Fortnite - or upstart competitor Apex Legends? Who will be the last game standing?
The Fortnite phenomenon of 2018 - culminating in a user base of roughly 200 million players, of which your school-aged child is probably one - may have met its match.
Copycat battle royale game Apex Legends, launched last week with absolutely no advance publicity, racked up 10 million new players in first three days alone. That means its growing faster than Fortnite itself.
So watch your back, mum and dad.
Fortnite v. Apex Legends
Apex Legends is similar to Fortnite in most respects. It’s an easy-to-play squad-based shooter game with a focus on teamwork and communication. It features persistent though stylised violence, and online chat with strangers.
Also like Fortnite, Apex Legends is free to play but offers enticing in-app purchases that can add up big.
There are differences too. Fortnite features fun, cartoonish characters and equally stylised violence. Apex Legends has more the look and feel of a hardcore military-style first-person shooter.
Apex Legends has more the look and feel of a hardcore military-style first-person shooter.
Compared to Fortnite, there is more focus on the bottom line - killing the enemy - and less on fun and creativity. In the new game, characters who get killed can ‘re-spawn’ to stay engaged and prolong play. (Think of it as a kind of digital reincarnation.)
Perhaps the biggest difference is that Apex Legends is only available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC - not tablets or phones. (It was when Fortnite was released as an iPhone app that the game went ballistic.) Legends is unlikely to be released as an app, owing to the games technical heft.
That said, the overnight popularity of Legends is, well, legendary. As this blog is going to press, 120,000 viewers are watching a foul-mouthed gamer named “Shroud” play on Twitch (a social platform for gamers), and texting comments ranging in tone from reverence to obscenity.
As they say on Facebook, it’s complicated. The Pan European Game Information (PEGI) is 16+. The US-based Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) - a self-regulatory body of game and app developers - rates it 13+. Common Sense Media’s expert reviewer recommends 14+.
Let's be clear: The object of Apex Legends is to kill as many others as possible. And compared to Fortnite, the killing is front and centre, military-style. How disturbing is the violence? That depends on who you ask. In the words of one 13-year-old critic:
The game doesn't hava any gore, only red clouds when you shoot somebody, and the guns don't look all to real. If you think that all slight bits of blood is bad then this game is not for you [original spelling retained].
Any game or app that features online chat creates a direct channel for strangers to interact with your child. If you’re unsure about whether to allow this, we strongly suggest you visit Twitch for a try-out. Simply type “Apex Legends” in the search bar at the top of the page, and click on one of the popular results.
A new report suggests many mums and dads are sending their kids mixed messages.