Apex Legends proves battle royale is no fad. In fact, it’s just getting started

Apex Legends

Apex Legends is a monster.

On February 11, Respawn Entertainment announced the game had surpassed 25 million players and more than two million concurrent. It also continues to dominate Twitch. Streamers playing Apex have averaged a total of over 250,000 viewers over the past 7 days. That’s twice as many as Fortnite, and almost ten times more than PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

It’s not an exaggeration to say Apex came from nowhere. While anyone paying attention to Respawn knew the studio had a title planned for 2019, few thought it’d arrive so early in the year. Now, it stands tall as the game everyone must beat, and proves the ‘battle royale’ genre is far from tapped out.

The same, but different

The sudden popularity of Apex Legends might seem strange at a glance. The ‘battle royale’ genre hardly lacks for entries, and many of them are extremely popular. Fortnite has taken the world by storm, of course, but there’s also Call of Duty: Blackout, Realm Royale, Unturned, Ring of Elysium and, of course, the original – PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

That sounds like a lot of games if you believe all ‘battle royale’ games are the same. Of course, they’re not. The games above all fit a niche and with their own unique twist. Realm Royale may look like Fortnite, but the two games don’t have much in common. The same can be said of Call of Duty: Blackout and Apex Legends.

If anything – and this is a little terrifying to think about – the battle royale genre is lacking games. The massive popularity of top-tier games has sucked variety from the genre. Games that can’t hit critical mass founder, and even if they don’t fail outright, they aren’t part of the genre’s public image.

Even I started to wonder if it was time to move on. Then Apex arrived.

Yea, there’s a ton of little battle royale projects in early access. Even Cyanide and Happiness has a battle royale game in the works. Seriously! Yet most of these titles are, for better or worse, off the radar. Many gamers haven’t heard of them, and never will.

Paul Tassi, Senior Contributor at Forbes, expressed a similar concern in an article about Call of Duty: Blackout he wrote in October.  “Blackout feels like it’s about to suck the remaining oxygen out of the room when it comes to the Battle Royale trend,” he said, going on to worry it’d be the last game of “any real significance” in the genre.

Apex Legends
Apex Legends

At the time, it felt as if Tassi’s prediction might become true. Fortnite and Blackout dueled throughout the holiday, while PUBG maintained a slipping but stubborn grip. Other battle royale games received little attention as the genre began to slip out of mainstream headlines.

And you thought that was the flood?

Perhaps the bubble had burst. 2019 was a new year. The genre’s founder, PUBG, is fast approaching its two-year anniversary. Even I started to wonder if it was time to move on. Maybe Anthem would be the next big thing.

Then Apex arrived. It immediately tapped into a fat vein of excitement by offering an alternative option at the low, low price of free. Mixing the pseudo-realistic grit of Call of Duty with hero-shooter mechanics like Overwatch, Apex gave gamers a new twist to enjoy. Players flocked to it not just because it’s great (the best battle royale yet, if you ask me), but also because it’s different.

apex legends battle royale fad twitchapex
Apex Legend‘s viewer counts on Twitch.

The success of Apex shocked everyone, from gamers to stock market investors who, having abandoned Electronic Arts just days before, suddenly came rushing back to scream “take my money!” Suddenly, the battle royale genre seems to have plenty of oxygen. An excess of oxygen. So much, in fact, that the genre is again blazing red-hot.

But the implications are much deeper than that. In a day, Respawn Entertainment took the table on gaming’s 2019 release schedule. Anthem? The Division 2? Seikiro? Days Gone? They’ll be popular, I’m sure, but there’s zero chance they’ll leap the hurdle set by Apex Legends. We’re already playing the biggest game of the year, and we didn’t even know to anticipate it.

Look for more surprises

There’s a risk, of course, that Apex has completed what Tassi thought Call of Duty: Blackout would manage. Respawn Entertainment is already gearing up for regular content drops to keep the game alive, and it’ll be serious competition for anyone else looking to enter the battle royale genre with a copycat release.

Luckily, there’s no big copycats on the schedule aside from Battlefield V’s Firestorm, which likely won’t gain traction given the base game’s struggles. There’s room for more surprises in the battle royale genre this year. Maybe Ubisoft’s Skull & Bones will shock us with a 50-player mosh pit galleons and frigates. Or – more likely – the next big game come from project no one has heard of yet.

You thought 2018 was the year of battle royale? Pffft. The genre is just getting started.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.


Over 16,000 Apex Legends cheaters have already been banned by Respawn

Respawn Entertainment revealed that it has already banned over 16,000 cheaters in Apex Legends in the less than two weeks since its release. The developer may be working on an in-game feature to report cheaters.

You're never too broke to enjoy the best free-to-play games

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially popular League of Legends.

Apex Legends dataminers discover upcoming characters and weapons

Dataminers have discovered code in Apex Legends that refers to characters named Octane and Wattson, and weapons named the Havoc Rifle and the L-Star EMG. Octane is believed to have a Stim Pack ability, while Wattson has the Tesla Trap.

Here's our Champion's guide to picking the best character in Apex Legends

Apex Legends' use of heroes with different abilities helps separate it from other battle royale games. To help you choose your legend, we've put together a legend guide detailing their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.

Apex Legends adds its first new gun, the Havoc energy rifle

Respawn added the first piece of new content to Apex Legends, the Havoc energy rifle. It's available now for PS4, Xbox One, and PC players. The fully automatic rifle can be modded to shoot single-shot energy beams.

Samsung Galaxy S10 optimizations make it great for Fortnite

Samsung's new line of Galaxy S10 devices have been optimized for gaming. All three offer improved support for the Unity engine and the S10 Plus also offers vapor chamber cooling, similar to the Xbox One X.

Having problems with your Xbox One console? We have the solutions

The Xbox One has evolved over the years, but so have its problems. Thankfully, we have solutions for some of the console's most enduring problems, whether you're experiencing issues with connectivity or your discs.

Did Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown fall victim to the Madden Curse?

Join us as we take a tour through the long-running history of the Madden Curse -- and Tom Brady's recent accolades. We all know John Madden is a longtime NFL talent, but is he also an agent of dark forces?

These are the coolest games you can play on your Google Chrome browser right now

Not only is Google Chrome a fantastic web browser, it's also a versatile gaming platform that you can access from just about anywhere. Here are a few of our favorite titles for the platform.

Need help getting the Sleeper Simulant in Destiny 2? We’ve got you covered

The Sleeper Simulant is one of the coolest new Exotic weapons you can unlock in the Warmind expansion of Destiny 2, but it's an involved process that will take awhile. Here's everything you need to know.

Want to trick out your PlayStation 4? These themes will get you started

Personalize your gaming experience with some of our favorite themes for the PlayStation 4, including free, paid, static, and dynamic options. Fan-favorite third-party and exclusive games are also included.

Fortnite squads up with Ninja, Chan, and Samsung for exclusive K-pop skin

The Galaxy S10 Plus has features that make it great for mobile gaming and just like last year, Fortnite and Samsung have joined forces to bring an exclusive K-pop skin to the phone. Here's how you can get it.

Between Intel and AMD, these are the best gaming CPUs at every price

What are the best processors for gaming you can buy? You don't need to spend a fortune to get an amazing gaming CPU and now that AMD is competitive again, there are more choices than ever.
Virtual Reality

HTC Vive Focus Plus makes it easier for developers to port PC content

HTC Vive has announced the Vive Focus Plus headset. The upgraded stand-alone headset makes use of "six degrees of freedom" support in controllers for a PC-like virtual reality experience.