Teamfight Tactics had its first month of retraction in August. Let's talk about what that means, and what comes next.
Between its full public release on June 25th and the middle of August, Teamfight Tactics, the Riot Games auto-battler set in the League of Legends universe, was the fourth most watched title on Twitch, and it was still growing fast. Following in the footsteps of Auto Chess, the Dota 2 modification which has given rise to an entire genre, TFT quickly became, by far, the biggest title in this emerging niche, dominating its closest PC competition in Dota Underlords and building out one of the largest populations of both creators and viewers on Twitch.
The last four weeks, though, have seen momentum shift. For the first time since its release, circumstances have conspired to see Tactics fall out of the platform’s top ten. What has caused this change? Let’s take a dive into the numbers to find out.
Much of the change in viewership numbers for Teamfight Tactics on Twitch is due to movement at the top of its charts, as the behavior of its most watched channels has undergone a bit of a shift. Below, you can see the top seven most watched TFT streamers from July 4th through August 8th.
During this period, the top seven creators broadcast the game an average of over 52 times, for approximately 4.2 hours per session, and accruing an additional average of 51,000 hours of viewership each stream. The top channel, DisguisedToast, has actually been the most viewed channel since the game’s release, with nearly 6 million hours total since the June 25th. Compare this to the same number of days following, from August 8th through September 12th.
The average number of streams for the top seven channels is actually nearly the same, though this is heavily influenced by two newcomers streaming the game a disproportionately large number of times. In addition, the average length of stream actually went up, from 4.2 hours to over 4.5. The big change, though is in the average viewership hours accrued per stream, which fell by more than 50% to just over 21,500 hours. What accounts for this?
To begin, the most watched creators have streamed the game significantly less. DisguisedToast fell from the top channel to the fifth spot not only because fewer people were watching his content -- his average hours viewed per hours streamed dropped from approximately 15,000 to 10,000 -- but also from streaming the game, and in general, significantly less, only 30 hours compared to the previous period’s 63. This is also true of second place creator itsHafu, who’s total hours streamed fell from 55 to 36, lol_ambition who fell from 32 hours streamed to only 7, Rakin (53 hours to 26), and Reckful (60 hours to 1). The reasons for the decrease in broadcast time is different for each creator, some have moved on to other titles, while others have simply streamed less overall, but the impact is clear: the top channels aren’t pulling in the same audiences, and it’s impacting the game’s overall Twitch presence.
The Summer of eSports
We’re just reaching the conclusion of one of the biggest summers in the history of eSports on Twitch, which featured some of the most watched competitions, tournaments, and league seasons ever for multiple games. This has shown in our monthly eSports rankings, which have shown an increase in total viewership of the top ten most watched eSports on Twitch each of the past three months.
Teamfight Tactics is a competitive title, but, in its youth, it has been slow to develop a true competitive space to go alongside its community of players, streamers, and viewers. And, while the game was able to pull in a ton of viewers after its release in June, the fact that they haven’t stuck around as much as the team at Riot might have hoped could be because they’ve all been pulled away by more organized competitive spaces, in the case of Dota 2 and Fortnite spaces that were hosting the biggest competitive events in their history in The International 2019 and the Fortnite World Cup, respectively.
Given how important organized competitive communities have been to the longevity of games like Dota 2, LoL, and Hearthstone, and that the DNA of each of these games are so thoroughly tied into the core of the auto-battler genre, it’s surprising that more effort wasn’t put into launching major competitive events as soon as possible.
And speaking of Hearthstone…
Saviors of Uldum
It’s often difficult to draw a one-to-one relationship between one game’s success and another’s decline, but that doesn’t mean those relationships don’t exist. While long-lived games thrive because they establish a core community of players, viewers, and creators that stick around for the long haul, much of the population on Twitch, on either side of the broadcast, moves from game to game, genre to genre, with the ebb and flow of hype that accompanies a varied schedule of releases, updates, expansions, and events. It’s thus difficult not to notice that, around the same time that Tactics began to decline, Hearthstone was rising with the release of new content.
The latter title’s latest expansion, Saviors of Ulum, was released on August 6th. Taking a look at the performance of Teamfight Tactics around that time reveals a very clear dip in its total number of streamers.
The game recovered briefly the following weekend, but then continued its decline in the days and weeks that followed. A similar trend can be seen in the game’s overall viewership, visible below.
Does this mean that Hearthstone is responsible for the recent decline in TFT’s overall numbers? Not necessarily, or even likely. No doubt, competition has been a factor, but the respective increase in Hearthstone’s presence is not equal to the former title’s decline, and of the top creators mentioned previously who have been streaming the game less often, none have “replaced” the game with Blizzard’s venerated collectible card game. Instead, it’s been a confluence of factors which have led to where the title finds itself today.
This report hasn’t been kind to Teamfight Tactics in terms of its recent trends on Twitch, but let us be clear: the game is still one of the most successful in streaming, and all indications are it will remain that way, at least for the time being. With more than 500 creators still broadcasting the title every day, there remains a large community around which to build. An increased emphasis on esports and competitions would, very quickly, bring the title rising up the ranks once again, as can further content updates, which are no doubt on the way. Good things certainly could still lie ahead for the game, but it’s important that we take a look from a broad perspective and take stock. Early on, it seemed like Teamfight Tactics was destined to be one of the top three games on the platform for a long time. Now, that future is far from assured.
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