Apex Legends remains one of the best games in the battle royale genre, earning the top spot in IGN’s rankings. Thanks to very smooth and intense gameplay, battle royale fans love the game to the core. It’s remained as one of the most popular titles in the sphere of multiplayer gaming. But in terms of esports? Just like any other battle royale game, Apex Legends fails to perform.
Enter the new Apex Legends Arena game mode. A 3v3 game mode that rolls into one all of the best aspects of Apex Legends – its unique Legends and enjoyable gunplay. It gives players a more controlled environment to test their skills, removing randomness and puts a shine on tactical squad performance. It sure looks like a great fit for esports events, but will Electronic Arts and Respawn Entertainment pull the trigger?
In this article, we talk about why Apex Legends hasn’t become a successful esports title in spite of its strong gameplay. We also talk about the new Arena game mode, and how it fits in the esports landscape.
Why Battle Royale Esports just don’t work
The first issue that Apex Legends faces in its esports aspirations isn’t entirely its own fault. Granted, Apex Legends may probably be EA jumping in the battle royale bandwagon. But Respawn Entertainment took great care in making sure that Apex Legends won’t just be a me-too of other battle royale games. Indeed, this title remains one of the most unique battle royale games in existence.
However, battle royale isn’t a genre well-suited for esports. While the entire genre enjoys success in terms of critical acclaim as well as mainstream appeal, it’s just not fit for competitive play. Competitive titles take emphasis on removing randomness in the game to highlight the skills of teams and players. Competitions are meant to determine who is the best competitor in a contest. Randomness throws a curveball on the equation. No matter how skilled you are in a battle royale game, you’re at the mercy of the items you find when you drop to the ground. You’re at the mercy of the decisions made by others, whether or not you start in a hot area or not.
Another issue that battle royale games face is the large number of competitors it needs to start a match. Requiring dozens of teams to participate in a single contest poses a huge challenge to tournament organizers. Needing a lot of teams to sustain a single event also means that the competitive landscape requires larger upkeep. Events require more computers to hold a LAN event. You also need bigger prize pools to encourage players to compete in the face of so many opponents. With a lot of enemies to face, your chances of winning in a tournament are slim. Pair that with the randomness mentioned above and you have a game that actively discourages competitive play.
What Apex Legends Arena brings to the table
In the first place, Apex Legends‘ design already solves a lot of issues of the battle royale genre. Getting to choose a unique Legend with its own skillsets and perks allows players a modicum of control over their loadouts. It adds a layer of tactics and strategy to the battle royale formula – Legends allow players to take on specific roles within the team. It also gives players a toolset to work with regardless of what items they find once they drop. In essence, Apex Legends gets to reduce RNG. However, it’s still a battle royale game, which makes it a tough sell in esports.
The new 3v3 Arena Mode brings direct solutions to the above problems as well. The new Arena mode pits two teams of 3 against each other for up to nine rounds. To win an Arena game, your team has to defeat the other team at least three times, but also two times more than they defeat you. The best-case scenario is going 3-0 against your opponents, but going 3-1 is also acceptable. Going 3-2, however, doesn’t cut it. You’ll have to go 4-2 to win. Or 5-3. But if the competition reaches round 9 with a score of 4-4, the match enters a sudden deathmatch where the winner of the round wins all.
Apex Legends Arena solves the second issue right off the bat. By reducing the number of competitors to just two per match, organizers now have more flexibility in tournament formats. They can now do round-robins, single-eliminations, or double-elimination playoffs. Tournament organizers know how important this part is.
Secondly, Arena solves the issue of randomness. It allows players to purchase weapons before the start of a fight, giving them control over their loadouts. The game mode also adds more excitement, eliminating squash matches by offering the same amount of resources for both teams each round. There’s no need to go eco: your team can stage a comeback any moment of the fight. More resources get awarded to each team for each succeeding round, adding more variability and room for strategy to the game mode.
Finally, the new game mode highlights what Apex Legends does best: the intense and skill-intensive gunplay. It gives players a better chance of showing off their gunslinging skills but also gives spectators a much more focused show to watch. Not only is this the better game mode for competitive players – it’s also the better game mode to watch for fans.
Unique challenges and advantages to Apex Legends esports
Still, even with the new Arena game mode, Apex Legends still faces a couple of issues that Respawn Entertainment has to address before it can take off as an esports giant.
One of the biggest issues is its lack of custom lobby options for players and third-party organizations. They still can’t create their own private lobby without the involvement of Respawn Entertainment. While this gives Respawn better control over their esports environment, it discourages grassroots events. Grassroots events help grow the competitive environment and help expand the reach and mainstream appeal of an esports title.
Meanwhile, things are also shaping up for Apex Legends to overtake the esports landscape. Its upcoming mobile release will help grow its mainstream appeal. Apart from helping develop new esports talents, it also creates new fans to consume esports content. The mobile market has an undeniable impact on both esports and the gaming industry as a whole. Mobile games have also become more popular for the esports crowd in recent years. The move to mobile helps Apex Legends in a lot of ways, making it a more viable esports title than it ever has been.
Finally, Apex Legends arguably has the best gunslinging gameplay than any other game out there right now. It has a very high skill ceiling, which means that the title has big potential in terms of competitiveness.
While Apex Legends Arena Mode could become the game’s competitive game mode, its battle royale mode will continue to grow. It will remain as the bread and butter of Apex Legends, even serving as a training ground for those competing in Arena Mode. We’re looking forward to this new game mode. Apex Legends Arena will be released on May 4, 10 AM PDT, along with the Legacy update.