Titanfall and Apex Legends are similar games in many ways. They're both developed by Respawn and published by Electronic Arts. They're both multiplayer first person shooters. They're even set in the same futuristic universe.
But recently, fans of Titanfall have felt neglected when compared to the Apex Legends community. Over the weekend, hackers and presumably Titanfall fans, even went as far as defacing Apex Legends's user interface over EA's and Respawn's neglect of the game they love.
Titanfall 1 and 2 boast a devoted, though small fanbase that is desperate for another chance to ride the giant mechs that the series revolves around. In Titanfall, you play as a mech pilot, and while the second game in the series has a single player campaign, the real focus of the series was using the giant mechs in team based, first person shooter combat where players can quickly wall-run and grapple hook across the map
Both Titanfall games did well, though not spectacularly, upon release. More to the point, their financial success pales in comparison to the next game from Respawn, the free-to-play battle royale game Apex Legends. Apex Legends has only grown in popularity over time, as well. In May, it reached an all time peak of over 300,000 concurrent players, edging the game closer to first person shooter heavyweights like Call of Duty or Counterstrike: Global Offensive. The games share a universe and some lore, as well as some players. But while Titanfall would get a slight bump in popularity due to Apex Legends's success, it never reached Apex's level.
Normally being a fan of something that is cool but not popular is a badge of honor. When that cool but not particularly popular thing is under siege by malicious DDoS attacks, the perks of being in a small fandom all but disappear. For months both Titanfall games have suffered DDoS attacks that make playing them online all but impossible. It's less like being in a special, secret club and now more like claiming a bedroom on a dilapidated, sinking cruise ship.
"I think a portion of the Titanfall community can relate to feeling forgotten by Respawn, having Apex be the popular younger brother that gets attention when he trips and falls while Titanfall suffers in the shadows," Rukus_krewbrick, a Titanfall player, told Waypoint. "I really just want to be able to play the only game I’ve actually gotten good at."
Titanfall and Apex Legends players that spoke to Waypoint said that they had experienced DDoS attacks while playing the game, some of them as recently as that day.
"Basically what it's like is that as a player you stop moving and get stuck in your current position and your ping spikes to 2000ms+," Gecko, one of the mods of the Titanfall subreddit told Waypoint. "You can still look around but that's about it."
"There are games that are fine, but some games you just stop moving and you can look around but your crosshairs stay in place and all other controls are lost," SomeRegularEmulator, a Titanfall player, told Waypoint. "You then get kicked out of the match."
After months of waiting for Respawn to solve the issue, some members of the fandom have made appeals to Apex Legends players. In particular users have taken to repeatedly posting a specific message in the Apex Legends subreddit about the state of Titanfall, asking the Apex Legends community for help in getting Respawn's attention.
The Titanfall and Apex fans that Waypoint spoke to all said that whatever friction has occurred between the two fanbases, it's a small minority. The friction does exist, though, especially after the previous weekend, where a hacker defaced the Apex Legends lobby to add a message about the DDoS attacks on Titanfall, which linked to the site Save Titanfall. The creators of Save Titanfall, a site dedicated to calling attention to the state of the game, have disavowed the hack in a message on the site. Respawn acknowledged that attack in a thread on Twitter.
"Both communities have denied involvement with the attack on Apex so we do not know whether it was some misguided individual in one of the communities or maybe even someone trying to run a smear campaign against the site [Save Titanfall] itself," Gecko said. The Titanfall subreddit now has a stickied post disavowing the hack on Apex Legends.
"We had a lot of people from the Apex community coming into the Titanfall subreddit to express their frustration as to them it seemed someone in the Titanfall community is to blame," Gecko said. "Attacking another of Respawn's games to highlight an issue in Titanfall does, of course, not solve any problems."
Apex and Titanfall players told Waypoint that another factor in this growing tension is that Respawn has stayed relatively silent on the issue of the DDoS attacks on Titanfall's and Apex Legends's servers. Though a communications director for Respawn tweeted about the hacks over the Fourth of July weekend, Titanfall and Apex players don't feel like the level of communication or action has been sufficient.
"DDoS attacks have been a problem for Apex for around a year now, and no changes were made related to them so far," an Apex player who goes by Techboah on Reddit told Waypoint. Techboah said that they used to play Titanfall as well, but the server issues made the game unplayable for them.
"Respawn is, imo, completely out of touch when it comes to anti-cheat and server issues," Techboah continued.
"If Respawn said they would not fix the original Titanfall, that would be fine to me because it is a very old game, but the problem is they are charging full price for it when it is completely unplayable currently," SomeRegularEmulator. "Launching Titanfall 1, it's completely dead because of it, the DDoS hackers have literally taken over every server in that game."
What these players fear is that if the problems with DDoS attacks continue, then Titanfall 2 will go the way of the original Titanfall. Shortly after the release of Apex Legends in 2019, Respawn studio head Vince Zampella tweeted that the studio was still working on content related to Titanfall. By 2020, Zampella told IGN that there was "nothing currently in development" in the Titanfall franchise.
There's no certainty that there will be Titanfall 3, so players hope they can play Titanfall 2 as long as they can. This isn't the first fandom for a game that has had to make do when the developer has appeared to move on. Community support for older versions of World of Warcraft eventually led to Blizzard, the game's developer, creating its own server where players can play an older iteration of the online game. Other games, like The Sims Online, continue to exist online as community projects that inhabit a legally precarious space, hopeful that the development studios that own these games will let them play in peace.
Everyone knows that servers for these multiplayer games will shut down eventually. Ultimately, it's the developers that hold all the cards in terms of when that day comes, and how much support these games get in the meantime. Development studios are also beholden to more than just the ire of the fanbases they created; sometimes the decision to make or support a game has more to do with finances than player passion. The ways that people are acting out in the Titanfall fandom comes from an understandable place. They are afraid that something they love is going to go away forever, and they don't know if there's anything they can do to stop it.