Fortnite killer? Apex Legends notches 10 million players in three days

The new game from the team that makes Titanfall for Electronic Arts has also won millions of fans.

Ian Sherr Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. At CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
2 min read

Apex Legends is the latest game to try to take on Fortnite.

Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts may've found the next Fortnite .

The video game giant, known for its Battlefield war simulation games and upcoming Anthem action adventure title launching in two weeks, surprised the gaming world on Monday when it suddenly released a new game called Apex Legends. The title is free to download and offers a similar feel to Epic Games' Fortnite: Battle Royale, a free last-man-standing "battle royale" title that's become a cultural phenomenon since launching nearly two years ago. Both make their money by selling different looks for characters.

So far, EA says, more than 10 million people have played Apex Legends since it launched. "We hoped you'd love it as much as us, but never in our wildest dreams could we have expected the outpouring of support and positivity we've seen," wrote Vince Zampella, head of EA's Respawn Entertainment division, which made the popular Titanfall shooting game series and its spinoff Apex Legends. "We tested and tweaked. We argued and agreed. We got to a point where we felt some magic."

Watch this: How is Apex Legends different from Fortnite and PUBG?

In the meantime, though few official reviews have been released, gamers online have been positive. PC Gamer said the game was "the break from Fortnight I desperately needed." GamesRadar said it was "immaculate" and should get even better. And CNET sister site GameSpot said it liked the company's twist on the genre, encouraging people to work in teams in their effort to win each match.

The open question is whether that magic can turn into a real competitor to Fortnite. While 10 million players is nothing to sneeze at, Fortnite counted 200 million players in December (Epic didn't respond to a request for updated figures). Those millions have helped turn it into one of the industry's top games, drawing celebrities and musicians like chart-toppers Drake and Joe Jonas and sports stars like the NBA's Josh Hart. The attention helped notch an estimated $3 billion in profits last year, according to a report from TechCrunch

Many companies have since tried to replicate Fortnite's success, including Activision's and its Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 shooting game, which had a battle royale mode called "blackout" that helped make it one of last year's top-selling titles. There's also EA's WWII-inspired Battlefield 5, with a competing feature set to be released in March. Each of those cost $60 apiece, while Apex Legends is free to start.

"The game is off to a phenomenal start," wrote Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter, in a note to investors. Though EA's financial results over the last holiday season were disappointing (in part because of Fortnite's popularity), Pachter expects Apex Legends to contribute $100 million to EA's revenues in its next fiscal year.

Apex Legends: How to play the popular new Fortnite competitor.

Fortnite: Your guide to the cultural phenomenon.