Could Apex Legends become a successful esport?

Last Updated July 5th, 2021

Yesterday, Apex Legends got its first official livestream tournament courtesy of the Twitch Rivals tournament series. The inaugural competition featured some pretty big professional streamers and competitive gaming personalities including Shroud, DrDisRespect, TimTheTatman, and even Fortnite superstar Ninja. The timing of the tournament itself was also impressive since Apex Legends is barely a week old.

The battle royale genre of which Apex Legends is a part of may seem like a curious choice for a major livestream tournament of this scale. However, as the debut Twitch Rivals competition proved, Apex Legends has several unique elements which make it a much more watchable game than other established battle royale titles like PUBG and even Fortnite. Respawn Entertainment’s new F2P battle royale shooter may just be the future of battle royale esports.

Adapt and overcome

For its debut Apex Legends tournament, Twitch Rivals implemented a unique scoring format. Since Apex Legends doesn’t have any sort of custom games mode, trying to get all of the participating players into a single game would have been a bit of a hassle. There was also the fact that only 48 players were participating in the entire tournament (there were two separate 24-player blocks for EU and North American teams), a noticeably lower number than the 60 players a typical Apex Legends match can hold.

Rather than pitting tournament participants against each other, Twitch Rivals instead unleashed them on the greater Apex Legends community. Participants were grouped into teams of three (the default format for Apex Legends) and then sent into public matchmaking to square off against random online players. For each kill they scored, a team was awarded one point. If they won the entire match, they got five points.

The North American tournament block spanned a four-hour period so teams had plenty of time to rack up as many points as they could. Twitch Rivals also implemented a series of side rules to ensure fair play across the board. Teams had to finish each match they entered, no quitting out early. Participants also couldn’t intentionally kill themselves if a match was going poorly just so they could start up a new match.

By the end of the four-hour run, the King’s Canyon team (which included Ninja along with fellow streamers Dizzy and King Richard) claimed victory with a final score of 420 points (355 kills plus 13 match wins). Coming in second place just a hair under King’s Canyon was Reids Money Team (made up of streamers chocotaco, huskerrs, and vsnz) with a final score of 419 points (369 kills plus 10 match wins). The final standings for the inaugural tournament can be found here.

A second Twitch Rivals tournament is scheduled for next Tuesday, February 19, but this first tournament already proved that Apex Legends can be a heck of a lot of fun to watch, especially when professional streamers are involved.

Gotta go fast

It was a smart move on Twitch Rivals’ part to implement the public matchmaking scoring system. The nature of the system meant that teams had to move quickly to secure kills and finish up matches as quickly as possible. This in turn meant that there was virtually no downtime, just constant movement and action. Apex Legends’ visceral first-person viewpoint and tight Call of Duty-esque gunplay only enhanced the experience for viewers and commentators alike.

Speaking of the commentators, they did a good job of explaining what was happening and also pointing out clever plays and tricks the tournament participants were utilizing.

As I mentioned above, Apex Legends is still a pretty new game, and the commentators made sure to touch on that point periodically throughout the tournament’s four-hour broadcast. When a player found a powerful or rare weapon, the commentators explained why it was such a good find. When a player deployed one of their signature legend abilities, the commentators outlined what the ability did and its potential strategic uses.

Unique Personalities

Those same legends and unique legend abilities also contributed to the tournament’s overall appeal. As I mentioned in my initial Apex Legends impressions, the game’s pre-built legend characters and their associated abilities give it a strong Overwatch-esque vibe which also makes for some compelling strategic gameplay.

Since the tournament participants were operating in groups of three, they had to carefully consider which legends they were playing as and how well those legends synergized with each other. Some participants simply stuck with what they knew best. TimTheTatman, for example, is a big fan of the poison gas-wielding legend Caustic and his mastery of Caustic’s abilities clearly showed during the tournament.

Most of the tournament’s other participants, meanwhile, stuck with top meta picks like Bloodhound, Wraith, and Bangalore. Legends like Mirage, Pathfinder, and Lifeline also saw a fair bit of use thanks to their utility abilities, but the standard composition of Bangalore/Wraith/Bloodhound was the clear favorite. The tournament’s scoring format also meant that aggressive offense-focused legends were in high demand, bad news for more defense-oriented legends like Gibraltar who barely saw any action at all.

Sky’s the limit

The inaugural Twitch Rivals Apex Legends tournament wasn’t without some minor growing pains. The tournament’s livestream feed was clearly suffering from some stuttering and freezing issues, but they weren’t severe enough to disrupt the overall flow of the broadcast.

Twitch Legends also might want to reconsider having the streamers’ voices being broadcast in the background since most of those streamers aren’t overly concerned about watching their language. I’m not sure how kid-friendly Twitch Rivals is hoping to be but if streamers like Ninja are involved you can bet there are plenty of younger eyes (and ears) amidst its Apex Legends viewership.

Even with those minor hiccups the Twitch Rivals Apex Legends tournament was still pretty fun to watch, proving in no uncertain terms that battle royale games can make for compelling esports viewing. Plus, I’m sure Apex Legends’ appeal as an esports game will only grow once Respawn Entertainment starts releasing new playable legends and other content additions later this year.

There are some noticeable kinks that need to be worked out, but if Apex Legends ends up being the new face of battle royale esports, then consider me fully on board. If you want to watch a replay of the entire debut tournament, you can do so here.

Tournament screenshots courtesy of the Twitch Gods YouTube channel.

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