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Apex Legends and the Power of Influencers

Since its surprise launch on February 4th, Apex Legends has created quite a stir in the games industry. Despite launching into the unquestionably crowded Battle Royale space, Apex Legends managed to dethrone Fortnite as the most viewed game on Twitch in its first week. The game amassed over 1 million players in eight hours and over 10 million in 5 days.

This isn’t the first time there’s been a successful challenger to the battle royale top dog. By contrast to Apex Legends, Fortnite’s Battle Royale launch was a slow burn that eventually became a worldwide sensation. It was an unusual and bold launch strategy that made Apex Legends’ debut as explosive as it was.

Respawn saw huge success with the Titanfall series and many fans expected their next game to be Titanfall 3. When it was decided that their next title would be a free-to-play battle royale, this put the studio in a precarious marketing position. Speaking to GameInformer, Apex Legends Lead Producer Drew McCoy said:

“We’re doing a free-to-play game, with essentially loot boxes, after we were bought by EA, and it’s not ‘Titanfall 3.’ It’s the perfect recipe for a marketing plan to go awry,”

Apex Legends’ launch strategy circumvented the potential backlash by presenting influencers with a rock solid product that was first and foremost, fun. The game was initially shown off to streamers with a social media embargo set just one day before release. This lead to massive interest in the game on launch day, as the wider gaming community took note of influencers’ positive first impressions.

Respawn’s plan was certainly daring, and owes its success to a belief in the power of word-of-mouth. Today’s games industry is more personality-driven than ever before. Many gamers, instead of poring through magazines for guidance on what to play next, now gravitate to influencers with similar tastes. With such an impactful launch on social media, even gamers who aren’t as tuned into the industry could hear about Apex Legends through their friends who are. For this reason, influencers yield tremendous power in determining an online title’s success.

Apex Legends is still on the rise, with the latest figures showing 25 million unique players in just over a week. EA and Respawn’s confidence in the game, coupled with their trust in the word-of mouth strategy, lead to one of the most successful launches seen in the games industry for years. In the future, we could see more games follow this strategy, creating an exciting new climate for gamers eager to see the end of long, drawn-out marketing cycles.