Replayability – This is the key to almost any game and especially online and/or competitive games.
Now how does a game developer achieve replayability? There are a few different approaches but we will focus on that of competitive games as we reference Apex Legends since they’ve been the target of many concerns regarding this.
SKILL CEILING / DEPTH:
I’m going to start with a point that leads to the next. At its core, the game must provide a significant enough skill ceiling to require players to put forth a certain level of commitment and time in an effort to master mechanics. A game that is too simple to play and master will have too small of a skill gap and require lessened engagement.
A game that requires a little effort to master will not interest players in the long-term when looking to be competitive. A game with a deeper requirement of mastery will drive players towards replaying the game.
MATCHMAKING / RANKING SYSTEM:
One of the most basic ideas, of course, is a ranking and ladder system. Give people a reason to play outside of necessarily just enjoying the game. Make them enjoy progressing, we all know that progress is what people are really after in most areas of their life. Every game can provide someone with the ability to rank up, to compete against others, and to outrank others. This provides a person with a purpose within the game even if the general “fun” of it wavers.
You can look to basically any of the most popular titles in competitive or online gaming and they all feature a matchmaking system with ranks. Counter-strike, League of Legends, DOTA 2, Overwatch, Fortnite, and more allow players to progress in their individual rank/level.
Another aspect that can help with replayability should come as no surprise; new content. Providing a games player base with a new map, a new weapon, a new character to play, or any other additions to the game cannot only add replayability on its own but when stacked with a matchmaking and ranking system skyrocket concurrent players.
There’s a balance to be found as well. If a game has a matchmaking system, you can then provide smaller updates as there’s another piece of the puzzle. Without that, the content level must increase to make up for it.
In terms of Apex legends, Respawn given no matchmaking or ranking system at this time, nor have they provided enough content to make up for that lack of player progress. This ties into my previous article written on the importance of Apex Legends season two.
While I still thoroughly enjoy the game, I would love a ranking system which to me comes before new content. I know others feel the opposite but hey, it’s okay to feel differently!