Apex Legends Mobile debuted last year, bringing Respawn Entertainment’s hot Apex Legends shooter game to mobile devices. It won Apple’s Game of the Year for 2022 as well as the same for Google Play. Now the game will shut down in 90 days. Battlefield Mobile was in soft launch, but it will also end.
In a blog post, Respawn Entertainment cited slipping quality for Apex Legends Mobile’s updates as a reason for shutting down the title. EA made the announcement as it released earnings for the third fiscal quarter ended December 31.
“At Respawn, we aim to provide players with games that are consistently outstanding. Following a strong start, the content pipeline for Apex Legends Mobile has begun to fall short of that bar for quality, quantity and cadence,” the blog post said. “It is for this reason, after months of working with our development partner, that we have made the mutual decision to sunset our mobile game. Although disappointing, we are proud of the game we launched, are grateful for the support of the Apex Legends community and are confident that this is the right decision for players.”
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The decision will likely impact a couple of studios. Tencent and Lightspeed were working on Apex Legends Mobile. And Industrial Toys was working on Battlefield Mobile.
It’s not clear how many jobs will be affected by the closure of Industrial Toys, which was started by Halo co-creator Alex Seropian as well as Tim Harris and Brent Pease in 2012. By shutting down Apex Legends Mobile, EA is walking away from a game that generated 47 million downloads and generated $55 million in revenue, according to Data.ai. The top market for revenue was Japan at $18 million, while India had the most downloads at 9.3 million. Only four EA games have surpassed that revenue lately.
That’s a sad end to a veteran mobile game studio, which made ambitious shooter games such as Midnight Star. EA acquired Industrial Toys in 2018, when the studio had 14 people. It’s not clear whether Seropian will stay aboard or not. We covered them from the very first announcement of the studio. After that, EA said that Industrial Toys was working on the Battlefield Mobile title.
“Mobile continues to lag, down year-over-year and at a $1.2 billion run rate, when they were at $700 million before Glu Mobile and Golf Clash (acquisitions),” said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities, in an email to GamesBeat. “Those two should have added $800 million ($1.5 billion run rate), so mobile is tracking down about 20% vs. where it should be.”
As of today, January 31, Respawn will disable all real money in-app purchases in the game as well as removing the app from webstores. During this period, players can spend their existing Syndicate Gold and continue playing the full game. At 4 p.m. Pacific time on May 1, 2023, Apex Legends Mobile will cease operations in all regions, and it will no longer be playable.
“We understand there will be many questions surrounding this decision and want to assure our players that we are here to help,” Respawn said. “Our love for the Apex universe and our players remains unchanged. We look forward to exploring this universe, its characters and its stories along with you. In the meantime, we appreciate your continued support and patience as we navigate these next steps.”
Respawn said it will not be providing refunds for real money purchases, per the terms of the EA User Agreement. This decision for Apex Legends Mobile is platform-specific and is independent of the game on PC and Consoles.
“As a franchise, Apex Legends is strong, and we’re looking forward to sharing exciting updates in the future,” Respawn said.
RIP Battlefield Mobile
The changes for Apex Legends and Battlefield mobile titles represent a shift in strategy and leadership at Respawn and EA. This shakeup happened after Byron Beede left Activision’s Call of Duty franchise and became senior vice president and general manager for Battlefield.
If you look at what Activision is doing with Call of Duty, it moved all of its game studios to a common Call of Duty game engine, so that games from year to year and across the franchise would be interoperable. It also signaled an intention to put Call of Duty: Warzone 2, Call of Duty Modern Warfare II and Warzone Mobile all on the same engine as well as the same player universe.
That means that mobile players will soon join Warzone 2 PC and console players in the same matches. That serves gamers who don’t care which platform they are playing on — they just want to play with friends. That is something that happens in a game like Fortnite, but it’s not clear how well that works because mobile controls can feel so much more difficult than controllers or mouse play.
Activision is moving to that unified model, however, so it can combine the different player bases. And it looks like EA is thinking about the same thing in terms of having games with a unified base of players across all platforms. (It doesn’t necessarily mean EA will have a single engine, as its stated policy is to have teams choose their engines).
In the blog post, Respawn said, “We have a vision for the future of Battlefield. Vince (Zampella, cofounder of Respawn), Byron and strong studio leadership are moving forward to create the very best experiences that bring players together across multiple platforms.”
The post added, “We had a game in development, which made sense at the time, but as the industry has evolved and our strategy has crystallized, we decided we need to pivot from the current direction to best deliver on our vision for our players. We ultimately decided that we would have to reimagine how we bring Battlefield to life on mobile in order to realize our goal(s) for the franchise.”
Respawn said that as it constructed its vision for Battlefield and observed the market shifts, the company determined the current direction doesn’t align with where it wanted to take the franchise.
“We’re evaluating how mobile fits into our strategy, more to come,” Respawn said. “We remain highly committed to unlocking Battlefield’s enormous potential. We’re hard at work at evolving Battlefield 2042, and are in pre-production on our future Battlefield experiences at our multiple studios across the globe.”
The company continues to work on Battlefield 2042, which has gotten better in its recent multiplayer seasonal updates after a rocky launch.
In an analyst call, EA CEO Andrew Wilson said that, in spite of a strong start for Apex Legends Mobile, “The ongoing experience was not going to meet the expectations of our players. After months of working with our development partner, we have made the mutual decision to sunset this version of the game. We’ve learned a great deal and have plans to reimagine a connected Apex mobile experience in the future.”
He added, “It is through these learnings, combined with a clear franchise strategy, that we’ve also made the decision to stop the development of the current Battlefield mobile title. We know our community values a deeply connected ecosystem and our team is focused on delivering the best, unified cross-platform experience for our players.”
[Updated: 10:56 am on 2/3/23 Pacific time with additional Andrew Wilson quote].
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