We spoke with Apex Legends commissioner John Nelson about the present and future of the game’s esports scene.
The Apex Games are the most brutal bloodsport in the Outlands, where squads of competitors square off in fierce combat to become the ultimate victor. Physical violence aside, Apex Legends esports isn’t that different: Each competition crowns the true champions of the arena, the squad that prevails over their rivals in every round.
Apex esports are in an intermission as pros get accustomed to the far-reaching changes that came with season six. The Summer Circuit playoffs kick off on Sept. 12 and the Autumn Circuit is already lined up to begin on Oct. 3, just weeks after the finals. The tournaments are a tool to enact EA’s vision for the esports ecosystem, one of “continued growth” and high-level competition, according to Apex commissioner John Nelson.
Ideally, the Apex Legends Global Series (ALGS) would gather players from all continents to showcase the best teams fighting for the world championship. With the pandemic, however, Apex esports shifted to online, regional competition—an alternative that reveals the top squad in each corner of the world.
“The absence of live events has taken away that opportunity for us to see all of the best teams around the world come together to crown a world champion,” Nelson told Dot Esports. “The Summer Circuit has allowed us to see a glimpse, if you will, of what a greater or larger regional competition looks like.”
The Autumn Circuit is an extension of that premise. The upcoming competition will let squads square off in regional combat but will stretch out to super regions for the Last Chance Qualifiers (LCQ) and the Playoffs. The strategy aims to make super regional play “feel more special” by building storylines earlier in the circuit, according to Nelson. The adjusted format will shine a light on teams that are finding success in each region and follow their journeys as they prove themselves at the super regional level.
The ongoing Summer Circuit and the upcoming Autumn Circuit serve as tools to enact the vision for Apex esports. “We want the Apex Legends esports to continue to offer opportunities to players all around the world to compete for an ever growing prize pools and a continued opportunity to showcase their skills,” Nelson said.
The tournaments offer the chance for players to “stretch out beyond their own regional competition” and “play with and against people from other countries who they don’t have an opportunity to play against very often,” according to Nelson. The regional format also has another impact on organic growth. “It’s in motivating players in their more local communities to come out and test their skills to potentially rise up from lower placements, to one day [be] able to represent their region in a super regional competition,” Nelson said.
In a previous interview with Dot Esports, Nelson mentioned the promise to deliver over $3 million in prizes. Despite the two latest tournaments, there are still more prizes up for grabs. “We have more to do to make good on our promise of more than three million dollars awarded in the ALGS,” Nelson said. “We’ve [announced] the Autumn Circuit, and then there’s potential for more competitions from our partners.” The plans for the ALGS don’t end in 2020, either.
The ALGS moved to online competition as a temporary remedy, but it could also be the series’ final form. “We will culminate the ALGS in 2021, regardless of whether we can or can’t return to live events,” Nelson said. In a previous interview with Dot Esports, Nelson shared plans to stay in online competition “for as long as that’s necessary to keep everyone safe around the world.”
These plans don’t mean that we may not see Apex live events in the near future, however. “We’ll continue to try to stay close to local government and health officials to identify exactly when we can return,” he said.
Despite these plans for next year, the ALGS is rapidly approaching a decisive moment: the Summer Circuit playoffs, the zenith of a tournament that kicked off in June. The competition picks back up on Sept. 12 with a new legend, another weapon, and overhauled core mechanics.
The new season, Boosted, ushered in a crafting system that lets players build certain items at will. Although some parts of competitive Apex have a different rule set, such as gold knockdown shields being banned from play, the crafting system in the Playoffs will work “exactly how it works currently in the game,” according to Nelson.
A new season can introduce groundbreaking changes—and that’s doubly true for season six. With the crafting system and overhauled shields, the final rounds of the competition will play under a completely different dynamic than the qualifiers that led up to the Playoffs. But that doesn’t jeopardize the competitive integrity of the tournament, according to Nelson.
“I don’t think that the season’s changes call into question competitive integrity with respect to the playoffs,” he said. “Again, I think that something that we strive for is to provide players with enough time to react to changes. So I feel like we’ve done that here in season six—launched on Aug. 18 and the playoffs being on Sept. 12 and 13, players have a good amount of time to practice and develop strategies in response to the changes that came with season six.”
The constant stream of new seasons around every three months doesn’t restrict Apex esports either, according to Nelson—as long as there’s a gap for players to acclimate to the update. “The scheduling is definitely a factor because we always want to make sure that teams have enough time to practice new features, new in-game updates,” Nelson said.
The Summer Circuit Playoffs are a watershed moment for Apex esports—the culmination of months of competition and a proving ground for the season six game updates. The tournament also helps set the ground for the upcoming Autumn Circuit, the last major official competition this year. The two play an integral role in the future of Apex esports, keeping the action going in the absence of live events and, consequently, following the vision for the scene.
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