The long anticipated game from Hideo Kojima has spent its first week proving that there's still room for non-competitive, non-live-service titles at the top of the Twitch charts.
Auteur game director and creator Hideo Kojima is the farthest thing from what most observers would call “traditional.” The much revered mind behind the Metal Gear series is one of the medium’s most idiosyncratic voices, with a distinctive flavour and style that makes each of his titles a distinctively ‘Kojima-experience,’ leveraging deep and engaging gameplay affected by player choice alongside eclectic storytelling that manages to run the spectrum from absurd to heartbreaking to terrifying.
It is, therefore, interesting to think that in the world of streaming, titles like Death Stranding, Kojima’s long awaited latest outing which launched on November 7th, are more of a classic flavor, a throwback to an earlier age of gaming. But, in an era of always-online, live-service, massively multiplayer titles, as well as esports, that really is the case.
Single-player titles, particularly those focused on telling a finite story, tend not to rise up the Twitch charts in the same manner as the largest titles in the space. League of Legends, Fortnite, Counter-Strike -- these games are never-ending content machines, with the consistent presence of competitions and frequent updates keeping audiences engaged via play sessions that are different every time, for every streamer. Titles that lack that competitive element, that don’t rely on a roadmap of updates to keep players coming back, lack that extended lifespan, while at the same time providing a similar experience from creator to creator. The joy, as an audience member, is in experiencing the story with the creator and your fellow viewers, and that simply doesn’t hold as much appeal when you already know what happens.
And yet, Kojima is one of the biggest names in the gaming world, and this game has been massively hyped, with a brilliantly mysterious marketing campaign, for years, at this point. It may be a PS4 exclusive, but it’s still one of the biggest releases of the year, and a fantastic opportunity to see just what the ceiling is for a, dare I say, ‘traditional’ title in today’s context, and just which creators are helping the game reach those heights. So, enough preamble; let’s dive into the numbers.
Death Stranding Viewership Since Launch
Since its release one week ago, Death Stranding has been the second most watched game on Twitch in terms of total hours, second only to League of Legends, averaging 92,778 viewers during that time. One day after release, a Friday, it reached a peak of just over 286,000 viewers. By way of comparison, Fortnite, the third most watched game, averaged 76,135 viewers over that same span, and maxed out at a peak of just over 225,000 simultaneous viewers. You can get a better look at the former’s ranking on Twitch throughout its first week in the graphic below.
As you can see, the game achieved these fantastic numbers by dominating the platform over the weekend, maintaining the number one spot for the entirety of November eighth, and then returning to that spot at least once for each of the next three days. There isn’t room to perform much better.
Indeed, this is the pattern that we see for other traditionally structured games that launched with similar levels of hype. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, the Shinobi-themed successor to the ‘Darksouls’ series, also achieved similar levels of success at launch, reached nearly the same peak viewership upon release, over 266,000 on its second day, and then hit the number one rank in each of the next three days. Story-driven games, when they have the right level of audience enthusiasm, can, and do, take over Twitch at launch. It’s what happens in the weeks that follow that differentiate them from their competitive and live-service counterparts.
In Sekiro’s second week in streaming, average viewership fell by more than half, and total hours viewed fell by nearly two-thirds. As streamers finished the title, saw all there was to see, they moved on, and with them went their viewers. Looking above at the viewership for Death Stranding, the downward trajectory as the week went on is obvious. This is, of course, normal for any title, but the extent to which it drops over the next week, and how consistent the viewership is that remains, will likely follow a similar path to Sekiro. What was a top-five game in its first week becomes a top-ten title the next, and then falls out of favor as new titles arrive. Will this happen to Death Stranding? Our prediction is ‘yes.’
The Streamers Playing Death Stranding
Since launch, Death Stranding has been streamed over 221,000 times via 25,579 channels. In spite of the game being the second most watched title on the platform during that time, its total channels actually falls just outside of the top-ten, which is comprised entirely of live-service and competitive titles. That larger ratio between total viewership and total streamers usually indicates a somewhat top-heavy community of creators, with large-scale audiences at the top, from the largest creators, making up a large proportion of a title’s overall viewership. Taking a closer look at the game’s top creators since launch provides some additional insight.
As you can see, there are a handful of larger creators who accrued a significant portion of the game’s overall viewership. Between channels CohhCarnage, Fextralife, Lirik, and Alanzoka, the top four channels were responsible for one quarter of the game’s total hours viewed. Looking beyond that, however, we see a relatively even playing field, with fifty-eight creators accruing at least 50,000 hours viewed, and thirty-two getting to at least 100,000. So, while it’s true that viewers interested in watching the game tended to flock to a particular small group of players, there was still a healthy population of medium-sized creators with healthy audiences ready to experience it alongside them.
And who are these creators? By and large, they’re variety streamers, not creators dedicated to any particular game or genre, but rather those who move from title to title, keeping their audiences engaged through a combination of fresh, new titles and older classics where its easier to climb up the rankings. This falls in line with many story-focused titles we’ve seen over the past year, which don’t draw large-scale creators away from games like Fortnite or Grand Theft Auto Online, but do pull large numbers from the population of streamers that remain. This is, though, a double-edged sword, as variety streamers are also more likely to move on to another game with relative speed, likely trying a different title the moment the storyline has come to a conclusion. This is another sign that, like above, points to a quick retraction in terms of the game’s Twitch viewership and platform.
Death Stranding has thus far served as an excellent example of just how successful a traditional story-driven title can still be on Twitch. We’re only a week into its lifespan, and all indications are that its position at the top of the streaming charts will be relatively short lived when compared to big live-service games, but its performance thus far is solid proof that a more traditionally structured experience can still pull in enormous numbers in terms of both viewership and participating streamers. Single player, story-driven titles can still dominate the world of streaming, and Death Stranding is an excellent reminder of just what that dominance can look like.
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