Electronic Arts announced the second year of the Apex Legends Global Series esports league today, which will feature new league formats for pro and amateur players, and a $5 million total prize pool. But the most interesting news of all is that Year 2 will also bring console players into the action—not in its own league, but straight into the PC lion pit.
The addition of Xbox and PlayStation players will bring "a large majority of our players and fans under the same competitive umbrella," EA said. "The battle between controllers vs mouse and keyboard is about to reach a whole new level of intensity!"
Well, sort of, anyway. To help compensate for the inherent speed and precision advantages of a mouse and keyboard setup, controller players will use "PC-value aim assist settings" in competition, which is about 50% weaker than the console's default aim assist stickiness. In a recent update, Respawn added a toggle for all platforms to switch between the console and PC assist strengths. That little bit of help is almost certainly necessary to preserve some semblance of balance in battle, but I feel like it will inevitably lead to questions and complaints (and plenty of attendant ugliness) if a player with a controller triumphs over a mouse-and-keyboard-equipped rival. (In theory, a PC player could use a controller as well, if they thought it helped. For some reason.)
Crossplay, which enables PC and console gamers to get together in multiplayer action, is becoming increasingly common and popular. It's still a rarity in pro esports, though, because of the need for a balanced playing field when actual money is on the line. When the Call of Duty League announced that it was moving from PlayStation 4 consoles to PC for its 2021 season, for instance, it ruled that players would continue to be restricted to controllers in competition—no mouse and keyboard allowed, despite being on PC.
Despite the clear potential for headaches, it'll be very interesting to see how this cross-platform competition shakes out. My expectation is that M&K will dominate, which could force Respawn to fiddle with aim-assist settings or perhaps even hive off console players entirely. But it's possible that the controller squad will surprise us with some wall-to-wall ass-kickings—which, again, could prompt calls for action from Respawn if the impression is that console competitors are getting too much of an advantage from their controllers.
Of course, it's possible that I'm being overly gloomy about the whole thing: If this experiment works, it could lead to more widespread cross-platform competition in pro esports. We'll find out in a couple of months—the ALGS Year 2 pre-season qualifiers are set to begin in September.