Yesterday, Fortnite developer Epic games came under fire for its culture of crunch. The game’s sudden and immense popularity sent its developers into dev overdrive, with staff reportedly regularly working 70-hour-long weeks to keep that steady stream of content and patches flowing.
Respawn’s Apex Legends was meant to be the game that disrupted Fortnite’s domination of the free-to-play Battle Royale scene. It’s a good game whose launch popularity was bolstered by an influencer-led campaign that saw the game’s numbers skyrocket past 50 million players in its first month. For a while, it seemed to have really put a massive dent into Fortnite’s player base, as well as cut into its Twitch and YouTube viewership.
That interest has plummeted, however, and interest in Respawn’s Battle Royale is quickly waning. A report by Seeking Alpha suggests that references to Apex Legends in Google search trends and Twitchmetrics have shown a steep drop in searches and Twitch views. Viewership of the game is down to just 30 000 viewers (as of last week) from a peak of nearly 400 000 viewers.
According to Seeking Alpha, Apex now only has 10% of the Google searches that Fortnite has, around 20 per cent of its Twitch viewers and just 4% of its YouTube searches. In a separate report from Stream Elements, it looks like Fortnite dropped below 100M hours watched on Twitch when Apex Legends hit, but by March not only bounced back but hit 118M hours.
The general consensus is that Apex’s growth was inorganic and boosted by popular Streamers. As they’ve moved away from the game, so have their audiences. While watched hours don’t exactly correlate to the number of people playing, when taken together with the Google and YouTube searches, they suggest that Apex’s player base isn’t stagnant, it’s dropping. Anecdotally, I have to say that very nearly none of my friends play Apex any more. There are probably a number of reasons for that, but I think the primary reason that it’s just not matching up to Fortnite is in its slower development.
Epic has been incredible at constantly updating Fortnite Battle Royale with new content, seasons, skins and more that it has a highly engaged audience. Respawn has not been able to even remotely match that pace, leaving players to find their thrills elsewhere. Fortnite’s constant updates, however, have come at a very real human cost, one that Respawn isn’t keen on.
Speaking at the Gamesbeat summit, Respawn CEO Vince Zampella explained that Apex was always going to have its new content dropped on a seasonal basis, as opposed to the steady stream of content Fortnite receives.
“Our intention was to always be seasonal, so we’re kind of staying with that,” says Zampella. “The thought was ‘hey we kind of have something that’s blowing up here, do we want to start trying to drop more content?’ But I think you look at quality of life for the team. We don’t want to overwork the team, and drop the quality of the assets we’re putting out. We want to try and raise that.”
That’s a nice sentiment, but the unfortunate reality is that most consumers really don’t seem to care. They want new content, and they want it yesterday.
Last Updated: April 25, 2019