The counter hits zero as you and your three-man squad jump out of the back of the dropship. Your jet packs roar as you glide towards the colorful map below you. Deserts, swamps, rolling green hills, and military bases are clearly visible as your pan around the surroundings. You can see giant four-legged, long-necked creatures wading in the oceans just off the island in the distance. Colorful jet streaks zoom past your view as the enemy squads jockey for their favorite starting positions. Your feet finally touch the ground and gives way to a racing heartbeat and dwindling timer. “Gotta find a gun.”

You rush to the nearest buildings and storage caches, raiding everything in sight to elevate your chances in the coming skirmishes. Frag grenades, shield generators, pistols, rifles of all caliber, shotguns, ninja stars, backpacks, and health packs are all added to your squad’s respective inventories. Now we’ll battle our way to the middle of the map with a deadly electric storm at our backs making the map smaller and smaller until the final team remains.

Welcome to the world of Apex Legends.

Apex Legends from Respawn Entertainment is the newest entry in the free-to-play battle royale trend that has taken the video game industry by storm over the last couple years. If you don’t know what any of those words mean: free-to-play is a game model that allows players free entry into the game. Free-to-play games usually contain some kind of paywall that blocks cosmetic content that changes the players look through costumes and weapon graphics.

Battle royale game modes aren’t new to gaming, but they’ve never been more popular. Games like Public Battlegrounds Unknown and Fortnite really skyrocketed the trend in the last few years. While these games differ greatly from the actual gameplay of Apex Legends, the concept remains the same. Drop into hostile territory with no supplies. Gear up and fight to the middle of the map to be the last man or team standing. These Hunger Games style battles have become so popular that games like Call of Duty have been forced to add this game mode to their cues to keep up with player demand.

The free-to-play model has taken on a new life of its own after Apex Legends occurred 25 million players (2 million concurrent) in just seven days. Apex Legends isn’t just a recycled concept, but a fresh take on a familiar experience coupled with extremely polished game mechanics, above average graphics, fun characters…. and it’s all free. Don’t forget about Fortnite, the Minecraft meets Unreal Tournament shooter, which sits on the throne of this model with a whopping 200 million player base. Yeah, that’s two-thirds of the population of the United States of America. Needless to say,  the free-to-play model is flipping the table on the standard pay-to-play gamingk.

Look no further than Activision-Blizzard, a cornerstone of the traditional gaming market is laying off 775 employees despite record sales in 2018. “We ultimately did not meet our own, nor our communities’, expectations for content delivery and growth,” Activision-Blizzard stated in a press release.

Activions-Blizzard is responsible for groundbreaking titles like Call Of Duty, Diablo, World Of Warcraft, Overwatch, and so on. They’re in the Hall Of Fame of game development, hands down, no questions asked. But, the market is changing rapidly and some believe these layoffs are a direct result of the old guard failing to adapt to new trends or craft intellectual property to capture gamers attention.

Activision recently suffered another loss in the form of losing Destiny, a popular IP created by Bungie. According to Activision, this split occurred because of Destiny didn’t meet financial expectation for 2018 sales. However, many speculate the separation was spurred by Bungie after they publicly stated they’re targeting their hardcore audience for future content releases and shying away from developing content to satisfy the majority of casual players. The casual gamer base is one Activision makes the majority of their money from and a reason their Call Of Duty franchise has been the best selling video-game series 10-years in a row.

Activision-Blizzard and the traditional gaming model aren’t going anywhere soon, but they are being pushed for competition harder than ever before. Hardcore gamers will always be fine with spending $60-$100 for a well crafted digital experience that provides them hundreds to thousands of hours of enjoyment. But if great games like Apex Legends can provide thousands of hours of white-knuckling entertainment for free, why would someone who only plays for a few hours a week, spend any money for it?