February 15, 2019

Less than two weeks ago, the free-to-play battle royale shooter Apex Legendswas released. In that short period of time, the game has quickly gained so much traction that it’s been dubbed “the Fortnite killer.” The numbers are impressive: Eight hours after its release, the Respawn title logged more than one million players. In the first three days, that number skyrocketed to 10 million players.

The game has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, and more importantly, popular streamers are driving growth. At the moment, Apex Legends has also dethroned Fortnite as the top game being watched on Twitch. Not only that, the game has regularly had double the amount of viewers than Fortnite. All in less than 11 days.

I can’t say whether Apex Legends will hold or not. But what’s remarkable is the mechanics of virality and amplification in the gaming space that are unique to PC and consoles. In non-gaming content, we see things rise quickly all the time: Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s global hit “Despacito” reached two billion views on YouTube faster than any other video in history. In a little over a week, a picture of an egg reached its goal to become the most liked post on Instagram, ever, and currently has nearly 53 million likes. Or Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s first House floor speech set a C-SPAN record as their most-watched Twitter video.

Why can Apex Legends move so quickly? The overwhelming number of people who own devices that can play the game. The reinforcement of game streaming like Twitch from its biggest names. And of course, the network effects of simply being able to play with millions of other people instantly.

But what about the game? Fans of more realistic games like PUBG and Call of Duty might appreciate Apex Legends more than the cartoon-like, arcade-driven look of Fortnite. Also, in many ways, Apex Legends is a response to the failures of past battle royales. For example, during a Fortnite match, if you die, you’re out for the rest of the game and can only watch your teammates play. But after you die in Apex Legends, your teammate can revive and redeploy you into battle, which makes for a much more fun experience (at least, for losers like me).

What’s the takeaway? Life comes at you fast. Focus less on Fortnite the game and more on the channels that make free titles take off.

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