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EA and Respawn’s Apex Legends just celebrated its four year anniversary and, with Season 16 underway, it’s continuing to soar. They hit a new all-time high with concurrent Steam players and just had a fresh new overhaul of the class system. While players may be happy about most of what Respawn is doing, it’s not all Mirage clones and rainbows. Apex Legends has a problem with its monetization and players are rightly upset.

Battle Royale's and first person shooter video games as a service have long run on cosmetics to keep their profits high and their shareholders happy. As far as Apex Legends goes, it’s not been the perfect system as most skins cost around $18 (USD) each with sales and bundles tossing in some extra deals here and there. The big money maker for EA and Respawn is in their Heirloom Collection events.

What is an Heirloom?

Heirlooms are cosmetic-only melee weapons that are character specific and change the weapon-stowed and melee animation of the said character. Instead of just running around with your fists out when you holster your weapons, you have some cool melee weapons like Wraith’s kunai or Loba’s war fan. They also come with a number of unique animations, sometimes hinting at deeper lore or character relationships.

Screen grab of Apex Legends in-game Heirloom Shop.

Apex Legends in-game Heirloom shop.

Heirlooms in Loot Packs

There are two ways to get an Heirloom, the first is through sheer random luck when opening a loot pack, the odds of which are 1 in 500. You’re also guaranteed to get one on your 500th pack if you haven’t by the time you open it, a bit of a mercy rule.

Collection Event Heirlooms

The other way is through collection events, such as the Imperial Guard event going on this week and next. When a new heirloom is released, it’s done so through these events which have 24 new cosmetics varying in their uniqueness. But normally, these cosmetics which are Character skins, guns skins, charms, backgrounds, emotes and much more importantly, they are brand new, original concepts. Occasionally, you may see some recolors.

If you buy all 24 of these limited-time cosmetics, you’ll unlock the heirloom. Depending on if you buy any bundles or have in-game currency to craft them you’ll be paying up to $168 (USD) to get all 24 and unlock the Heirloom.

Your mileage on that kind of deal will vary, but by and large, most Apex Legends players have been content to do so for their favorite Legends to have a new piece of shiny gear to show off.

The Problem with Imperial Guard

So what has changed that has people upset about the newest Imperial Guard Collection Event? Respawn has gotten lazy, greedy, and they flat out lied to the community. Collection events have always been reserved for Heirlooms and just recently, Prestige Skins (which the community has their own set of issues with), but at the end of January, Respawn tried something new.

Recolors Are Not Worth $168

In the Celestial Sunrise Collection Event instead of an Heirloom, they put in a reactive gun skin. A skin that changes color or has some cool effect as you charge it up or rack up kills. This was a recolor of a skin that was available back in season 3 of Apex Legends (October 2019). The community was justifiably upset that Respawn was asking for $168 for a recolor of a weapon skin that most people got for $10 after finishing the battle pass.

In an interview with Dexerto earlier this month, they spoke to game director Steven Ferreira about the response to the Peacekeeper skin as a Collection event reward. He explains that the team at Respawn like recolors because it gives new players coming into the game a chance to obtain cosmetics they may have missed out on, while also keeping those skins exclusive to those who got them. Which is a great line of thinking despite those recolors still costing as much as the originals did.

Ferreira goes on to talk about the reception of the Peacekeeper skin saying they have “100% seen the feedback. We’ve heard loud and clear.” He then admits, “We thought players would really like the opportunity to get it.”

“But we learned some lessons. You won’t see that collection event reward again, I can pretty much guarantee that. The intent is always to do something players enjoy and see value in, definitely not trying to upset anyone.”

Evan Nikolich, senior design director on Apex Legends added, ““We want people to feel good about the money they spend, to feel good to get something new, not cheap.”

Respawn Recolors Despite Learning Their Lesson

Which brings us back to the Imperial Guard Collection event, whose reward is a new alternate skin for the Wraith kunai, the original Heirloom in Apex Legends. There are some players who are excited for it, but a good number of them see the same problem they saw in the Peacekeeper skin. They’re releasing something they already released for $168 and the only new benefit is that it comes with a Mythic level emote.

Wraith's second heirloom, the Kunai "Hope's Dawn" available in the Apex Legends Imperial Guard Collection Event.

Wraith's new Kuani heirloom skin, "Hope's Dawn".

Some could argue that this event is a bit different to the Peacekeeper debacle as not everyone has it and it’s not just a $10 skin people got for free by completing the battle pass. Others point out they paid a lot of money to get the original and a re-color of that shouldn’t cost as much. Respawn also added a handful of new unique animations to both the new and old version of the Heirloom as the early heirlooms didn’t have them.

But the other egregious error of this collection event is that the majority of the other cosmetic items you need to collect to unlock the heirloom are all recolors from the past. There's only one new original legendary skin for Wraith and one new Volt SMG skin in the event. It’s a very bad look for Respawn after their game director and senior design director make comments about hearing people on their dislike for recolors and that they’ll never do the Peacekeeper recolor reward again.

There could be a few reasons behind this, of course, for example this event might have already been in the pipeline and they felt it would be more damaging to not roll it out even amidst the poor reception of the Celestial Sunrise event. Or, maybe Respawn looks at the Peacekeeper skin backlash and thinks it’s only because it’s a weapon skin and players will be fine with a Heirloom recolor.

Only time will tell if the community will accept heirloom recolors in the game or not, but as Nikolich said in their interview with Dexerto about the best way to give Respawn feedback, “[vote] with your wallets – don’t spend money if you don’t want the item.”

We've reached out to EA for comment and will update this article accordingly.

The Imperial Guard Collection Event runs from March 7th to March 21st.