Each week, Arda Ocal will break down one major topic in the world of battle royale titles, from competitive play to general gameplay, collaborations, content and much more. Fortnite, Call of Duty: Warzone, Apex Legends and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds are all on the table.
For our first edition, we're taking a look at Respawn's approach to the upcoming summer circuit of the Apex Legends Global Series, which was announced Wednesday, complete with a $500,000 prize pool and multiple events over several months.
Here's the inside scoop on how the event came together and why the developer has begun taking a more hands-on approach to developing the Apex esports scene.
I love asking high-ranking people in competitive leagues what their relationship is like with the developers of the games they occupy. Sometimes the developers fully support esports. Other times, the relationship is ... less than stellar. On Tuesday, I spoke with Apex Legends commissioner John Nelson. When I asked him this question, he talked about the game being in a great state currently and well received, as well as the upcoming summer circuit of the Apex Legends Global Series. But Nelson had an interesting second part to the answer.
"It's kind of funny to say, but in this work-from-home environment that we that we're in, it has allowed us to become even closer with our development team partners," he said.
Talk about turning a negative into a positive. It's kind of fitting, though, because Apex Legends competitive has done exactly that in the past few months.
Nelson and his team have experimented with tournament formats for the better part of a year before the coronavirus pandemic hit -- structure, points, prize pools, everything was on the table. Along the way, they have taken feedback from players and the community and made changes. If there was one loud complaint from the Apex Legends competitive community early on, it was that there was silence regarding events for what felt like a very long time. However, we've seen several online tournaments from Apex Legends, particularly since the pandemic.
Recently, the size of the prize pools became a concern; enter the Apex Legends Global Series Summer Circuit, a four-month event with a $500,000 prize pool.
"Everyone understands that when we launched the Apex Legends Global Series, online competition was meant to be used as qualifiers for live events," Nelson said. "In the early, early months here in reaction to coronavirus, we've been adding online competition, really to replace where we were supposed to have live events within the calendar.
"And with the Summer Circuit, what we really wanted to do was create the story that we were going to have with online and live events in combination previously, but with where we are now in an online world. And so we've created these interconnected competitions that will run throughout the months of the summer."
The summer events will begin on June 20 and see teams from around the world compete and qualify for September's "super regional" events, which combine regions such as Europe with Middle East/Africa; North and South America; Greater Southeast Asia with Australia and New Zealand; and Japan with South Korea. Nelson said that these geographical regions were specifically chosen to create a unique competition while still maintaining the integrity of the game, accounting for latency. The games will be broadcast on Apex Legends' Twitch and YouTube accounts.
While Apex Legends is in a good spot right now, both in terms of the game itself and the competitive scene, there looms an elephant in the room when it comes to first-person shooter titles: VALORANT. Riot Games' spiritual successor to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has not only attracted pros from that game to make a career change and become VALORANT pros, but also across multiple titles, including Apex Legends. Two former Apex Legends players for Sentinels, for example, recently defected to VALORANT.
Nelson said he's not too worried about a popular title coming into the FPS space and what that might mean for his scene.
"Gamers are going to play what gives them the best feeling of playing a video game. I know. For me, personally, it is Apex Legends," he said. "As new titles come out, players will try them out. Some will stick with those titles; some will come back to Apex Legends because that's their preference. But I'm not overly concerned with the new titles. The industry is going to continue to create games that people love, so we will continue to focus on the Apex Legends community and what's best for that community moving forward."
Nelson also said that once offline events are a safe option, the team will re-adopt old rules used before the pandemic hit, including the "match point" scenario.
This rule is both brilliant and terrifying. It's brilliant because it adds a whole new layer of drama that is absolutely welcome while watching any esports competition, and it's uniquely implemented here. It's terrifying because broadcasts can last seven hours, like the Preseason Invitational last fall. Nelson said the structure has been adjusted to award points to successful teams in advance of the final day and try to avoid longer days and player burnout.
As we approach the start of the Apex Legends Global Series Summer Circuit, you have to hand it to EA and Respawn -- as I write this, the game is in good shape, the weapons feel solid, the new Legend, Loba, is well received and the competitive community is being listened to. Sure, there are still some complaints out there, like scrimmage opportunities and recent Pathfinder nerfs, but overall the scene is in a healthy place that is prime to continue to grow. Slow and steady wins the race.
By now you already know that a 15-year-old Fortnite prodigy from Germany who goes by Jannis "JannisZ" Matwin won the Fortnite Champion Series Invitational Europe division and $120,000 prize. It was also announced on the broadcast that solos will once again take center stage in the next FNCS for Chapter 3 of Season 2 -- but after that, during Chapter 4, TRIOS IS BACK. Rejoice y'all: Trios will be making a triumphant return!
This is good news for everyone. Give the people what they want, and that's squads of three competing for a lot of money by dropping out of the party bus. I do admit that solo matches create more overall buzz and media attention (Kyle "Bugha" Giersdorf winning the Fortnite World Cup all on his own was a key factor in the sharp media firestorm that ensued around the game, for example), but trios is more enjoyable overall for all parties. So, good on Epic.
Speaking of Fortnite, Tyler "Ninja" Blevins posted a video last week about people griefing when they couldn't climb much higher in the standings during competition.
To all the griefers out there in Fortnite tournaments griefing peeps. pic.twitter.com/PEOIjQLEbu— Ninja (@Ninja) May 24, 2020
Even if it's technically not a banned action, it's nefarious at least. Some might call it immoral. I agree with Ninja: To do it on purpose is not a good look. I wouldn't impose a lifetime ban for it, but I would crack down if I had the power, because I wouldn't want this being a major reason someone didn't place higher in a tournament. Play the games with competitive integrity.
One final Fortnite note: The BenjyFishy Cup took place Wednesday morning. I think that's a terrific look and another way to integrate Fortnite's top stars, competitors and streamers into the game. The Ninja bundle, the creator codes, it's all integration. Fortnite is so robust that collaborating in-game with the community is limitless. I could see a cinematic event in Fortnite featuring star streamers like Ninja, Benjamin "DrLupo" Lupo, Timothy "TimTheTatman" Betar and Jack "CouRage" Dunlop. Why not? They are bigger than a lot of celebrities in the eyes of Fortnite fans. To me, it makes a whole lot of sense.
Back to the tournaments: The BenjyFishy Cup will become the norm, with many different names attached to different events. Their rules, their formats, their face, their name -- everybody wins.
Warzone Weekend debuted at the Seattle home series in the Call of Duty League. It was a one-game standalone affair in the first-ever custom Warzone lobby (sadly, custom lobbies aren't coming to the public anytime soon).
The Paris Legion came out on top by -- surprise, surprise -- camping in a house that happened to always be within the safe zone until the very end. I respect it because that's exactly what I would do, especially when there's a $10,000 winner-take-all prize. It was a pre-recorded event, something I might consider changing in the future because at times, despite it being nicely edited, Warzone Weekend felt flat as a result (I'd prefer spontaneity over gloss for this particular game mode).
Overall, I'll watch the next one, but I wasn't blown away by it.
What I am blown away by is how popular Warzone continues to be. Celebrities, athletes and streamers hammer away at the game mode to great success. It's truly fun to watch casually and generates some epic moments. Battle royales lend themselves greatly to content creation, and Warzone is no different. I hope the "last-chance survival" mechanic (the Gulag in Warzone, where you're either a god at or complete trash, there is no in-between) becomes standard across all battle royales.
I'm interested to see where "The Nuke" goes, and if that leads to the announcement of the next CoD title or even new additions to Warzone: more map, more guns, lowering the price of the loadouts, ***ELIMINATING HACKERS*** ... y'know, stuff like that.