Respawn’s surprise hit Apex Legends just achieved a truly impressive gaming milestone. So can we please not view it exclusively through the lens of Fortnite, as hard as that might be?
Apex Legends hit 50 Million players worldwide! We are humbled by all your support and can’t wait to show you what’s next. pic.twitter.com/QTDH57lfvB
— Apex Legends (@PlayApex) March 4, 2019
It’s awfully tempting to think of every new game to shoot to the top of the charts in terms of how it relates to Fortnite. But doing so in the case of Apex would be to do the game a disservice. While they share a meteoric rise in popularity, we as a community should have room for two well-made games without having to make one beholden to the other.
Apex Legends became a runaway success practically overnight. Within a month of the game’s release — which itself came almost completely out of nowhere as Electronic Arts did no pre-release publicity — the player count has hit 50 million. And I can see why: the game is a blast, combining the best of both hero shooters and battle royale games.
By any metric, that player count is a staggering number. As esports data firm Roundhill Investments was quick to point out, Fortnite took four months to hit the same milestone. Several popular streamers on Twitch took a crack at the game as well, putting it neck-and-neck with Fortnite in viewer numbers.
— Paul Tassi (@PaulTassi) February 10, 2019
Does that mean it’s going to completely displace Fornite? No, of course not. Epic has had months to dig Fortnite‘s trench into popular culture and I’ll wager the only way it’s going to be uprooted is by the relentless march of time and entropy. Eventually everyone will get bored, and/or a poorly-received update or design choice will drive community goodwill down. Nothing lasts forever — that doesn’t mean there has to be a specific “Fornite killer.”
If we’re being honest, a lot of games have attempted to be that Fortnite killer. Realm Royale, Radical Heights, Culling 2, Darwin Project, Ring of Elysium, even Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 — each had aspirations to carve itself a piece of the battle royale pie, if not make off with the whole thing. Whatever success each had was hobbled by the constant comparison to the current champion.
Apex deserves the benefit of its own success, as do the others (or lack thereof). And in Apex‘s case, if you compare its rise to Fortnite, you run the risk of being disappointed when its success is not similarly widespread. It’s a different kind of game, and not as easy to digest as Fortnite, so chances are good its numbers are eventually going to plateau. Even if it does eventually hit a number comparable to Fortnite‘s record highs, actually comparing the two directly would be like comparing the height of a palm tree to that of a redwood — you aren’t taking into account the very different make-up and environments of the two.
I can understand the desire to look at the two together, given the shared genre. Epic probably isn’t helping by cribbing features from Apex such as the innovative and inclusive ping system. But doing that just robs Apex of the chance to be a success all by itself.
Apex isn’t going to bring about the death of Fortnite. And it shouldn’t have to in order to be called a hit.
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