- Electronic Arts is a massive video game publisher, responsible for major franchises like “Madden,” “FIFA,” and the upcoming “Anthem.”
- EA also publishes “Apex Legends,” the latest blockbuster hit in the nascent Battle Royale genre popularised by games like “Fortnite.”
- The sudden release and impact of “Apex Legends” is a major success for EA, but it may also overshadow the impending launch of “Anthem.”
“No one really knew how much it would take off,” BioWare lead producer Mike Gamble told Business Insider in a phone interview last week.
“It’s taken off in a big way, which is great! We’re still all part of the EA Studios culture, so when one of our teams does really well on something we all applaud it.”
Gamble was talking about “Apex Legends,” the huge new game from EA’s Respawn Entertainment. Since its surprise announcement and launch on February 4, more than 25 million players have competed to be champion. It’s a bonafide hit across Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC – in fact, “Apex Legends” is growing even more quickly than “Fortnite.”
It’s safe to say no one could’ve expected this kind of response, even in the wake of the “Fortnite” phenomenon.
But what does the massive, sudden success of “Apex Legends” mean for “Anthem,” the other huge blockbuster from EA that’s on the verge of launch? With “Apex” sucking up all the air in the room, how will “Anthem” compete?
With just days until launch, that’s still unclear.
They are different, but not that different
“Anthem” doesn’t officially launch until February 22. When it does launch, it will cost $US60 for the least-expensive version. But it’s already available to play … kind of.
If you’re a paying member of EA’s PC-based service, EA Origin Access Premier, you can download and play the full game starting on February 15. If you’re a paying member of EA’s Xbox One-based service, EA Access, you can download and play the first 10 hours of the game starting on February 15. There’s a whole chart.
“Apex Legends,” on the other hand, does not require a chart to decipher when you’re allowed to play it. You can download it right now, for free, on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and/or PC. And you probably should, because it’s really good.
Admittedly, “Anthem” and “Apex Legends” are somewhat different games.
“Anthem” is a so-called “loot and shoot” game, along the lines of “Destiny” and “The Division.” It’s played entirely online, in a shared open world with other actual players.
“Apex Legends,” however, is a Battle Royale-style game – a first-person shooter with squads and classes. The last squad alive in any given round wins.
That said: Both are shooters. Both are online-only. Both are available only on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. They are different, but also not that different.
Gamble sees the distinction between the two games a little differently.
“With ‘Apex Legends’ being primarily a player-versus-player (PvP) game, obviously free-to-play and Battle Royale, that serves a certain niche,” he said.
“The fact that we are a co-operative game (PvE) and we are a long-term service game, with a full story, characters, and that whole kit and caboodle … you can start to see how the people who are going to want to invest a lot of time in ‘Anthem’ and the people who want to invest a lot of time in ‘Apex’ … the overlap starts to get less and less when you look at the kind of games that they are.”
It isn’t just about money
During our conversation, Gamble also pointed out that, since “Apex Legends” is free and “Anthem” is not, players don’t have to make a binary purchasing decision.
“It’s not like people have to make a decision between $US60 ‘Anthem’ and $US60 ‘Apex.’ They just have to get ‘Anthem’ and then they can download ‘Apex,'” he said.
Though the distinction isn’t wrong, it may be missing a crucial point: The choice isn’t simply about money, but also time, personal preference, and a variety of other factors.
In the same way, players may simply opt to play “Apex Legends” instead of “Anthem.” That potential lack of early enthusiasm could be a death sentence for a game like “Anthem” that depends on an active, large playerbase.
And, if the distinction between them is solely about price, it’s pretty easy to choose the free game over the $US60 one.
“Anthem” runs a serious risk of being overshadowed by the massive popularity of “Apex Legends,” which would be quite a thing given that both games are published by the same company. With just a few days until the launch of “Anthem,” we’ll find out shortly.