Is Apex Legends Esports’ Match Point Format Fit For Purpose?

I’ve talked about the Match Point format before, and I’ll likely talk about it again before too long, but it remains Apex Legends esports’ – or rather, the Apex Legends Global Series’ in particular – most controversial rule.

To vastly oversimplify it, in competitions that use the rule a team must reach 50 points and then win a match to win the tournament. This creates excitement for the viewer, as any Match Point Eligible team can take the win, rather than the situation in other battle royale competitions (and indeed other Apex competitions) where the result is a foregone conclusion because one team is so far ahead of the pack before the final match. It doesn't matter whether you're playing the meta with Valkyrie or off the wall with Fuse – who's a surprisingly good pick – if you're on Match Point, you can win it in the next round.

However, this is raising questions of fairness. If one team is so far ahead of the pack, shouldn’t they deserve to win, whether it’s anticlimactic or not? This was the specific situation that Reignite found itself in during the ALGS Split 1 Playoffs this weekend.

The Australian team was 21 points ahead of second-placed Team Burger (who were first place in my personal awards for Best Team Name) after eight matches, having secured six top five finishes and gathering an impressive 45 kills. However, with eight teams having surpassed the 50-point threshold by this time, it was still anyone’s to win. Fans of Reignite were likely nervous, but for everyone else things were just getting exciting.

As it happens, fourth-placed DreamFire beat Reignite in the final showdown of Match 9 to be crowned champions of Split 1. The players themselves were more bothered about the banner animation mechanic delaying their armour swap in the final 1v1 than the Match Point rule, but fans took the loss as an indictment of EA’s most innovative addition to esports. However, when you take a closer look, Reignite might not have been as dominant as it seems.

Most Apex Legends tournaments that don’t use the Match Point rule – that’s all of them except the most high-profile ALGS competitions – end the tournament after six games. After six games, the Playoff prize would have gone to Team Burger; Reignite only started pulling ahead after that.

Another point to note is that the sole point of a battle royale is to actually win. To get a victory royale, a chicken dinner, to see your name in lights on the Champions screen – whatever you call it, that’s the goal in regular matches, and so it should be in the esport. And that’s what Match Point does, it places the importance back on the most fundamental aspect of battle royales – winning them. Think back to the film this whole genre is based on; it wouldn’t matter how many other schoolchildren you killed if you weren’t the last survivor.

Despite Noyan ‘Genburten’ Ozkose getting 25 kills and averaging 1,500 damage a game, Reignite didn’t win a single round across the nine matches. Sure, their average placement was better than any other team, but 11th-placed We Are Trash won a game and Reignite didn’t. Eventual winners DreamFire won two rounds out of nine, arguably making them more consistent at winning battle royales than Reignite during this tournament. Does any of that mean that We Are Trash is better than Reignite? No, but it arguably achieved the goal of a battle royale better in this tournament. What we need to do is find a middle ground between rewarding consistent teams and teams that win rounds.

How about a format where you can reach 50 points by any means and then have to win a round to take the tournament? Suddenly, Match Point doesn’t seem so stupid. Sure, it’s not perfect, but I think it rewards the best teams in a competition. Yes, nine matches is a long time for players to compete for, but an ALGS tournament has never gone longer since the changes made after the Preseason Invitational in 2019. Match Point could theoretically make tournaments last forever, but it doesn’t and this is by design.

Tweaks to the distribution of prize pools could make Match Point fairer, rather than changing the rules of engagement themselves. If EA rewarded the team with the most overall points with a bonus as well as the player with the most kills, Reignite’s second place would be a little sweeter. As it currently stands, DreamFire took home $50,000, Reignite $25,000, and Team Burger $12,500. Taking $10,000 from the winner’s prize and giving it to the team that has the most points at the end would change how things looked a little, a be a further incentive to playing well in the late stages of the competition. In most instances the team that wins would take home the same amount of prize money, but in APAC South this weekend Reignite would have been awarded $35,000 to DreamFire’s $40,000, which would be a more fair representation of what went down; Reignite was a consistent performer but ultimately couldn’t obtain the ultimate goal of a win.

Match Point is exciting, it’s interesting, and it’s ultimately what kept us watching the APAC South Playoffs for nine games. Sometimes it doesn’t end up with the best team winning, but that’s sports. Greece won the Euros by drawing their way to victory back in 2002, England made the final last year by playing the most boring football you could possibly imagine – sometimes you need to do what must be done, rather than do it in style.

Not only is Match Point an appropriate system for battle royale tournaments, it’s exciting for viewers and largely fair to the teams that perform the best. The addition of the anonymised kill feed has already quelled some issues with the format, and a few further tweaks to the prize pool would make it better still. To scrap Match Point completely because this weekend’s action didn’t fall in the favour of the most popular team in the region would be a fundamental misunderstanding of battle royale competition, and would set back Apex Legends esports in a considerable manner.

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