The return of “WoW Classic” has made World of Warcraft the most watched title on Twitch. Just how big has it become, and what might it mean for the future?
Blizzard’s World of Warcraft is a touchstone for the MMORPG genre, and indeed online gaming in general. First launched all the way back in 2004, an entire generation of gamers have grown up playing the title, which has continued to grow, expand, and evolve over the near decade-and-a-half it has been live, during which time it has accrued more than 100 million registered users.
Many of those players have been around since the beginning, and as the game changed and grew around them, calls for an unaltered “original” version of the game have grown louder and louder among the community, and those calls were answered just under two years ago, when World of Warcraft Classic was first announced, and after a long wait, which included a closed beta beginning this past May, the original version of the game finally became publicly available on August 26th. The impact on the world of streaming has been enormous.
So just big has the return of the original version of the title been on Twitch, and what might it mean for the streaming landscape? Let’s dive into the numbers and break it all down.
Right Now, World of Warcraft is the Biggest Game on Twitch
In the above graph, we can see the total Twitch viewership for World of Warcraft from the week prior to the original’s re-release up to the writing of this article (9/19/19). The impact is plainly obvious, with daily peak viewership increasing from an average below 100,000 viewers to an immediate high of nearly 1 million, and even after a few weeks still more than doubling its original numbers. But, it goes way beyond that single metric.
Since August 26th, World of Warcraft has accrued nearly 115 million hours of total viewership, more than any other game, with the next title, League of Legends, coming in at nearly half that amount. In the same number of days leading up to Classic’s release, League accrued nearly 68 million hours of total viewership, and that included its biggest competition of the year, The International. And while it has obviously slowed down since the incredible numbers of the first few days, World of Warcraft remains the most watched title on all of Twitch in our most recent weekly rankings. There’s no way around it: right now, there’s no bigger title in streaming than World of Warcraft.
The Streamers Leading the Charge
The story of World of Warcraft Classic’s explosion is also the story of Asmongold, who was already the top WoW streamer on Twitch prior to the recent release. Before August 26th, that meant peak viewership, typically, between 30,000 and 40,000 audience members. On the day of release, that number jumped all the way to over 220,000, and has since he’s broken the 100,000 barrier seven times, and has never had a daily peak of less than 60,000. This has resulted in a mind-blowing 17 million total hours of viewership, compared to his 4.2 million hours over the same number of days leading up to the re-release. Put simply: World of Warcraft Classic has made Asmongold the most watched streamer on Twitch.
But it’s not just him. The classic version of the title has also pulled big names either back to the game, or to it for the first time. Creator Sodapoppin is the game’s second most viewed streamer since release, with 6.8 million viewer hours, streaming the new version for 180 hours, compared to just 16 hours in the weeks leading up to the re-release. Then there’s Shroud, new to the game, with 4.5 million viewer hours, traditional WoW streamer EsfandTV who more than tripled his hours streamed and increased his viewership from half a million hours to 3.2 million, and another newcomer in big name creator Method, with just over 3 million hours. All told, sixteen creators have accrued at least one million hours of viewership since the games release, compared to only one in the same number of days leading up to it. At the same time, participating channels have tripled to nearly 150,000. Players are coming from everywhere, new and old, and they’re pulling in big audiences.
What Comes Next
So, is World of Warcraft the new top-dog in streaming? In the long term, unlikely. While it remains the most watched game on the platform, it’s more likely that both viewership and total streamers will continue to decline, as the graphs above show, over time. WoW Classic isn’t going to be your typical “live-service” experience, because by its very nature it can’t really be “updated.” The normal feedback loop of expansions and updates bringing players back every few months can’t be used here, so you can’t have the big events or releases that make for new increases in a game’s Twitch presence. But, it’s current level of viewership is still the highest on the platform, and it will remain that way for at least a bit longer. The real question is whether this kind of success will lead to other developers and publishers following up with releases of “classic” game builds of their own. World of Warcraft isn’t the only title that’s been around for a long time, constantly changing, and it’s likely that other fanbases have classic versions of their own they’d love to dive back into. Given how popular re-releases, remasters, and remakes have become, it would make sense to see other titles seeing WoW’s success and seeing an opportunity of their own. We’ll have to wait and see. For now, though, we’ll remain focused on World of Warcraft’s incredible journey back to the top of the charts, nearly fifteen years after first hitting the shelves. It’s an incredible achievement, and one that will likely have a major impact on the streaming landscape at large.
Be sure to see our breakdown of the most viewed eSports on Twitch during the month of August, and to read our weekly breakdown of the top rising titles in streaming. Also follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for all the latest blogs, announcements, and game marketing news from the team at GAMESIGHT!