Respawn explains Apex Legends cosmetic pricing: 'math is harder than people think'

Apex legends lifeline
(Image credit: EA Games)

In an AMA on the Apex Legends subreddit, Respawn's "director-level monetization guy" agreed to respond to questions about the battle royale's cosmetics. A typical Apex Legends skin costs almost $20, which tests the limits of the word "microtransaction". That's why x5hadau asked, "there's gotta be a way to prevent the player from feeling cheated when they buy something".

The response from Respawn began by explaining that "Respawn is gameplay first" and avoiding making Apex Legends feel like it's pay-to-win is behind some decisions: "That's why Legends are grindable and Legend Tokens are generally easier to get to unlock Legends (yes, we know that has led to other challenges we have to fix...math is harder than people think and when your assumptions are wrong, it's hard to adjust)."

Respawn also explained that creating cosmetics is harder than players expect, both because its team is smaller than those behind many other battle royale games ("As much as people think we can turn cosmetics out easily because our competition outputs content at a high rate, our team is much smaller and spends more time on our skins"), and because of the amount of behind-the-scenes work that goes into them. "It's more expensive than people think in terms of number of people and hours because people don't factor in tons of back and forth on concept, QA, ideation, creation, etc."

The post finished by suggesting different approaches to pricing might be tried in the future, saying, "We want to try and serve as many players as we can for sure so we're going to try things to learn what works." 

When asked why it's been almost a year since the last time new recolors were released, they answered, "They definitely take a lot less time to make, but the problem with that is developing more recolors directly takes resource away from developing brand new skins. At a high level, the trade off we have to make is making 10 recolors or one net new Legendary skin." 

The current Apex Legends Championship prize pool is being boosted by crowdfunding via sales of in-game bundles.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.