Apex Legends is EA’s new battle royale title that has become a global phenomenon seemingly overnight. EA skipped the traditional marketing cycle for Apex Legends, instead opting to announce and release the game on the same day. For any publisher this would be considered as very risky, but in this case the surprise launch was quite impactful. Apex Legends is successful because EA innovated on the already popular battle royale genre by creating a free to play game that utilized influencers on Twitch to promote it. The title racked up 25 million players in just 72 hours, faster than Fortnite, which took over six weeks to achieve the same milestone.
The success of Apex Legends hasn’t gone unnoticed in China where the battle royale genre is also popular. PUBG is the biggest battle royale game in China with the original PC release achieving over 15 million paid sales on Steam. The free to play mobile version, published by Tencent, has over 100 million active players. Whilst PUBG emphasises every person for his or herself, Apex Legends promotes a social element that has players work together in groups of three, similar to that of MOBA hits League of Legends and Honor of Kings. The social element is especially appealing to Chinese gamers.
Top Streamed Games on Douyu (Source: Douyu.com)
Apex Legends differs from gameplay of PUBG in that each round has 60 players (PUBG has 100), playing on a small map (PUBG has a large map), and Apex Legends therefore has shorter session times. The game also borrows heavily from MOBA games by giving each character unique abilities that can be used during each match. Players can respawn their dead teammates in the game, expanding upon the teamwork concept and social elements. Apex Legends ticks all the boxes for Chinese gamers as a competitive battle royale title.
It is, therefore, no surprise that Apex Legends has already found success in China with the game now more popular, in terms of average viewers, than Fortnite on Chinese streaming sites such as Douyu. However, we note that the game has not yet surpassed PUBG. Apex Legends is available on EA’s Origin store and supports Simplified Chinese language. Players can download the game directly from the Origin store and purchase items in the game with Alipay. We’ve already seen the game installed at internet cafés across the country and anticipate great success.
EA’s Origin store shows AliPay as an option (Source: EA Origin)
The success of Apex Legends has also had unintended impact on a game by a similar name, Apex Construct. In an attempt to find and download Apex Legends, which is distributed for free on EA’s Origin store, many Chinese players have ended up downloading Apex Construct which is a paid game on Steam. According to Fast Travel Games, the publisher of Apex Construct, visits to the games page on Steam increased 4000% and the game sold more units in China over the past 7 days than during all of 2018. Some disappointed gamers voiced negative feedback about Apex Construct, yet those who requested a refund were provided one.
Just one week after the release of Apex Legends, the South China Morning Post is reporting that Tencent is working on a deal with EA to publish an official version of the game in China with local servers and support. Whilst this rumor has not been confirmed, Tencent already holds the rights to license and publish PUBG, Fortnite and H1Z1 in China and has already introduced battle royale modes in other licensed titles such as Call of Duty Online and Crossfire Mobile. In addition to this, Tencent has created two of its own battle royale games titled Ring of Elysium and Glorious Mission, as well as introduced a battle royale mode in its hit game Honor of Kings. Therefore, it would be no surprise to learn that Tencent is also interested in Apex Legends too.
Apex Legends installed at an internet café (Source: Niko Partners)
Apex Legends is another surprise hit in the battle royale space, just like Fortnite and PUBG before. We believe the game can find success in China, but an official release may have to wait as China’s gaming regulators work through a backlog of game license approvals. EA has already expressed interest in operating Apex Legends as a live service title and plans to expand the game into esports and onto mobile. Apex Legends looks promising for the China market, and beyond.