Which titles experienced the largest increases in viewership on Twitch in 2019? Not the ones you'd expect.
The year is coming to a close, and 2019 was, without question, the biggest year in the history of streaming. From Twitch’s continued growth to the explosion of esports, the continued ubiquity of Fortnite to the unexpected arrival of the auto-battler genre, it has been a year of huge announcements, record-shattering audiences, and an ever expanding impact on wider gaming and popular cultures. In that context, we think it’s important to take a look back at the year that’s been and break it all down.
In our first piece of this series, we take a look at which individual returning games have experienced the most growth in viewership on Twitch over the past year.
1. Grand Theft Auto V/Online
Increase Year-to-Year Viewership: 412,668,005 Hours
It may come as a surprise to many to see Grand Theft Auto at the top of this list, but it has consistently been one of the most watched games on Twitch since March, when a certain mod and its community brought large-audience streamers back to the title. That impactful third-party addition was the so-called “Roleplaying” mod, which allows players to set up private servers in which they can essentially take on any in-universe role they wish, from your standard cops and robbers to retail workers, pilots, and everything in between. After the modification’s release, average viewership rose from under 19,000 in February to an incredible 111,061 in April, and by November still averaged over 45,000. This massive increase was partially due to the participation of some of the most popular creators on Twitch, with Summit1G leading the pack, followed by streamers like Lord Kebun, Vader, and Buddha, but they were far from the only ones streaming the title, and their contributions only make up a fraction of the game’s total increase, which as you can see above dwarfs every other title on the platform. This modification didn’t just pull in creators and viewers, it created an entirely new community dedicated to just this one style of play, and the result was the largest expansion on all of Twitch. There were many winners in 2019’s “Year of Streaming,” but the numbers make it undeniable that Grand Theft Auto is at the top of that list.
2. World of Warcraft
Increase Year-to-Year Viewership: 156,376,342 Hours
World of Warcraft finds itself near the top of this list for one reason: World of Warcraft Classic. In celebration of the game’s fifteenth anniversary, Blizzard allowed players to dive back into the game as it originally played, before all of the myriad changes to gameplay, structure, and the world itself that have been made in the years since its release. While the game was still among the most popular MMOs in the space, this added boost of nostalgia allowed the game’s historical fanbase, many of whom may have moved on, to approach the title with renewed enthusiasm, which clearly was shared by their audiences, as it quickly exploded in terms of Twitch viewership, becoming one of the most popular titles on the platform. For Blizzard, which continues to see success with Hearthstone and Overwatch, being able to pull WoW back up alongside those other titles is a major coup, and one of the year’s most impressive streaming accomplishments.
3. League of Legends
Increase Year-to-Year Viewership: 125,972,148 Hours
While other titles at the top of the Twitch chart like Fortnite seem to have approached a plateau in terms of viewership over the course of the past year, League of Legends, the only game watched more than Fortnite overall, continues to pull in legions of new viewers, primarily because of explosive growth in its esports space. Most of the largest viewership spikes visible above coincide with major competitions, culminating in the October World Championships which accrued the largest number of concurrent viewers in Twitch’s history (1.7 million). Considering it was already one of the most watched games in streaming, this explosive growth is doubly impressive, and with momentum on its side, one wouldn’t be off base in calling League of Legends Twitch’s most successful title.
Increase Year-to-Year Viewership: 121,117,655 Hours
Thought the world of gaming was done with Minecraft? Well, shame on you! Continued development towards Mojang’s ultimate goal of having a single unified experience across all platforms, the team released the new Java launcher on July 1st, in addition to the announcement of and betas for the upcoming augmented reality adaptation, Minecraft Earth, leading to a substantially more productive second half of the year as players flooded the game’s Twitch category to play the game anew or experience the sneak peek of what lies ahead. With so many other games making bigger headlines, it’s easy to overlook that Minecraft, the game which really started the gaming content creation revolution, is still expanding its reach and growing. The numbers, though, don’t lie, and it was another spectacular year for the crafting sandbox from Mojang and Microsoft.
5. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Increase Year-to-Year Viewership: 52,994,394 Hours
Like League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive continues to expand its reach on Twitch thanks to its dedicated esports community, as most of the large spikes visible in the graph above coincide with one of the game’s many competitions. Between the Intel Extreme Masters series, the ESL pro circuit, and competitions organized by Starladder, these events were responsible for more than 120 million hours of Twitch viewership, more than a quarter of the game’s overall number. With one of the most diverse, international esports scenes in gaming, CS:GO maintains its relevance by hosting frequent events, all over the world, supporting the title in many different regions. In 2019, it led to continued growth, and one of the largest increases in Twitch prescences across the entire platform.
6. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Increase Year-to-Year Viewership: 48,910,344 Hours
Super Smash Bros Ultimate had the benefit of releasing relatively late in 2018, and thus naturally accruing fewer hours that year with which to compare to 2019’s totals than other titles, but its continued consistent presence on Twitch throughout the year speaks to the strength of the franchise, both in esports and standard streaming, and its ability to maintain a healthy community of players over the long haul. Smash Bros is a fixture of the competitive gaming community, with some of the biggest names in fighting games frequently appearing in tournaments large and small, in addition to being one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises, in general. These games don’t just land, enjoy some time in the spotlight, and then disappear; each entry lives on for a long time, and this year’s total viewership is strong evidence that the latest version is no different. All in all, a spectacular 2019 for the fun, chaotic fighting extravaganza.
7. Old School Runescape
Increase Year-to-Year Viewership: 37,363,876 Hours
Just because an audience on Twitch is ‘niche’ doesn’t make it small, and there’s no better evidence of this fact than Old School RuneScape from Jagex, an MMORPG first released in 2013 and originally approximating the experience of the original Runescape from 2007. Since its release, it’s been frequently updated with improvements and adjustments determined by voting among its playerbase. That relationship has yielded an incredibly dedicated community of players, deeply connected to the title’s development team in a way that’s rare for larger titles. And, because the game is still changing, players are still engaged, and its creators are seeing increased viewership across the board as Twitch, itself, grows, and audiences get larger. With its dedicated fanbase, that was enough for the title to experience one of the top raw increases in overall viewership across the entire platform. Congratulations to the Jagex team on their continued success.
8. FIFA 19
Increase Year-to-Year Viewership: 33,033,933 Hours
Annualized sports titles only have a single year to make an impact, but success for such a game can be judged through more than just the strength of its launch. In addition, it’s how long those releases can maintain their audience, through the real-world season of a sport and and the rest of the year, that determines whether a game has really reached its potential. FIFA manages to succeed year after year, and it’s because they’ve created an experience that is as much fun to watch as it is to play. You can see now how most sports titles have followed in FIFA’s footsteps, leveraging “Ultimate Team” game modes and card packs to create an experience which can entertain into perpetuity, and it’s leading to an increased footprint for the genre across all of Twitch. FIFA led by example, and so it rises as the foremost example of what such titles can achieve in streaming.
9. DOTA 2
Increase Year-to-Year Viewership: 28,863,784 Hours
From the outside, DOTA 2 appeared to face some uncertainty, this year. Though the rise of Auto Chess initially pulled new players into the fold, it was quickly segregated into its own separate category, before being followed by the arrival of competition from Teamfight Tactics that captured most of the new genre’s momentum. At the same time, League of Legends continued to dominate, and many wondered if it would be Dota 2 that paid the price for all of this tumult. It seems, however, that those concerns were unfounded, as the continued strength of the game’s professional circuit, culminating in ‘The International,’ which remains one of the top five biggest esports events in the world, resulted in continued growth for the MOBA from Valve. There’s often an impression that, on Twitch, one title’s gains must mean another title’s losses, but with a platform that’s continuing to expand, success isn’t limited to just a handful of titles. DOTA 2’s community remains one of the largest on the platform, and its viewers and competitors don’t seem to be going anywhere. 2019, even in the face of increased competition and change, was still a spectacular year for the game.
10. Magic: The Gathering
Increase Year-to-Year Viewership: 24,464,647 Hours
The team at Magic: The Gathering made a dedicated effort, this year, to expand their reach on Twitch, releasing the latest and greatest digital version of the classic CCG title, Magic: The Gathering Arena, and hosting a suite of large-scale competitive events to get it front-and-center in the world of streaming, with three ‘Mythic Championships’ events throughout the year held using Arena. This, plus an increased presence at gaming events and, through official channels, on Twitch itself, led to Magic experiencing massive growth over the previous year, including nearly 15% of the game’s overall Twitch presence coming from the official Magic channel, alone. It was clearly the team’s goal to make 2019 a big year for the title in streaming, and the numbers show they’ve succeeded. Congratulations to the team at Wizards of the Coast.
Stay tuned for more end-of-the-year breakdowns of the biggest games on Twitch, and check out our weekly rankings to find out who's on top right now! 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!