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Fans of the hit battle royale, Apex Legends, have some news to celebrate today as Respawn Entertainment announced they would be opening a new development studio in Madison, Wisconsin. This will be their third studio location and comes just a few weeks after EA laid off 300 quality assurance testers for Apex Legends, nearly two months after the development of Apex Legends mobile was canned and the cancellation of an untitled single player project.

New Leadership

Heading up the new Madison, Wisconsin office is industry veteran Ryan Burnett. Burnett has been working in the games industry for over 15 years, with the majority of that experience on the team at Raven Software. That includes having a big hand in development across the Call of Duty of Franchise, one of Apex Legends' biggest competitors.

Burnett also spent a year and a half at Epic Games as well, before moving on to Studio Director at Respawn Entertainment. So, he has the experience and the drive to head up a studio that’s dedicated entirely to Apex Legends.

Should We Be Optimistic?

But just how optimistic should fans of Apex Legends be about this new studio opening? Following the slew of layoffs and cancellation of games, amidst the bigger periodic layoffs that keep happening across the tech industry, how long will it last?

It creates a sense of uncertainty for fans when large projects are canned, but Respawn Entertainment could also be looking to consolidate and focus on just Apex Legends. In 2023 alone, Apex Legends has seen an uptick in the number and frequency of in-game collection events. But, those have gotten mixed reactions recently with the amount of money it takes to complete them and the lack of new and interesting rewards.

It’s possible with this new addition of the Madison Studio that the frequency remains the same, but the quality of items and cosmetics goes up. Or, players could see a whole new development life for Apex Legends. Respawn Entertainment has shown a willingness to branch out and try new things with its battle royale. The Arena mode is a perfect example, where they took a lot of elements from tactical shooters like Valorant and CS:GO and tried to put their own spin on the genre.

In the long run, that didn’t work out, as they’ve recently removed the Arena’s mode stating they didn’t have the development time or power to keep up with player expectations and get the mode to where it needed to be. Now you see those same arena’s maps being used in their newest Team Deathmatch.

With the Madison Studio, would the arena's mode have gotten a second wind? It’s hard to tell. Apex Legends players should be hopeful and will likely see an uptick in Apex Legends content over the next year or at least an upgrade in quality. But the biggest question is whether or not it’ll last. The video game and tech industry can be a very fickle thing and layoffs and closures often come out of nowhere.

Here is the full press release from Respawn Entertainment about the Madison Studio opening from Daniel Suarez, the senior vice president of operations.

“We’re incredibly excited to announce that the Apex Legends team at Respawn will continue to strengthen its development team with the introduction of a brand new studio location in Madison, Wisconsin led by industry veteran Ryan Burnett.

Ryan is an extraordinary leader with a proven track record in live service games and as a pillar in the massive mid-western game development community in Madison. With nearly two decades of development experience at places like Raven Software and Epic Games, Ryan has a history of inspiring the sort of creativity and innovation in his teams that is the foundation of games like Apex Legends.

It’s been our belief since day one that Respawn is not a singular location but a mindset: when passionate and talented people have creative freedom, they'll achieve the unexpected. This view helped us successfully expand to Vancouver in 2019, and as the workplace evolved, it helped us continue to work with the best that the games industry has to offer, whether at the office, remote, or hybrid. We see that Respawn mindset reflected in Madison, which has cemented itself as one of the great game development cities not just in the United States but the entire world. That’s why we’ve worked closely with and appreciate the assistance of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to help facilitate the studio’s growth in Madison.

At its core, this expansion represents Respawn’s commitment to work with the most skilled, curious, and creative minds in the industry. Having just passed its 4th anniversary, our aim is to continue to make Apex Legends the premiere Battle Royale on the market. I cannot think of a better addition than the immensely talented developers in Madison working alongside our Los Angeles and Vancouver teams to help us shape what comes next.”