This was a revolutionary moment for the Apex Legends competitive scene because in the same match, 12 other teams also could have won the tournament. The stakes were much higher in this and every round because of the newly instituted match-point format, which requires a certain number of eliminations and one final win to seal the deal.
The format is a new twist for a battle royale esports scene that has often lacked viewer excitement and an obvious logical way to decide a champion. In battle royale games, it’s the last player/team standing that wins. But in many such esports competitions, the winner is decided by an accumulating point total and may not necessarily survive the final match.
“We were inspired to connect that euphoric moment of the team winning a match with the epic conclusion of sports events,” said John Nelson, senior director and commissioner of Apex Legends Competitive Gaming. He added that it keeps “fans glued to the broadcast.”
Apex Legends, a futuristic, first-person battle royale that pits 20 teams of three against each other in nonstop action, materialized in February to great acclaim. The buzz quieted as updates were slow to be introduced and the expected esports circuit took months to develop. Now, about eight months after the game’s release, the tournament in Poland offered the first glimpse into what EA-sponsored competitive play will look like, and it shows how Apex Legends can distinguish itself from other battle royale esports.
This Apex event was the first one supported by the developers of Apex Legends, Electronic Arts, and also the first time the esports world has seen a match-point system. This system sets the terms of tournament victory and levels the playing field. Any team has a chance to win the tournament once it has obtained 50 points over the course of the matches (played until a winner is declared). The match-point system differs from other battle royale esports such as Fortnite and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, which crown winners and losers by total points alone.
“We see Apex Legends as accessible, engaging in a game that redefines battle royale esports,” Nelson said. “It’s fast-paced, has strategic squad-based gameplay.”
Still, the system is not optimal, according to players. Teams had to play 11 games in a row in Poland. With breaks, the tournament stretched 6 hours 40 minutes. Even with more than two hours of breaks, it felt like a serious grind for the TSM squad. Teams that participated in the losers’ bracket as well as the finals ended up playing 15 games, said Jordan “Reps” Wolfe of the champion Team SoloMid.
Jordan “Huskerrs” Thomas plays for Rogue, a team that fell to the losers bracket in the Preseason Invitational. He agreed the length is an issue for players, but he still liked the idea.
“I think if they make small changes and tweaks to it, it could be really good," Thomas said. "They need to incorporate some way to make a cutoff after, like, seven or eight games, because it can’t go that long.”
The champions — Team SoloMid’s Philip “ImperialHal” Dosen, Mac “Albralelie” Kenzie Beckwith and Wolfe — agreed the length isn’t ideal. Wolfe would like to see the tournament devote an entire day to the finals next time.
“I think it was super stressful for the players because it went so long,” Wolfe said while noting that wasn’t the case for the fans. “I definitely think it was really entertaining because when you have that many teams, that match point gets so intense to watch.”
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