The free-to-play titles prove you can establish a strong, consistent community of streamers that lasts years without necessarily being one of the most ubiquitous titles in gaming.
Update 7/19/19: The article below originally incorrectly asserted there was crossplay between the mobile and PC titles mentioned. It has been corrected, along with the addition of new information gleaned in conversation with employees of Wargaming.
Success for a game in the streaming space is a somewhat nebulous concept. Obviously titles like Fortnite, League of Legends, and other Twitch fixtures make the cut, but the reality is that dominant games like these are relatively few and far between. Most won’t rise all the way to the top of the charts and then stay there for weeks and months at a time. Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other developers and publishers establishing themselves in the space, building strong, sustainable communities that help to support their titles for long periods of time. Today, we’re going to take a look at two games from a single publisher that often go under the radar, in terms of streaming success, but have established themselves as two of the most consistent performers on the platform: World of Tanks and World of Warships, from publisher and developer Wargaming.
World of Tanks was first released into open beta in Russia in June of 2010, and has been slowly and steadily building its community of players ever since, reaching three million registered users in early 2011, and up to a whopping 75 million by December of 2013. Because it was released so long ago, we don’t actually have records of its numbers on Twitch for most of its lifespan, but its total viewership since we began collecting data in September of 2017 can be seen below.
As you can see, its performance is incredibly consistent. Most games, when viewed over such a large period of time like this, go through obvious ups and downs, with clear peaks in viewership around content releases, and distinct dips in between. Nearly a decade after its release, Tanks doesn’t demonstrate such variability. For a title as far into its lifespan as this, that doesn’t have the sort of cultural ubiquity of the platform’s top performers, this is highly unusual, and extremely impressive. Now, let’s look at its companion title, World of Warships.
Again, we see significant viewership numbers, consistently, over the lifespan of the game on Twitch, but you’ll also notice something different: a substantial increase in the number of streamers at the end of 2018 which has sustained itself through the first half of this year. This is a result of the game having released so much later, having left beta in 2017, and so we can actually still see one of Wargaming’s most successful strategies in action: platform expansion.
According to one Wargaming employee, the uptick visible above is a result of engagement with their community contributor program, along with the addition of Twitch Drops, wherein " viewers who have both Twitch and Wargaming.net accounts can receive in-game rewards for watching streamers play World of Warships." These streaming-focused programs, along with the increased visibility brought about by the release of World of Warships Blitz, the game's mobile release, had an immediate and sustained impact on the size of the game’s community. While the former represents how much the team at Wargaming has grown, leveraging the increasing prevalence of streaming to continue expanding its community, the latter, the mobile version, represents what has long been Wargaming’s strategy with their titles: to get them onto as many platforms as possible. The largest spike on the graph above was after the title hit the current generation of consoles on April 16th, yet another expansion of their game’s platform, and before Warships, World of Tanks had also been released onto iOS in 2013, and today is also available on the PC, Macs, Android, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. All of these releases occurred before we began our collection of Twitch data, so we can’t directly see the impact these releases had on the game’s streaming community, but given how regularly engaged it is today, it’s clear that this platform ubiquity has allowed as many interested players and streamers as possible to get their hands on the game, even as they transition from console to console, from home to mobile.
Switching gears, if we instead look at the number of streamers playing each game over the last two years, we can make some predictions about the future. Below are the total creators streaming World of Tanks over that timeframe.
While audience numbers have remained somewhat stable, Tanks demonstrates a sizable increase in its total streamers, with peaks of generally around 200 creators in late 2017 increasing to as high as 350 this past January, and averages of around 250-300 today. There are a few things that might be at play here. First is the growth that Twitch itself has seen over this timeframe, with more and more people broadcasting and watching every day. The other prospect, though, is that this is the continued effect of having the game available on so many platforms while Twitch’s growth occurred. As streaming has increased in popularity, it makes sense that a free-to-play title, available on the platforms from which players increasingly tend to stream, with an established community on Twitch that isn’t so large it’s impossible to break into or get noticed, would continue to grow in this context. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the same numbers for World of Warships.
Here we see a similar pattern of growth, but with more explicit explanations as to its increased numbers. We can actually see each new platform in the numbers, with a bump in January when the game was released on mobile, and a second in April, when it hit consoles. Given how much Tanks has continued to grow in the years since it made the same transitions, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see this new foundation of players, averaging peaks of between 100-120 each day, as its new baseline, a point from which to continue to build into the future, much as its predecessor has done. Its Twitch community and audience are smaller, still, but should continue to grow, and even at its current position, remains one of the most consistent performers on the platform. The present is impressive, but the future looks even brighter.
In a landscape dominated by Fortnite and games like it, focused on constant content updates and major brand collaborations, new game modes and tournaments, Wargaming is charting their own path, building something different, and certainly smaller, but still powerful enough to support their games for a long, long time, establishing strong communities of dedicated players and viewers who don’t seem to be leaving any time soon. There are tons of other lessons to be mined from their success, but this one rises above, today: go to where your players are, and give them something good, and you can achieve real success through the power of your streaming community.
Be sure to check out the surprises in this week's Top 5 on Twitch rankings, and our breakdown of the first month of the hottest new game in streaming: Teamfight Tactics. Also, you can follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for all the latest blogs, announcements, and game marketing news from the team at GAMESIGHT!