Apex toasts 100 million players as the third-party tournament scene struggles

This is The Final Circle, a newsletter about Apex Legends

Apex is a dead game, as everyone knows, broken and full of cheaters. But it’s remarkably healthy for something that’s dead! Today, it celebrated 100 million players. Apex boasts enviable numbers on Twitch and Steam these days, comfortably in the top ten most popular games on Twitch and sitting at #5 on Steam when I checked earlier this week.

By those metrics, it is becoming more and more popular. Sometimes it feels like my reporting focuses too much on what is failing to happen, or the problems players encounter, and this latest edition is no exception. But let’s take a moment to remember that Apex is, by most measures, having an incredible year. EA Chief Financial Officer Blake Jorgensen told investors on a recent earnings call that Apex, which has already made a billion dollars in the two years since launch, could “grow to a billion dollars in net bookings every year." The issues that occur do so in the context of that massive success.

  • Realm’s Summit Series is cancelled

  • ‘Technical difficulties’ continue to delay Masters Spring

  • Apex newcomer Altiora ghosts after one tournament

Realm’s Summit Series is cancelled

While Apex thrives, its third-party tournament scene continues to have more than its share of bad news. Realm’s planned second Summit Series tournament was cancelled last week:

For those of you who missed it last year, Realm’s Summit Series was a jewel in the third-party tournament scene: an indie alternative to the slog of GLL ‘Masters’ events, the Summit Series had a healthy prize pool and an interesting EU vs. NA angle. Here’s what I wrote when the tournament debuted back in October last year: “The finals…will be fought for $5000, a good chunk of change, and pay out down to 5th place. As a fan, I enjoy the juicy NA vs. EU storyline of the finals too—the top ten teams from both regions fighting to see which is dominant. Similarly, the total prize pool of $20,000 is nothing to scoff at.” The Grand Finals between 10 EU teams and 10 NA teams was watched by an average of 16,000 viewers, with a peak of 24,000, outmatching some ALGS tournament viewership numbers by a significant margin.

Over Discord, I spoke to Eric Faust, a co-founder of Realm, to follow up on what’s next for the company in the wake of the Summit Series cancellation. Faust clarified they have no current plans to replace the Summit Series: “We had our sponsor pull out and we were not able to find another one. On a personal note, I'm disappointed we were not able to make this happen for the Apex community. We had big plans, we simply didn't get it done.”

In the future, rather than putting on tournaments itself, Realm plans to focus on its software, providing crucial services to other tournament organizers. “Other event organizers have been using [Realm’s software],” wrote Faust. “When API keys/private lobbies become public, we simply want to be the technology that people use to organize and manage the data for their events.”

While devs have acknolwedged that private lobbies are on the way, it’s an open question whether tournament organizers with money to burn will flock to Apex to take advantage of them.

But one thing is certain. Realm, Esports Arena, Nerd Street Gamers, GLL and even Juka Bowls all perform pivotal roles in competitive Apex, propping up the ALGS and allowing a wider variety of players to hone and showcase their skills. Unlike GLL, who secured $56 million in venture capital funding last year, or Esports Arena, a company that is literally inside Wal-Marts across America, Realm operates without a huge cushion of cash or valuable arrangements with EA/Respawn. (In a follow-up, Faust clarified that Realm raised $1.5 million three years ago). In that way, their success is a bellwether for the health of the larger competitive scene. Realm’s failure to secure funding for its flagship tournament isn’t exactly an encouraging sign. At the same time, given the game’s growth and the number of grassroots event organizers interested in putting on private lobby showcases, I don’t think it’s wrong to be optimistic about their future as a tournament software supplier to others.

‘Technical difficulties’ continue to delay Masters Spring

In what increasingly appears to be a coordinated cyberattack, GLL’s Masters Spring was delayed for a third time last week, postponing EU qualifying yet again after players were unable to access game lobbies.

North America and other regions haven’t suffered from such widespread issues, and at least one EU player, the popular content creator and ALGS competitor Shiv, received in-game messages from an account that shouldn’t have had access to his tournament lobby appearing to take credit for the attacks: the account, called YT-SoloTufi, wrote, “Hey Shiv, what do you think about GLL’s attempt to host a tourney today? :]”

Facing the inability to continue with competition while significant numbers of players are compromised by this bug, Masters Spring (EU) has been postponed to a yet-unannounced “future date”.

While some pros are convinced the attacks are the work of Tufi, the hacker who made a name for themselves in the Apex community for targeting high-profile streamers and being, apparently, unbannable, not everyone thinks this latest issue is a Tufi problem.

In an interesting bit of timing, an article in Vice yesterday by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai documented a “critical” bug in Valve’s Source game engine that would allow hackers to exploit PCs through a Steam invite. Apparently, Valve has been slow to respond to the exploit, fixing it in some games but not others. For example, the bug still works in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Apex Legends, of course, runs on a modified version of the Source engine.

Apex newcomer Altiora ghosts after one tournament

The roster that signed to Altiora Esports just a month ago has left the org, after immediate issues with nonpayment. Altiora abandoned Rainbox Six esports on February 26th of this year, and had signed vein, Onmu, and Scuwry by March 9th—a team already qualified to compete in the Winter Circuit Playoffs and (I believe) the ALGS Championship as well. Here’s what I wrote last month:

I think it’s now safe to say that Altiora brought their Rainbow Six struggles directly to Apex—failing to pay their players in the first month after signing them, and then ghosting after one tournament. Over Twitter DMs, I asked Onmu what was going on, and whether he could confirm that Altiora was leaving Apex. “Can’t say if they are leaving, but we are leaving them,” he wrote. I also reached out to Altiora directly to see what was happening on their end.

Several follow-up emails and DMs later, I’ve received no response. Their website is a ghost town as well: no events on the schedule, and placeholder text over the section for their Apex team. Whether Altiora had second thoughts about the ALGS Championship after seeing its format, or simply never had the funding to pay its players, it appears they’re out of the game for now.

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