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Four Lessons Apex Legends: Mobile Can Teach About Bringing AAA Franchises To Mobile

With Diablo Immortal, Call of Duty: Mobile, Ni No Kuni: Cross Worlds, and PUBG: Mobile dominating the mobile charts, not to mention the Destiny mobile game reportedly in development between NetEase and Bungie, it seems that there is no end franchises entering the mobile market.

And while there are plenty of great AAA mobile games out there, Apex Legends: Mobile, released worldwide on May 17 after a successful soft launch period, is an impressive example of how to bring a AAA franchise to mobile. This is due to the way it maintains the fast-paced mobility of the PC/console version, which means that the core gameplay of Apex Legends: Mobile is super solid, fluid and fun – the most important factors of a competitive shooter.

While there are many great mobile games out there, Apex Legends: Mobile is an impressive example of how to port a AAA franchise to mobile.

Apex Mobile got off to a very strong start with great first weeks in both downloads and revenue, but since then it has consistently held around the top ten positions on the download charts. Even so, revenue has been slowly declining and the ratio of revenue to downloads has remained relatively flat at around $0.70 per download.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the game to see how it’s built, what makes it unique and what’s behind the numbers.

1. Exclusive content

There are many differences between the mobile and console/PC versions of Apex Legends, including exclusive content such as new characters, new game mechanics and game modes.

As Apex Legends: Mobile is a hero-based shooter, the addition of a new mobile-only character, Fade, is an attractive reason to download the mobile game for existing Apex Legends players. You can pay to unlock it using Apex Coins or invest the time in free games to unlock what you need to get it.

It’s worth noting that there’s an option to unlock Fade for free, as an exclusive character is often an attractive proposition to spend, especially considering the money that could be made by just buying it.

Like all characters in Apex Legends, Fade has unique perks and abilities along with cosmetic items such as skins and emotes that players can earn through loot boxes (more on those later) or purchases.

Apex Legends: Mobile also introduces a permanent classic deathmatch mode, something that is currently unavailable on the console/PC version and was previously only offered as a limited-time game mode. This provides a more traditional shooter experience than the 60-player battle royale gameplay that most people associate with Apex Legends, adding another incentive to try out the mobile game.

The addition of a new mobile-only character, Fade, is an attractive reason to download the mobile game for existing Apex Legends players.

2. Elements of progression to encourage retention

Everyone loves progressive elements in video games, right? Whether it’s a skill tree or the ability to earn XP for weapons and characters, features like these are essential to player retention.

We spend a lot of our time monitoring mobile games at GameRefinery and have developed a feature to track the top motivational factors for specific genres. Our toolkit of motivational drivers is divided into six main categories: social, mastery, escapism, exploration, expression and management.

As you can see from the chart below, the mastery category, which includes the ability to upgrade skills or complete milestones, is one of the biggest motivators for players of battle royale games like Apex Legends. Simply put: Battle Royale players love games that have many different ways to track progress.

Apex Legends: Mobile features mastery levels for characters, which are upgraded by playing the character you want to upgrade. By upgrading your mastery level, you unlock perks (similar to the Call of Duty franchise) that can be equipped on your gear to give your characters various minor benefits. So the more games you play, the more perks you’ll unlock.

This mastery level feature is exclusive to the mobile version of Apex Legends, with the addition of perks that provide a twist on the typical gameplay that players of the console/PC versions of the game will be used to.

3. A strong focus on social elements

Social elements have been a trending feature in various mobile games for some time now, and are a major driving force behind battle royale games.

For example, special in-game currencies for social and PvP modes and game integration with social networking platforms have seen a 13% growth in popularity in the last year among 20% ​​of shooters. Other social features such as guilds, chat features, and in-game hangout areas also continue to grow in popularity across broader genres.

This indicates a trend in the industry where gamers are looking for video games not just to play but to socialize with friends. This is especially important for Apex Legends: Mobile, as its class-based system encourages players to work together as a team in matches, whether it’s discussing how to approach specific situations or choosing particular heroes and perks depending on team dynamics.

In addition to the new perks and mastery levels in Apex Legends: Mobile, the game also has its own take on guilds known as ‘Clubs’. Players join clubs to form communities with other players so they can talk and play together. Once they join a club, players can complete daily missions to earn a special currency.

Players also earn activity points by completing quests which they can use to level up their club. Doing so unlocks higher levels of purchasable rewards in the club shop, which not only encourages co-op play, but also accesses the upgrade skill mastery category I mentioned earlier.

4. The Battle Pass approach

Apex Legends: Mobile uses the same monetization methods as its competitors, but relies primarily on its Battle Pass.

Hearing the word “gacha” or “loot box” can make you cringe, especially if you’re not used to mobile games. But the nature of the freemium makeup of the mobile gaming landscape means you’ll inevitably see these monetization mechanics in most games. Like its competitors, Apex Legends: Mobile uses a variety of gruel through the following mechanics:

Although Apex Legends features a variety of porridges, most players don’t seem to be using them

  • Apex Packages: Basic permanent gacha with new items added from time to time.
  • Store vault: Limited time gacha with a milestone pity mechanic and own currency/shop. This milestone damage mechanic works by giving players a coin taken out of shot rewards and guaranteed rewards after so many shots. No duplicate rewards.
  • Drop from Arsenal: Limited-time gacha with box-gacha mechanics, meaning no duplicate rewards, but the price of the gacha goes up after each shot (remember the trophy system in Super Smash Bros Melee? Basically, that!)
  • Phase hits: Time-limited porridge using a two-phase approach. Players spend 30 premium coins to get one of six items in the gacha pool. When the rare red coordinate chip is finally acquired, the player receives a unique cosmetic (one of 12) from the gruel pool. There is no chance of getting duplicate cosmetics.

Although Apex Legends features a variety of porridges, most players don’t seem to be using them. Instead, they’re happy to progress through the game for free or get the rewards that come with buying and progressing through their Battle Pass, a monetization feature that appears in 60% of the top 20% of mobile games they collect

So if Apex Legends: Mobile uses many of the same monetization methods as its competitors, why isn’t it on the top 200 mobile grossing list? There are a couple of reasons. Its competitors have a wider selection of cosmetics available for purchase and a busier content cadence in general, so there’s less reason to spend on Apex Legends: Mobile, especially without limited-time cosmetics from brand collaborations.

Second, it’s much harder to monetize class-based shooters like Apex; each character has their own skins, and not every player will use every character available in the game as their main character. Players won’t bother buying cosmetic items for players that they will never end up using.

Erno Kiiski, Chief Game Analyst at GameRefinery

What’s next for Apex Legends: Mobile?

In a crowded mobile gaming market where graphics are increasingly populated by mid-core AAA titles, it will be interesting to see if Apex Legends: Mobile will draw players away from Call of Duty: Mobile and PUBG: Mobile.

From what we’ve seen so far, it looks like Apex will have to carve out a share of the market because it doesn’t have the same appeal as COD or PUBG. While downloads remain strong, there has been a significant drop in revenue for Apex Legends since its launch, where it earned over $4.8 million in its first week.

A packed calendar of live events and collaborations with some major brands could help bring this back. Still, we’ll have to see something soon if Respawn and Tencent want to pick up this game’s numbers, especially with another big competitor, a mobile version of Battlefield, on the way. Interestingly, both Call of Duty: Mobile and PUBG: Mobile got off to a slow start on the monetization front; It will be interesting to see how live ops scale in Apex Legends (if at all).

Until then, the hype surrounding the recently released new season and a new hero might do the trick. It seems to be working so far. The number of players and revenue increased at the launch of the second season, with a 600% increase in revenue between July 11 and July 13, but the numbers returned to normal shortly after. That said, there has been an influx of player spending in Japan following the launch of Season 2, so we’ll be keeping an eye on Apex Legends: Mobile to see if they stick around.

Erno Kiiski is a Chief Game Analyst at GameRefinery.

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