"Apex Legends," Respawn Entertainment's Titanfall-based battle royale, launched three years ago. "Apex" has swiftly become a top battle royale game since its February 2019 launch.
A game that was an underdog to "Fortnite" quickly became a cultural landmark. It hit 100 million gamers globally in April 2021 and has added 28 million more in the last fiscal year. The game is expected to produce nearly a billion dollars this year, making it one of the world's biggest.
The game's 12th season debuts a new nine against. nine game mode called "Control" and a new character, 55-year-old freedom fighter Mad Maggie. Despite the game's success, its developers have kept a small-team ethos, depending on experimentation and instincts to make the kind of game they enjoy. The Washington Post spoke with Respawn Entertainment's Game Director Steven Ferreira and Senior Design Director Evan Nikolich on "Apex's" future.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
As the game has evolved and gained more players, a wider range of players are checking out "Apex." "Apex" has matured, and players who have been around since the beginning have developed new priorities.
We've always worked on "Apex" experimentally. We're not afraid to attempt new things and disrupt traditions. In former seasons, we nuked Kings Canyon's Skull Town. That was an experiment to explore how it would affect player behavior; would it be better for the game long-term?
No, when the game launched, we hoped it would work and be popular. We quickly learned the answer. Fast? We spent the first two years playing catch-up.
Maybe that was one of our major lessons: how we structure ourselves and work within a live service, as opposed to developing a game the way we've done in the past, where you spend two years constructing a game, launch it, then start building for another two and a half years. We launch [a new season] every three months, so the way we iterate has changed, but for the better because players provide frequent input on what's working and what's not.
Nikolich: It's a game that can be played at a high level of ability and by beginners. It's a sport to me. Growing up, I played basketball often. The NBA plays basketball at a high level, but there are pickup leagues and church leagues. The same sport is played. It provides a skill ceiling for gamers while still being accessible to newcomers and keeping them excited.
I don't know if we strive to do anything differently or better. We just keep making games the same way. We don't have a business plan with goals. And we'll do it this way for 10 years" is pretty inflexible. Don't follow trends, right? We've always followed our interests. As data-driven as we are, it ultimately boils down to team passion.
When people love what they do, they do their best work. Evan or I could present a design or strategy to the public, but if it's not what they want, it won't work, right? We use the team's passion. It's just gut instinct. The game is produced by passionate game developers who like what they're producing and believe it's cool. Often, yes. A substantial section of the team spends all day producing the game and then plays it to unwind. Passion is a good business model, I think.
Nikolich: We know exactly what our IP is and where we're going. It's inclusive, too. Our Legends roster: They're diverse. We want every "Apex" player to see themselves in the game. When a game knows what it wants, it can stand out.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It could also attract new gamers to our game. They see that in a new game, hear "Apex" did it, and it draws them in.
I wish to use your relationship with Market to ask if "Apex" will open up its IP further.
Our universe has grown during the last three years. Since launch, we've been astonished by how much players care for the game's universe and tales.
Building on our own universe and investigating it further will always be the focus. We treat midseason events like a costume party where we can break away from the core Legend fantasies, and we welcome that freedom because it freshens things up for the players and the team. I suppose there are crossover prospects with other universes. You'll see some of it coming, and our collaborations will continue to grow.
Ferreira: We've always favored experimenting and not sticking to a plan. You asked about balancing accessibility with competitiveness. I think Control fills the void. Everyone wants to be a pro gamer, and they watch Twitch streams and think, "This is wonderful and intense. I wish I could do that." Most can't, though. No way. We wish to help players build their skills and practice "Apex" foundations in multiple ways.
Nikolich: We'll learn what works and what doesn't, then adapt it to battle royale. High-stakes battle royales are fun to watch. Twitch viewership doesn't always assist onboard players.
Ferreira: And there's Control. You needn't worry about rank progression. Just press Control. You die, then respawn. Different weapons and loadouts are available. You don't have to loot. It's designed to be casual yet intensely competitive.
Ferreira: No endgame. Working on "Apex" is cool because it's live. We see no reason to reboot or sequelize. "Apex" should grow forever. We think our cosmos has a lot of creative potential.
We want to try more than we can plan on a calendar. No sequels are planned. No plans to end it. We're getting more good ideas to try.
Ferreira: Titans was tried. The Titanfall team loves the Titanfall universe. You'll witness Titanfall-inspired weapons, narrative, gameplay, and abilities. We've tried Titans several times. We've thought about how to implement them. We're not opposed.
Never say never, Nikolich. As the game evolves, "Apex" may be a completely different game three or four years from now.