Apex Legends overtakes Fortnite in streaming

This week saw the launch of EA’s Apex Legends, a team-based Battle Royale game that has been labelled a Fortnite killer. The big launch of this free-to-play game has certainly made a dent in Fortnite’s popularity. Figures on playtime aren’t available for the public to assess, but if Twitch is anything to go by then Apex has taken a serious chunk out of the time players spend with Fortnite.

© Epic Games | Electronic Arts

Since it’s release Apex Legends has been consistently top of the Twitch chart. Players are excited to try out this new take on the Battle Royale formula. This comes at the same time that Fortnite plans to launch Season 8. Such a dip in popularity before such a major event can’t sit well with Epic. Would the Marshmello concert have been as well attended had it happened after Apex’s launch? This is probably a question being weighed by Epic at the moment.

Apex Legends has technically had fewer hours streamed than Fortnite. This means fewer streamers are broadcasting the game, indicating that the habits of formulaic streamers die hard. However, it has been watched considerably more. This makes the fewer streamers who are broadcasting Apex Legends achieve a much higher viewer number than those who have stuck with Fortnite. This disparity might change in the coming weeks as more streamers take notice of the increased popularity of Apex and switch to the newer title.

Apex released at just the right window to have the maximum impact on Fortnite. With Fortnite now expanded to every platform available, it is difficult for Epic’s game to recapture that excitement of sudden release that Apex is enjoying. Commentators have been quick to jump to the assumption that Apex might finally displace Fortnite as the top dog in free-to-play Battle Royale. This view probably under-estimates the novelty of a brand-new free game and over-simplifies the differences between the two titles.

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© Electronic Arts

Apex Legends may have been compared a lot to Fortnite, but it is actually a considerably different game. Apex has a strong resemblance to Overwatch. It’s mandatory to play in squads and the game is a Hero Shooter. It features a roster of well-defined characters with unique special abilities, rather than the skins that Fortnite gives out. This gives each character a defining personality and encourages players to become invested in them. There is also no crafting or gathering materials. The foraging for weapons and health kits is pretty much consigned to the initial stages of matches. The shrinking map is not as much of an issue as in Fortnite as it’s smaller and much denser. This really limits how much time you have to spend gathering and travelling.

The gut reaction from a big part of the gaming community has been to declare it a better competitive title. However, the truth is a little more nuanced. Apex Legends is a different breed of Battle Royale. There elements of Fortnite in there, but its gameplay is actually closer to PUBG than Fortnite. Its shooter elements are borrowed from other popular games. Apex Legends is a fun addition to the Battle Royale genre and helps to show that the style of game has the legs to continue to diversify. It’s not a Fortnite replacement, but another thing entirely. If there’s room in the competitive scene for Fortnite, Overwatch, and PUBG, then there is definitely room for Fortnite and Apex Legends to co-exist. In short, despite some lower streaming numbers reports of Fortnite’s death have been greatly exaggerated.