2019 on Twitch was Driven by People Over Fads
Usually, these monthly stories center around new games. For December, however, all of the holiday season distractions result in lower views since people are busy playing with their new gadgets and spending time with family. So instead, we’re closing out 2019 with an overview of the year, what’s changed, and what hasn’t changed, with a specific focus on Twitch.
Twitch has grown 12% YoY in 2019, but that’s not uniform growth across all titles. While the list of the top 10 most viewed titles on Twitch hasn’t changed much, there have been significant shifts within the rankings of those titles. Some were triggered by surprise releases and new trends, but the biggest shifts on Twitch in 2019 actually grew around the people at the center of the streams.
The top 10 titles on Twitch in 2019 are largely the same, with eight out of top 10 carrying forward from 2018. These games are the heavy hitters that have become synonymous with Twitch: League, Fortnite, Counter-Strike, etc. That’s about what you’d expect; fads are explosive on Twitch, but often fall away just as quickly, with past examples including big cultural events like Twitch Plays Pokémon. While other “Twitch Plays” content appeared after, none ever matched the fervor the first generated. The comparable title this year would be Teamfight Tactics (League’s take on the Auto Chess genre, which emerged from a Dota 2 mod). Teamfight Tactics exploded when released, generating 4.3M daily peak viewers over July on Twitch, making it the fourth top-performing game on Twitch in July. But instead of becoming the next Fortnite, Teamfight Tactics steadily lost steam before falling out of the top 10 two months later in September and has continued to decline since.
There were only two titles to successfully enter Twitch’s top 10 for 2019, and one of those isn’t even a new game. Apex Legends was a humongous hit in February after a surprise release, taking over the number one spot for the month. Apex steadily declined since then, though it spikes back into the top 10 for the month every now and then, trending closely with updates to the game. The other title to enter the top 10 this year is Minecraft, a much older title. While many spikes in Twitch data can be traced to updates, Minecraft’s growth this year is more organic. Though the game has had regular updates, the true source of Minecraft’s spike on Twitch this year follows several prominent YouTube personalities like Pewdiepie picking the game back up, which has seemingly triggered a nostalgia loop for many players and streamers alike. Though Minecraft was the 24th most popular game on Twitch back in April, it spiked into the top 10 by August and has stayed on the list ever since.
Speaking of organic growth, Grand Theft Auto V, a title already in the top 10 from 2018, experienced a 214% growth YoY in peak viewership. That’s very impressive for a title already in the top 10 (World of Warcraft experienced the second-highest growth, 53% YoY, by comparison). While Warcraft’s rise in popularity came from a very impactful update that introduced classic WoW servers, GTA V’s growth came from streamers picking up a role-playing hobby. While GTA V did have a large casino update this year, its growth actually started back in March when role-playing mods and servers gained popularity amongst prominent Twitch streamers who began interacting with each other on private servers, creating characters, and taking on personalities during streams.
Overall, 2019 was a big year for games, and while most new titles failed to reach the top 10, they still had healthy performances on Twitch in their launch months. But as we look forward to 2020, and with new platforms and technologies like Stadia emerging, it’s both humbling and important to note that some of the biggest waves on these social services aren’t just being driven by technology, but by the connections that are formed by people, shared hobbies, and shared nostalgia.