosmetics that they may want, of which there are 24. Each player can complete a set of tasks to be awarded two of these packs, but the remainder cost about $7 each in real money.
This means that if someone wants all the items, they’ll need to pay about $154. If a player only wants one specific skin, the only way to acquire it is to purchase one pack at a time and hope for the best.
Once again, we need to compare this to Fortnite, the dominant game in the genre, which treats its consumers with far more respect. There is nothing random about purchasing items in that game. The item shop shows exactly what one will receive, theoretically leaving players satisfied with their purchase, and not let down at the randomness that comes with loot boxes.
This Has EA’s Fingerprints All Over It
This recent controversy is problematic because it reeks of the manipulative practices we have seen from EA. These loot boxes are terrible for consumers, and rather than providing the items directly, encourage consumers to keep buying until they win the items they desire. These loot box mechanics are exactly what has governments up in arms as they seem to promote gambling to the target audience, which can range from underage youth to adults.
Recently, EA set the morality bar lower than we ever expected when Kerry Hopkins, VP of EA’s legal and government affairs, defended the use of loot boxes to the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sports Committee. Hopkins stated that "it’s like many other products that people enjoy in a healthy way, and like the element of surprise.”
According to this logic, loot boxes are beloved for the surprise mechanics they provide, and not for the items within. It is this kind of ridiculous spin that drives consumers away, but EA does not seem capable of learning their lesson on the matter, or, rather, they choose to ignore the calls for change.
As a result, many are now wondering if Respawn Entertainment is solely responsible for the Iron Crate Pack controversy, or if they are being heavily leaned upon by EA to adopt the model they have used in their games.
Apex Legends – A Death By A Thousand Self-Inflicted Cuts
The kindest way to describe the current state of Apex Legends is that it has destroyed its own potential in its pending death by a thousand cuts. One indicator of a game’s popularity is its viewership numbers on Twitch, which tell a story of how interested people are in watching the game's content. Although not representative exactly of the number of players in the game, we can see a steady decline over the past six months.
Apex Legends began with great promise, but its overall disregard for its consumer base started with bland cosmetic rewards and is currently represented by manipulative loot box mechanics. The progression tends to make one imagine their primary concern is getting as much money from their players as possible, rather than providing a quality experience and earning revenue through grateful players.
Fortnite is on track to earn $3.5 billion this year in revenue by often treating its consumers with respect, and Apex Legends could have taken a slice of that pie were it not so focused only on having consumers spend in the game through predatory practices. This kind of behavior can only last for so long before even the most devoted fans of the game decide that they have had enough.