Hyper Scape, the latest entry into the already crowded Battle Royale scene, has been in closed beta for a few days now. Some people have compared it most to Apex Legends, given its focus on abilities -- the difference is, you can customize your abilities in Hyper Scape. It's like going to a restaurant and having a fixed menu vs a buffet.
While there hasn't been an announcement, nor a signal of focus from Ubisoft about Hyper Scape having any sort of designs on becoming an esport -- and I'm curious how much the audience and Twitch chat would care to influence the conditions of a game being competed on for thousands or even millions of dollars -- I decided to ask Apex Legends Commissioner John Nelson what he thought about another BR being introduced. Are we at the point of diminishing returns with BRs? Is there no more room to grow the audience and every added title will only split the audience?
This cycle is familiar to Nelson.
"It wasn't too long ago that we were seeing that sort of play out for MOBAs. That genre has kind of coalesced on a few that people still play and compete in, in large numbers today. So, if we continue to focus on being innovative and bringing the best possible competition for our community and meeting their needs, our participation numbers will continue to be strong. When the video game industry moves on to focusing on a different genre, Apex will remain strong."
So, will Hyper Scape hurt Apex Legends and other titles?
"I believe in Apex legends to the game and the team that's developing it," said Nelson. "Battle Royale obviously isn't the first genre to really capture a large portion of players and by extension, motivate a lot of developers to create their own twist or their own version of what that can look like."
Ubisoft added a few twists to their game, and I definitely like certain mechanics of Hyper Scape: other than the customizable abilities you pick up around the map, the double jump-- and the overall emphasis on jumping with OP trampolines everywhere -- is interesting, I like moving away from circles shrinking as a safe area and seeing different parts of the map fade away Thanos-snapping-his-fingers style. The ping system using the mouse wheel is clean. I like the free cam toggle while dropping to start the game. The end game added a unique wrinkle, with the crown appearing in the last sector and having the option to play tag for 45 seconds as one way to win.
Am I predicting that Hyper Scape will fully shake up the BR genre? No. The game is certainly more fun to play the 20th time than the first, and while it does have some unique traits and interesting features, I need to see it a lot more to give a definitive answer either way.
The Twitch numbers haven't been promising -- in the closed beta, viewership is often below 10,000 ... with drops enabled. That's a stark contrast from VALORANT and the explosion it saw during its closed beta a couple months ago. Yes, they are different style FPS titles, and Riot has the biggest esport in the world behind it, with massive hype and top-tier streamers willing to participate for free in their events, but these Twitch numbers for Hyper Scape are still closer to Crucible (which is now BACK in closed beta after an open release) than for VALORANT. Hopefully for Ubisoft, the next round will yield more positive results. Maybe the Twitch chat integration will really catch on. What I'm wondering is how much other BRs will pilfer from this title -- Apex running a LTM with customizable abilities? Fortnite with double jump? Warzone includes golden dog tags that you play keep-away with for a minute during the end game?
One thing I do want to mention is that Ubisoft did a terrific job with representation across their protagonists, so far it looks to be a great mix. In particular, as someone who grew up Muslim, I don't see too many Muslim protagonists in video games, so Noor filled my little Turkish-Canadian heart with joy. Not only that, Noor is wearing Hijab, the head covering that many Muslim women choose to wear as a sign of their faith. The inclusion found in these characters should be applauded and commended. Well done on that front, Ubisoft.
NEWS AND NOTES
1) NickMercs announced a major partnership with Activision Blizzard for his next MFAM Gauntlet, a weekly Warzone tournament now with a $100,000 prize pool featuring pros, content creators athletes and celebrities. I even popped up on Merc's stream to interview him live and also invited him onto our ESPN Esports Twitch, which you will see coming soon. NickMercs grew exponentially since the launch of Warzone and deserves his title as the most watched Warzone streamer. TeeP is another guy that is making massive strides on the content grind and it's paying off (I also enjoy his podcast content). Both of them also routinely play in tournaments, including the MFAM Gauntlet, which absolutely demolishes viewership.
2) Speaking of Warzone tournaments, am I the only one experiencing a little Warzone fatigue? Every day there seems to be another tournament announced. Many are for charity, which is great, I'm definitely not complaining about that, but maybe it's just the sheer volume of Warzone events specifically. It's hard to keep up. Maybe it's because the same familiar faces are popping up in most of the tournaments. By now, if a Warzone tournament is announced, before you read me the participants I can probably guess 12 of them. The Warzone social butterflies. I guess that's one way to stay connected during a pandemic!
3) The Apex Legends Summer Circuit continues with Super Regional 2 on July 12. EMEA begins at 12:45 p.m. EST and Americas at 6:45 p.m. ET. John Nelson told ESPN earlier this week that he feels the Summer Circuit is going very well and is happy with the new teams emerging in different regions around the world, while still having the top teams like TSM Rogue and the emerging Sola Fide competing in North America. Though the remainder of the Summer Circuit will be played online, there are plans, at least in some areas of the world, to attempt LAN events, when safe to do so, particularly in countries where COVID cases are dropping off and other events begin to pop up. When live events return globally, what will the first competitive Apex Legends major LAV event look like?
"It's kind of crazy to think we're approaching the one year anniversary of the [Preseason Invitational in Poland]", said Nelson. "That was a really great international event. We had so many teams coming from all over the world to compete. What I would love to see is that as soon as conditions in the world allow for it, that we have a similar major live event with all of these teams that have been making a name for themselves, through regions or super regions coming together to crown a world champion, or at least a world's number one. I think TSM has held that title for a long time and haven't had the opportunity to defend it. So I'm very much looking forward to the opportunity to come together once again and see who the best team in the world is now."
4) BenjyFishy, MrSavage and LeTsHe took home $3,000 in the Stormbee cup on July 2. Another win for two of Fortnite's most prominent competitors. Not many people are looking forward to solos tournaments ... but trios after that in the FNCS is a different story!