Speculation swirls around EA’s sudden sunset of Apex Legends Mobile

Analysts and outlets have multiple theories around EA’s sudden sunsetting of Apex Legends Mobile and Battlefield Mobile

Speculation swirls around EA’s sudden sunset of Apex Legends Mobile

When EA announced the sudden cessation of development on Battlefield Mobile, and the sunsetting of Apex Legends Mobile, it's safe to say that many within the industry (and the gamers at frontline) were asking one question, "Why?"

As numerous outlets and analysts dig into the data surrounding the announcement to try and understand what EA’s reasoning was, and especially with a flurry of other live service games leaving mobile last week, the questions are only mounting rather than receding.

Reasons and rationale

Deconstructor of Fun's newsletter suggested that player loyalty to existing games (of which there are many, with Legends a relative latecomer) prevents EA from picking up a new audience. This despite Apex Legends Mobile not being a poor performer by any means, with over $100m annual run rate, being the publisher’s sixth biggest title in terms of revenue in 2022 despite being just seven months since launch.

GamesIndustry.biz meanwhile collected many quotes given by EA CEO Andrew Wilson on their purported rationale for the cancellation of Apex Legend Mobile. Reasons which of course were given primarily to investors and thus were unlikely to be candid. They also noted that Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft are continuing to invest in mobile. Although as with EA's seeming thought-process, they see it only as a way to expand their existing audience and not break into a wholly new one.

“So while the impending shutdown of Apex and Battlefield Mobile may have come as a surprise, it should come as no shock that this is just one step back with EA hoping to take two steps forward next time – much to the chagrin of anyone who would prefer another Titanfall.”

Deconstructor meanwhile also noted that there is allegedly tension between Chinese and American studios and aired the possibility that Tencent and EA simply didn’t work well together. The latter assuming that their approach and experience is superior, with the former having of course cut their teeth in a massive mobile and free-to-play market.

They make the connection between this and Blizzard’s highly publicised breakup with NetEase that was attributed to a breakdown in communications with bad actors on both sides, both companies slinging veiled barbs back and forth.

It therefore seems like a case of reluctance from EA to commit to the market, and frustration having to work with outside partners. Although whether this is circumstantial or could have easily been avoided is up for debate. Our money is on the latter as EA’s reputation for, for lack of a better term, corporate alliances in gaming is well-known amongst observers of the game industry and scene.

Opaque reasoning

If these titles didn’t meet their standards for quality, what does that say about the leadership and planning on them? Let's not forget that EA aren't just shelving Battlefield on mobile but also closing its developer Industrial Toys, a studio it acquired in 2018 but which hasn’t released any titles since. After the debacle that was Battlefield 2042, EA seems to have given up on Battlefield Mobile as an extension of it, sacrificing a potential money-spinner in the mobile market due to what had become a series based on poor decisions.

Notably, the EA habit of taking a successful company and putting them on a poorly received project before gutting and closing them down is still in full swing. Which now may appear less like corporate ruthlessness and more like incompetence. Notably few, such as the aforementioned Deconstructor of Fun, took their announcement at face value. Even suggesting that “Factors beyond our control” being mentioned by developer Respawn Entertainment could be a jab at their partner studios from Tencent.

As we've noted, Supercell’s sunsetting of Everdale after two years was considered to be quite ruthless. But while Supercell had clear rationale, in their quest to find the next Clash of Clans, EA’s moves feel more like the corporate equivalent of putting one’s foot in a bear trap. There’s no good way to extricate yourself from a tough situation.

What’s next?

Right now, it will seem to many that, with their acquisition of mobile developers GLU and Playdemic resulting in steep losses and an exodus of talent, trust in the stability and leadership of EA has taken another hit. EA is far from the biggest player in gaming anymore, and it seems only a matter of time before missteps like these impact investor confidence in the company, which is the one thing EA is going to have to sit up and take notice of.

Staff Writer

Iwan is a Cardiff-based freelance writer, who only occasionally refers to himself in the third person.