- To help promote the surprise launch of “Apex Legends,” Electronic Arts paid Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek, and several other professional gamers to play and stream the game on release day.
- Reuters reports that Ninja was paid $US1 million to help promote the game; he currently has the most popular stream on Twitch.TV with more than 13 million followers.
- Electronic Arts says that partner influencers were only paid for the first 24 hours “Apex Legends” was online. The game is still one of the top five most watched games on Twitch weeks after its February 4th release.
- Developer Respawn Entertainment said 50 million players have tried “Apex Legends” since its release, a major success for a game with no advance marketing.
The most popular new game of 2019 arrived as a complete surprise; Electronic Arts released “Apex Legends ” on the same day it was announced, February 4th, with no advance marketing.
That’s an incredibly bold move in the gaming industry, which typically builds anticipation for a hot new title months in advance by spending millions of dollars in marketing campaigns.
Skipping the pre-release ad blitz was a gamble, but the makers of “Apex Legends” had a secret weapon: EA and developer Respawn Entertainment partnered with a group of popular professional gamers to help promote “Apex Legends” directly to their massive online followings during the first two days of the launch.
“Apex Legends” influencers included Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, the world’s most popular professional gamer, and other top video game streamers like Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek, “Jack “CouRage” Dunlop, and Herschel “Dr. Disrespect” Beahm IV. An anonymous source told Reuters that Electronic Arts paid Ninja $US1 million to participate in the Apex Partner program; other partners were paid as well but their rates were not specified.
Here’s why EA’s decision to partner with influencers was so smart:
By partnering with Ninja, “Apex Legends” directly targeted millions of “Fortnite” fans.
Ninja has more than 13 million followers on Twitch and is best known for playing “Fortnite.” EA’s decision to recruit him as a partner was no coincidence, “Fortnite” is the most popular game in the world right now and “Apex Legends” is the primary competition. Both games are free to play battle royale shooters.
More people watched #ApexPartner streams than the actual announcement of “Apex Legends”
Partnered players acknowledged their influencer deals on social media by using the hashtag #ApexPartner when posting about “Apex Legends” on release day. While only about 80,000 people watched Respawn’s Twitch stream announcing “Apex Legends,” 12 hours later more than 400,000 people were watching Apex partners play.
Successful streamers like Ninja and Dr. Disrespect typically stream for 10 to 12 hours every day and earn most of their revenue through donations and $US5 viewer subscriptions. Ninja has said that he usually earns about $US500,000 a month, but the amount can vary when taking specific events or partnerships into account.
The pro players got a chance to try “Apex Legends” prior to release and shared their impressions with millions of followers.
Aright broys the corp is allowing me to reveal some of the super secret stuff from Thursday's super secret LA trip. This Monday we’ll be stomping in an all new Battle Royale by @Respawn. Maybe these guys will be there too. That is all. #ApexPartner pic.twitter.com/AgO9ra0LVE
— Michael Grzesiek (@shroud) February 4, 2019
Respawn developers invited the influencers to demo the game a few days prior to launch, collecting valuable feedback in the process. When it came time for the pro players to stream “Apex Legends” on release day, they were able to share tips and information from the developers with millions of gamers who were seeing “Apex Legends” for the very first time.
Rather than trying to drum up excitement for another battle royale with a standard marketing campaign, EA let professional players share their own first impressions.
“Apex Legends” is the sort of game that would usually have a major marketing push and build up to its release. But with the battle royale genre becoming increasingly competitive, Respawn would have faced months of scrutiny and criticism for their choice to add another battle royale to the pile.
Instead, Respawn chose to reach out to the top battle royale players to help show the millions of players following “Fortnite” and “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” what’s new, different, and special about “Apex Legends.”
More than 1 million players tried “Apex Legends” on release day, thanks in part to the #ApexPartner program.
EA’s influencer marketing strategy helped inspire more than 50 million players to try “Apex Legends” in its first month of release and “Apex” has been among the top five most watched games on Twitch since its release.
Electronic Arts told Kotaku that they only paid partners to play and stream until the second day of the “Apex Legends” rollout , but a number of the Apex partners, including Shroud and Dr. Disrespect, have continued to play the game on their own. Ironically, the #ApexPartner hash remains popular among excited fans and semi-professional “Apex Legends” players hoping to find sponsors.
Still, while the #ApexPartner program was a brilliant way to create a strong first impression of the game, “Fortnite” boasts more than 200 million registered players. “Apex Legends” still has a ways to go before it can claim the title of top battle royale.