Battle royale is the hot new genre and every publisher wants a big hit of its own. Fortnite has been the true winner-winner up until now, but we’re entering into a new era, with bigger and bolder takes on the genre emerging. Now we have Apex Legends, the new shooter from Respawn, the studio that developed the beloved Titanfall 2, pushing the genre forward. But no matter how many downloads Apex Legends generates in its first week, it’ll unfortunately never enjoy the mainstream success of Fortnite.
Apex Legends takes the battle royale formula that has been iterated on by PUBG, Fortnite, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4‘s Blackout mode, and refines it to a sharp point. The 20 teams of three drop into the battlefield, and hunt one another down with a unique variety of powers and abilities that you can use to dominate your foes online. It’s quick, intense, and feels like the most exciting battle royale yet. And of course, it’s free, so all of your friends can jump in and play without the burden of a financial investment.
Apex Legends is the very best example of a battle royale game, for its heroes, map, gunplay, mobility, and much more. There are dozens of small aspects you must commend Apex Legends for, and will leave you wondering how Fortnite and its ilk can possibly step up to this level. But despite the overwhelming success Apex Legends has enjoyed so far, it can’t possibly compete with Fortnite‘s brand power.
Apex Legends is new right now but it will have to jump over the apex of its hype to rival Fortnite. It’s a brand-new game and it’s getting millions of downloads. But how many of those players are going to keep playing, and how many of those players would actually convert over from a game like Fortnite? People like what’s familiar, and if you’re already a dedicated Fortnite player, it’ll take a small miracle to pull you away from your collection of skins now. Time will tell but it’s a huge number to try to surpass.
And while Fortnite is pulling at kids, Apex Legends is going after an older audience that might be harder to grab. Frankly, Fortnite has a large younger audience, and part of the reason for that is that appealing art style. It’s not a mean military game, and it’s more immediately pleasing to younger eyes. Anyone with young children, siblings or relatives have probably already seen the hype kids have for playing Fortnite, chatting with their friends, collecting skins and more. I’ve seen dozens of children, and even my own nephews, wearing knock-off Fortnite merchandise.
Not only does Apex Legends not have as strong of an identifiable art style, but the skins are also arguably far less expressive and appealing than what you can see in Fortnite. The large, dedicated, younger audience that Fortnite holds isn’t going to vanish just because another battle royale game appeared on the market. If that were true, Blackout would’ve already pushed Fortnite from its throne.
Fortnite has also become a brand name that has penetrated the mainstream. Enough children are playing Fortnite and plenty of mainstream media channels are creating news pieces on Fortnite that non-gamer are officially aware of it. It’s mainstream, and that is incredibly rare for any video game property. “Mom says I can play Fortnite” is the new “Mom says it’s my turn on the Xbox” and parents all over the world are screaming at their kids to get off Fortnite and do their homework — regardless of what video game they are actually playing. That is complete pop culture penetration. Apex Legends, although great, probably won’t never manage to do that. Its strengths are admirable but it isn’t as strong in some areas that make it more marketable, which is what Fortnite has and why it has stayed around for so long.
Although that’s not to say that Apex Legends must reach Fortnite levels of hype to enjoy success, of course. By all accounts, Apex Legends is already a massive success just based on the number of downloads it has received in its first week. No game needs to have the same legendary status as all of the others in the same genre, and there’s room for more than one battle royale experience. Apex Legends will be thriving among its contemporaries for a long time to come. But the scale of Fortnite might make other seem like a “failure” by comparison.
It’s arguable that Apex Legends is the very best battle royale game. At the least, it will be the battle royale game of choice for many players going forward, pushing PUBG, Fortnite, and Blackout into the background. But when it comes to mainstream media and the millions of Fortnite players that are out there, Apex Legends won’t be changing anything. That is a shame — the better game should have the lion’s share of attention and publicity — but that’s not the case because of how ingrained Epic’s game is as well as how it laser targeted younger people. Fortnite right now is the king, and sadly not even a game as good as Apex Legends will be able to change that.