Epic Games vs. Respawn Entertainment: A Development Battle Royale

Everyone in the world has heard of Fortnite by now, the video game captivating millions of minds. The battle royale style game, developed by Epic Games, reached 125 million players less than a year after it launched in July of 2017. It has become both a financial and cultural success, and that is putting it mildly. Many of the dance animations in the game have been popularized in real life, and Fortnite references have become commonplace, especially amongst the teenage demographic. In 2018 it earned $2.4 billion in revenue, which is the most annual revenue of any game in history, according to the data analytics company SuperData. Furthermore, individual players, the most famous of all going by the name “Ninja,” have capitalized on the games popularity by streaming their gameplay on Twitch, through which they earn money based on the number of viewers. Clearly, Epic Games hit the jackpot with the development of this iconic game.

Enter Respawn Entertainment and their similar battle-royale-style game, Apex Legends. Apex Legends was released on February 4, 2019, and since then it has obliterated Fortnite’s early player base numbers. In just one month Apex Legends has over 50 million players, whereas Fortnite didn’t reach those numbers until four and a half months after its launch. All of this early success comes as a result of Fortnite and the path to success that it laid down for Apex Legends. Respawn Entertainment followed an unusual strategy for release, by not advertising the game at all and making it completely free-to-play, outside of in-game, optional microtransactions. This manner of release most likely would never have been allowed by strategy coordinators before Fortnite showed that it is a legitimate path to success. Thus, in many ways, Apex Legends owes its success to its competitor Fortnite.

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Unlike Fortnite, Apex Legends uses unique characters with special abilities that players can choose from, and it is understood to be a bit more “fast-paced.” Fortnite still holds an advantage through its cross-platform capabilities, allowing players with different gaming systems to play with each other, whereas Apex Legends players are restricted to only playing with other gamers on the same system.

Recently, Fortnite players have become frustrated with the Epic Games developers due to “upgrades” that have tainted the experience or worsened the game in the minds of the players. It is most likely these frustrations that have pushed some players to give Apex Legends a shot. Of course, Apex Legends’ growth could also be due to the new shiny toy phenomenon.

All this is to say, it will be very interesting to see the arms race that comes from Respawn Entertainment’s entry to the battle-royale-style gaming ring. In an industry worth billions of dollars, practiced by billions of people across the world, there is definitely room for both games. But with both games being so similar, it will force them to evolve and build upon the foundation for success they’ve already set. This could end up benefiting gamers most of all, thanks to the constant upgrades, to already-fun, free-to-play games.