Apex Legends maker expands into Canada with new Vancouver studio

New Respawn Entertainment location is currently hiring with a focus on live services for EA's blockbuster shooter

Respawn Entertainment LLC, maker of the hit battle royale game Apex Legends, has opened a new studio in Vancouver and is actively hunting for local talent.

Founded in 2010 by Call of Duty originators Vince Zampella and Jason West in Sherman Oaks, California, Respawn Entertainment established itself with the Titanfall series. The developer was acquired in 2017 by Electronic Arts, Inc. for US$151 million in cash plus equity.


Early 2019 saw the surprise-launch of Apex Legends — competitor to Epic Games, Inc.’s hugely popular Fortnite — which found immediate critical and financial success, hosting as many as 70 million unique players as of last fall. The stylish sci-fi shooter, which is available on multiple platforms and is free to download and play, makes the bulk of its money selling virtual items, with new items made available through regularly scheduled “season” updates. EA has gone on record stating that Apex Legends could become its next billion-dollar franchise and have a lifespan lasting a decade or more.
Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

The game’s success is the main reason for the new Vancouver location, which is focused on supporting Apex Legends with live service content. The studio has been hiring internally for several months, drawing staff from both Respawn and EA’s own studio in Burnaby, but is now looking to fill positions with external talent.

Post Arcade had a chance to chat with Respawn Chief Operations Officer Dusty Welch about the kind of roles he’s looking to fill, why the American company chose to set up shop in Vancouver and what it’s been like to expand operations during a global pandemic.

Dusty Welch, COO at Respawn Entertainment, which just opened a new studio in Vancouver, believes “diversity – not just in background but geography – unlocks entirely new ideas and thinking.” Photo by EA handout
Post Arcade: Why is a second studio necessary, and why choose Vancouver as its home?
Dusty Welch, Respawn COO: There are two main reasons why we’re looking to expand the Respawn team to Vancouver. The first being there is a wealth of incredibly talented game developers in Vancouver. My perspective has always been that diversity, not just in background but geography, unlocks entirely new ideas and thinking, which is something we very much embrace at Respawn.
The second is that we’re fortunate to have one of EA’s most prolific studios in Vancouver, which has been central in helping us build the foundation of our Respawn team with some incredibly talented developers and leaders. We have a really strong leadership team at Respawn in Vancouver helmed by team director Steve Ferreria and head of operations Henry Lee, who will be looking to grow the larger team of about 80 people to work as part of Apex Legends game director Chad Grenier’s live service team.
Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
PA: Are there any key positions that you still need to fill?
DW: Henry and Steve have extended roots in Vancouver and Canada, as do most of the new team members. It’s been incredible to see the first employees of the new studio rally behind our core values and jump in with excitement and great ideas for new content.

Over the coming months, we’re going to be looking for a wide array of talent including designers, artists, and developers. We’re really excited for what’s to come.

PA: Apex Legends is clearly an ongoing priority for you. Is there anything you can share about what a dedicated studio means for the future of the series and what benefits fans can expect?
DW: Apex Legends is absolutely a top priority for Respawn. The team in Vancouver is part of Respawn and already integrated on Apex Legends, bringing fresh thinking to our ongoing live service development to ensure we’re continuing to deliver fun, innovative, and engaging content that players want to keep coming back to. The recently launched Season 5 is a great example of the high quality live service experiences that the entire Apex Legends team will be looking to deliver for years to come.
PA: Does developing live service content require a different type of mindset among workers compared to traditional game development?
DW: Chad Grenier has this saying that could not be more true: Running a live service game is kind of like having a baby. You can read all of the books, make all of the preparations possible, but until you have your baby — or your game, in this instance — you have no idea what you’re in for.
Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.
Since launch, we feel like we’ve planned, prepared, and executed each season better than the last. In Season 3, we really felt like we started to hit our stride on delivering the type and caliber of content we envisioned for Apex.
The key for us at Respawn is to bring innovative thinking and new ideas to everything we do in our games, and that includes each new season in Apex Legends. We want to make sure each season — from the new Legend we introduce, the backstory that weaves together the variety of changes in the arena and events we’re holding throughout — feels fun, fresh and new for all of our players.
PA: Are there any business lessons you’ve learned or cues you’re taking from other game makers that have expanded operations with additional studios?
DW: EA has been instrumental in our first expansion of Respawn outside of Los Angeles. In addition to their best-in-class studios in Canada and throughout the world, their leadership team has incredible knowledge and experience growing studios smartly with team culture and products in mind.

At the end of the day, we’re looking to bring in the best-of-the-best in game development, creating a culture that’s aligned with Respawn’s overarching values of rallying behind new ideas and creating innovative games.

PA: How has the pandemic affected plans for the Vancouver location? Is it altering business processes, hiring and future planning?
DW: COVID is affecting everything and everyone, no matter where they work. We’re lucky in that we have the full support of EA to continue to grow and expand our content production on Apex Legends.

I am so proud of this team and how they have rallied behind the challenges of developing live content for a game remotely. It’s certainly opening the door for the possibility of a more distributed workforce in the future, bringing in incredible talent wherever they work.

That’s my way of saying, wherever you’re located in Canada make sure you apply for these new positions!

The preceding interview has been lightly edited for length and flow.

This Week in Flyers