Epic Games CEO brushes off Apex Legends, talks Fortnite growth

Steven R. March 23, 2019

The Apex Legends boom is not a problem, according to Epic Games.

Speaking with VentureBeat at the Game Developers Conference, Epic CEO Tim Sweeney talked about a number of topics including the Unreal Engine, the Epic Store, and the company’s efforts to help enterprising game developers. Included in that interview was a quick discussion about the success of Fortnite, and how its growth apparently hasn’t been affected by the rise of rival battle royal Apex Legends.

“We’re very close to hitting 250 million Fortnite players,” Sweeney said. “Since Apex Legends came out, we’ve gained an Apex Legends' worth of Fortnite players, which is amazing.”

He continued on discussing Fortnite’s growth in recent months. “We hit a Fortnite non-event peak twice after Apex was out. We haven’t seen any visible cut into Fortnite,” Sweeney said. “It’s a funny thing. The only game you can see where its peaks cut into Fortnite playtime is FIFA.”

The proclamation likely comes as a surprise to fans of the genre.

Since launching in February, tens of millions of players have dived into Apex Legends with the player count standing at 50 million as of March 7. The title has attracted pros, streamers, and casual gamers alike, a fact which had many wondering if Fortnite’s spot atop the genre was in jeopardy.

Though Apex Legends continues to attract new players, the game has come back to earth in recent weeks. This is best seen on Twitch, with many top streamers like Tyler “Ninja” Blevins returning to Fortnite and taking their audiences with them after running sponsored Apex Legends streams.

But while Fortnite is on steady ground, there is no denying that Epic Games had a strong reaction to Apex Legends’ hot start.

Shortly after Apex Legends launched, Fortnite gave players the opportunity to unlock a free battle pass for season eight. A week later, Epic revealed its plans to pour $100 million into the professional Fortnite scene and announced the $30 million Fortnite World Cup event. Though Epic may have made these moves regardless of Apex's launch, they both had at least the look of measures to lure back both casual and professional players who may have been gravitating towards Apex Legends.

Sweeney did not specifically discuss how the new game from Respawn Entertainment impacted Epic's marketing for Fortnite but noted that, if anything, Apex Legends has only helped.

“What Apex Legends has done is re-energized a lot of shooter players, people who come in and out of shooters depending on what’s popular,” Sweeney said. “It’s awesome to see other games picking up on battle royale, adding their unique spin to it and advancing the state of the industry.”

Apex Legends is still in the early stages of its lifespan, introducing its first battle pass last week and strengthening its microtransaction offerings with a new playable character, Octane. With the initial novelty wearing off, Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts will need to keep finding new ways to attract and hook players if they wants to compete with Fortnite.

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