Grand Theft Auto Online doesn't get the headlines, but it remains one of Twitch's biggest games.
The Twitch charts are dominated by competitive titles, from the round-by-round mayhem of the ubiquitous Fortnite to the tournaments and leagues of esports sensations like League of Legends and Overwatch. In that landscape, and coming off of the biggest year in the history of esports, a title outside of the competitive genre has quietly followed up what has been years of success with its biggest year on Twitch, and it shows no signs of slowing down. I’m talking about Grand Theft Auto Online.
Beginning in mid March, Grand Theft Auto Online exploded on Twitch thanks to the success of the RP, or Roleplaying mod, which leverages private servers to facilitate a, of course, roleplaying experience within the game’s world, with players acting as anything from police officers, to garbage men, to gardners. The participation of some of the platform’s biggest creators -- including Sodapoppin, Summit1g, and LIRIK -- made broadcasts from RP servers an instant sensation, the second most watched game overall for the two months that followed.
Many creators at the top of the charts moved on at some point in April, but the game remained one of the most watched on Twitch, the third most watched title overall between May 1st and the end of August. Then, in September, top creator Summit1g began to play the game less, before completely moving on beginning in November. This is where we must talk about the other big development of 2019: the casino.
Grand Theft Auto Online’s in-game casino launched on July 23rd, visible above as the game’s biggest day, in terms of total streamers, of 2019. This is after the first large increase for which the RP mod was responsible in March. This brought a massive number of players and creators back to the game, but unlike roleplaying streamers, many were back for only a limited time, to experience the new content associated with the casino. You can see how the game’s participating streamers slowly fell in the weeks and months following the launch of the casino, and this decline coincides with the departure of mega-streamer Summit. And yet? Even after that fall in viewership, the game continued to pull in massive audiences.
Over the last 90 days, as of this writing, Grand Theft Auto Online was the fifth most watched game on Twitch. During that same time, more than 285,000 creators broadcast the game, seventeen of whom accrued at least one million hours of viewership, representing one of the healthiest and most sustainable populations of top creators on the platform. Dedicated community members are keeping the game at the top, and they don’t show any signs of leaving.
Let’s take a look at some of those creators. Below are the top ten GTA streamers, in terms of viewership, for the most recent full week.
Compare that to the top ten for the megahit Dota 2, a staple of the Twitch charts and another of the most stable games on the platform.
Similar numbers from what is, in turn, a very similar population of creators. The latter title has been one of the most watched on Twitch for years, at this point, and it has done so thanks to a robust esports scene, first of all, but also a stable group of dedicated creators and channels keeping it near the top of the charts. Grand Theft Auto Online benefits from a similar community of dedicated broadcasters, one that spent 2019 growing more and more, and has more active streamers now than it has at any point in its history, even its initial release way back in 2017. That’s right: GTA Online is bigger now than it’s ever been.
So what lay ahead for GTA and Rockstar? The latter has clearly been hoping that Red Dead Redemption Online can develop into a similar powerhouse on Twitch, but even as the former has been exploding over the past year, the online western has struggled to reach similar heights.
It’s interesting to note that the one development that had the biggest impact on Grand Theft Auto’s streaming community was the RP mod, something which Rockstar Games played no part in creating. While a similar modification could, of course, emerge for RDR, none exists at the moment, and none of Twitch’s largest creators have been drawn to the title in the same way roleplaying did for GTA. The game is seeing constant updates, with new roles, missions, items, and countless other additions, which have kept the game alive, and major content like GTA’s casino could still be forthcoming. It will take something big, however, to bring it up to the same level as its predecessor. At this point, it seems unlikely.
That means that GTA will remain Rockstar’s major player on the Twitch charts for the time being, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. 2019 was the biggest year ever for the celebrated title, but an even bigger year could lay ahead. All this time after releases, Grand Theft Auto is still one of the biggest games in streaming. We don’t see that changing any time soon.
Check out this week’s Twitch rankings, and our breakdown of 2019’s fastest growing games on Twitch. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for all the latest blogs, announcements, and game marketing news from the team at GAMESIGHT!