Commissioner of Apex Legends Esports John Nelson Talks ALGS Split 2 and the Road to LAN Playoffs
We had the chance to sit down with John Nelson, Commissioner of Apex Legends Esports, right before the start of the ALGS 2021-2022 Season Split 2 Playoffs LAN. As this will be the first Apex Legends LAN since 2019, we wanted to hear John’s thoughts on how we got here.
Hotspawn: It’s been over half a year since the last time we spoke. I want to catch up a bit on the in-between. The rest of the 2021-2022 Season’s First Split came and went, as did the Playoffs. What were you most satisfied with about how the Season’s first leg played out, what did you look to continue to carry over to Split 2?
Nelson: I was really happy with how we kicked off the Pro League format. We introduced it with ALGS Year 2 and to see the 40 teams per region around the world competing against each other in that Regular Season format was definitely super satisfying. It all culminated with the Split 1 Playoffs, obviously it was regional playoffs, we weren’t able to bring everyone together like we are this weekend in Stockholm, but those playoffs were super successful and set new records for viewership in Apex Legends Esports.
Hotspawn: And what were some of the key changes or improvements that you were looking to implement between Split 1 and Split 2, and did those changes come to fruition like you wanted?
Nelson: Chief among the improvements for Split 2 was adding a second map to the ALGS. Bringing Storm Point into Apex Legends Esports was very important to us, and its something we’ve heard from fans that they wanted to see for quite some time while we were on World’s Edge only. It was great to see that map, the difference in play and Legend selection we’re seeing, and I’m excited to see the combination of both maps this weekend on LAN.
Hotspawn: That leads into my next question. Last time we talked, I asked about maps and whether or not we’d be seeing new maps implemented for Pro Play. We’ve now had Storm Point for the entirety of Split 2 and it will be played at the Playoffs. What was the process like for the implementation of Storm Point in ALGS?
Nelson: So, Storm Point from its release at the start of Season 11 just had a lot of player support in terms of people’s enjoyment of the map and seeing it as one that could be really successful in competitive play. We immediately leaned into that and started working with pro players to get feedback on any small tweaks they wanted to see to really shore up their support for the map in ALGS.
Hotspawn: Split 2 had a much more condensed time frame, with multiple rounds being played per week, sometimes even on consecutive days. There were some issues internationally that compounded on this, of course, that caused even more weeks to be condensed. What was it like working with this condensed schedule? Was it all a result of scheduling limitations, or was there also an aspect of wanting to try a faster format?
Nelson: The condensed format we had for Split 2 was not by design. The schedule we originally communicated was similar to Split 1. We meant to have it run over a five-week period, which was only slightly more condensed then Split 1. Unfortunately, our Split 2 regular season become more condensed due to the conflict in Ukraine. Our decision was to pause the ALGS for a number of weeks globally, but an even bigger number of weeks for the EMEA region specifically. We needed to condense it as opposed to shift it because we were planning [the Split 2 Playoffs] here in Stockholm. We needed to ensure there was time to book all the player travel and get everything prepared.
Hotspawn: Well, glad to see both you and the players get through that and get to LAN, which everyone has been waiting for. How long has the planning for this LAN been going on, and what were the biggest hurdles you and your team had to overcome to organize it?
Nelson: In some respects, the planning for Stockholm has been going on for the better part of two years. The Pre-Season Invitational in Poland two-and-a-half years ago was our most recent LAN event. Through Year 1 of the ALGS, we originally had a robust plan of live events that, due to the COVID impact on the world, had to be converted to regional online competitions.
We’ve been planning for LAN for a very long time, planning for Stockholm specifically during the better part of ALGS Year 2. Just as COVID has had an impact on all esports programs over the past two years, organizing and operating a live event in general during these times is definitely the greatest challenged we’ve faced.
Hotspawn: It’s clear that you are very passionate about and want the best for Apex Esports. Things still aren’t fully back to normal in the world and there are many potentially logistical or communicative difficulties that can arise at any time. I want to briefly talk about two of those issues that arose in between the end of the Split 2 Regular Season and LAN that caught community attention, both of which had at least an attempt at being remedied.
The first issue came up when an unsponsored team from North America, SCRY (now under Luminosity Gaming), qualified for LAN. The fact that they couldn’t pay for travel to Sweden came to light, and people jumped to both support them and question why travel wasn’t being covered for LAN teams. Shortly after, the announcement was made that travel costs would be provided for all teams. What was it like seeing that issue arise and how did your team view a potential response to that?
Nelson: I think that we have always, in building and operating the ALGS, have leaned heavily in player and community feedback. It’s part of what makes this community great, is the relationship that we have with them. We believe that we lean into their feedback, we hear them, and we’re all working together to make the ALGS the best it can be. When the feedback arose around player travel for Stockholm, we looked at that and felt that the right thing to do was to make that change and cover all player travel for the event.
Hotspawn: Yeah, that response did come in quickly and was very well received. The second issue came up was more of a technical/logistical one. When the specs for the LAN PCs were announced, many pro players were vocal in their disappointment, saying that these specs would not be up to par for an event like this. Once again, accommodations were made to try and fix this issue by bringing in parts to upgrade the PCs. Unfortunately, we now know that this could not be accomplished in time. Was this also a situation where your team stepped in, but unfortunately couldn’t make this one work?
Nelson: So, we had originally made a communication of PC specs to players competing in Stockholm. We again saw and leaned into player feedback and had actually secured upgraded PCs for the LAN competition. Unfortunately, due to extenuating circumstances, those PCs couldn’t be delivered on time. And so, we followed up with another communication that the original specs we communicated had to be used this weekend.
Hotspawn: Even though some players may be disappointed about this, I’m sure that they’ll still be happy to be competing at LAN. This is what we have been waiting on for two years, and regardless of any hiccups along the way, the show must go on. LAN is here, both players and fans are very excited, and I’m sure you are as well. Let’s talk a bit about the LAN itself. What are you and your team most looking forward to about the event this weekend?
Nelson: I’m most excited for all of these teams from around the World to be here in the arena competing. We’re going to be crowning a Global Champion for the first time in quite a while. We’ve seen various regional metas arise and now we get to see them play out against each other. Part of what is most exciting is the unknown. Anything can happen this weekend. Any of the 40 teams here this weekend can walk away as World Champions. Any of the five regions can emerge as the strongest in the ALGS, and its anyone’s guess what those regional supremacies and who the eventual champion will be. We’re most excited, as I’m sure the community of fans around the world is, to tune in and see what happens.
Hotspawn: Yeah, there’s definitely that element going into it, 40 teams, anyone can take home the trophy, it’s enough to get any fan excited. Are there any special moments or events within the LAN scope that you have planned? If you can’t say because of spoilers, what do you think fans can look forward to this weekend?
Nelson: I’d like to talk about the exciting things that I think everyone is ready to see. The immense talent among players that we have this weekend, the superstars of the ALGS all in one space under the lights of LAN, on an epic stage here in the venue.
There’s also the team of on-air talent that we’ve brought here to provide the broadcast. We have an amazing list of talent, some of which people have seen on North America and EMEA broadcasts, but also a contingent of talent here who have covered APAC South and North regular season as well. To further on that talent, NiceWigg and GreekGod are here to produce the B stream on Friday, as well as a watch party on Saturday and Sunday. I think folks who tune in to that stream can really enjoy that those guys are here in the venue, producing live beside the players.
Hotspawn: Wigg is a big one that I know a lot of people are hyped to see. He announced early after Split 2 ended that he would be there at Stockholm despite not being on a team. Now of course, we know he’s going to be producing and casting.
I don’t want to take up too much of your time since I know you must be busy with all the prep going on. I want to give you a chance to give two messages to two different groups. First, what do you want to say to the fans who will be watching now that the gates are about to open on Stockholm?
Nelson: As always, first and foremost, thank you. Thank you to all the fans around the world who have been with us on this ride. It’s been a long two years without a LAN event, but it’s also been an extremely fulfilling two years that have seen the amazing growth of Apex Legends Esports, and that is all thanks to the fans.
Separately in terms of the experience this weekend, I want to take this opportunity to talk about Multiview a little bit. We debuted it for the Split 1 Playoffs and had it throughout the entirety of Split 2. Multiview is live again for this weekend, and there’s even going to be some new features alongside it which will really plus up what fans have already enjoyed with Multiview. In addition to the ability to follow every team and to get their in-game coms, we’re also introducing some extra cool elements given that we’re all together in Stockholm. Tune into Multiview and experience what it means to be able to create the kind of broadcast that fans want to watch from home.
Hotspawn: The second group of people I’d like you to address is the players themselves. Like you’ve said, we have 40 teams, any of them can take the trophy. As the Commissioner of their league, what do you have to say to the competitors that are going to be fighting with everything they have this weekend?
Nelson: To the players, first and foremost, I want to say that it’s so great to see you. As a team, as EA, we’ve been looking forward to being in the same room as you for so long now. The Pre-Season Invitational, the event that we shared back in Poland, was an amazing experience for all of us. Nothing can compare to being here on LAN again and being able to share this space.
Secondly, keep working with us and providing your feedback. We are committed to you, and making your experience the best that it can be. We want to continue to improve that experience over the course of ALGS Year 2 and beyond.
The ALGS Year 2 Split 2 Playoffs LAN begins on April 29 at 1 AM PT / 10 AM CEST.