The series will enable amateurs and pros to compete in online and live events. At less than a year old, Apex Legends is a young to be an esports contender. The battle royale shooter won the title of Best Multiplayer Game at last week’s The Game Awards. Its had more than 70 million downloads in the nine months between its launch and the end of October.
EA believes its explosive growth justifies the major esports strategy, which has been in the works since before the game debuted, said Todd Sitrin, the senior vice president of the competitive gaming division at EA.
“We’re introducing a really large ecosystem with the big investment by not just ourselves, but a lot of our partners as well as esports organizations that have already formed teams and more that will be forming teams to compete,” Sitrin said in an interview with GamesBeat. “At EA, we’ve made a big commitment to Apex Legends, one of the biggest games launched in the history of the industry. And we’ve made a big investment in competitive gaming and esports around it.”
The first Apex Legends Global Series competition is an online tournament taking place on January 25. Registration will open for the event in early January. I’m going to sign up for that one.
How the tournaments will work
The Apex Legends Global Series will initially feature 12 global live events. EA and Respawn will produce some, and notable esports tournament organizers PGL and GLL will handle others. Registration for the first event opens in early January for both pros and amateurs.
EA says the Apex Legends Global Series will be an inclusive, open ecosystem. Residents of one of the more than 60 eligible countries who meet minimum age, PC system requirements, and other eligibility requirements can compete. EA has similar events with Madden NFL and FIFA where all players can compete.
“We will be utilizing maps that are available to everybody. Again, we are not trying to segment out the population,” Sitrin said. “We want people to know the game in competition is the one that they can play as well.”
The competition will start online, with players potentially advancing to live, regional Challenger Events, and global Premier Events. Players will earn Apex Legends Global Series Points for their performances in online and certain live events and those atop the standings will be invited to the four Apex Legends Global Series Majors, the highest competitive live event tier.
The first three Majors will each feature 100 three-player squads from around the world. The fourth Major, the Apex Legends Global Series Championship, is the grand finale. Only the top 60 Apex Legends Global Series teams in the world will be invited to compete for $1 million in prizes and the title of Apex Legends Global Series World Champion.
All four Majors will feature the Apex Legends exclusive Match Point format, which debuted at the Apex Legends Preseason Invitational in September. Match Point requires teams in the Finals to reach a certain amount of points through a combination of match placement and accumulated kills. EA claims Apex Legends is the only battle royale esport to feature this exciting end game mechanic.
Players can earn Apex Legends Global Series Points and an invitation to the first Major on March 13-March 15 based on their online tournament performance . Many of the Apex Legends Global Series Online Tournaments will be at EA’s new Broadcast Center at its company headquarters in Redwood City, California. Subsequent Apex Legends Global Series details will be announced soon.
Battlefy worked closely with EA to design the competitive format and is powering all aspects of the online qualifiers. Battlefy will manage all online tournament operations including initial setup, seeding, matchmaking, bracket management, and player support.
A focus on a game for everyone
While the game is young, EA has been focused on developing it as an esport for a while.
As for the advanced planning, Sitrin said, “We have been working around competitive gaming in Apex, actually since before the launch of the game. The game, thankfully, was so successful that we actually retooled what our plan was, and made a bigger investment. The type of ecosystem that I just talked about that involves so many different parties. And that was a result of of how successful the game was at launch.”
Sitrin said anyone will be able to compete in the open esports ecosystem for Apex Legends.
“We encourage everybody who plays the game to compete, with the starting points and the entry points in our online competitions. And our first online competition is going to start on January 25. And to compete, you will just register online,” Sitrin said.
Broadcasting the tournaments
One of the keys to the broadcasts will be an emphasis on teaching the game, as many spectators are likely to be viewing the game for the first time.
“From a broadcast point of view, we can focus on revealing the personalities of the competitors, but also the personalities of the talents and the people watch esports,” Sitrin said. “We can mic up the players so that you can hear what they’re saying, and you can hear the communications. That’s why we expose their backstory and who these people are. We want people to have an opinion about these players, whether you love them or whether you hate them.”
He said, “We feel the Match Point format, which we introduced in Poland, is a new innovation that no one else has ever done around battle royale. It makes watching battle royale more interesting. Everybody likes the ending moment when the champion gets a crown.”
EA and Respawn are working on a spectator mode, so viewers the action more from an overhead view, rather than just a first-person camera of a single player. It will also present stats in the game in an appealing way.
“From a gameplay point of view, the game that is played in our global series will be the same as that is played by everybody,” Sitrin said. “The game from the beginning was designed to be the best competitive shooter for both players and for viewers. And that was something that we aligned on with the Respawn team. For the first time ever, we will be broadcasting an online competition. As you may know, we built last a world-class EA broadcast studio, which is based in Redwood City, at our corporate headquarters. And that studio will give us the ability to broadcast and shoutcast the online competitions that are going on.”
EA is in discussion with professional esports teams. Now the question is how long Apex Legends will maintain its popularity.
“The best esports games out there have been around for a long time. League of Legends more than a decade. Counter-Strike has been out for a very long time. The real thing is it has to have that competition at its core,” Sitrin said. “It has to be a great experience to play. And also it needs to be fun to watch. And then it requires an investment to maintain that game. It’s pretty clear that this is a major focus for EA and Respawn. We’re very bullish about this game. And the icing on the cake is to have the Game Awards recognize it for the best multiplayer game.”