For years, Twitch has served as the go-to streaming platform for showcasing the hottest games, but change seems to be slowly creeping in. The company has had its hands full with an eventful summer — streamer drama, bans and suspensions, Ninja's abrupt departure for Mixer — it's all been a rollercoaster ride. But when all of the smoke clears, is Twitch still on top?
Don't get me wrong, Twitch's viewership still has plenty to show for it, but what exactly are its users watching? When browsing Twitch's most viewed categories, you get the usual suspects floating around the top. Fortnite, World of Warcraft, Just Chatting, CS:GO, Minecraft, League of Legends, GTA V, PUBG — all great games (sans Just Chatting), but none are exactly new.
Sure, the rise of the World of Warcraft category is representative of a new, popular game seeing that WoW Classic recently launched. However, it isn't much of a surprise considering who is bringing in the views. Asmongold and Sodapoppin have both been building their audiences on Twitch for years and are absolute veterans to the WoW scene. Not to mention Shroud's recent obsession with the game, who brought in his massive audience of mainly FPS fans. People were undoubtedly hyped for the launch of the nostalgic Blizzard title, but a big part of the viewership has to do with Twitch's long-established eCelebrities giving it some love.
Take some of the most well-received new launches, for instance. Gears 5 is hovering around 8,000 viewers (very modest considering Twitch's large audience), despite launching less than one week ago. Monster Hunter World: Iceborne launched the same day as Gears 5 and sits at ~19,000. Control was released less than two weeks ago and has less than 1,000 viewers despite its widely-praised story and original gameplay elements. Even Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint didn't see good numbers (when not being played by a massive Twitch celeb), despite the limited-time beta and its release looming early next month. For perspective, Fortnite is currently around 150,000 viewers, with LoL ~100,000. It seems that Twitch doesn't necessarily provide a perfect representation of all of the latest trends. Instead, games with established esports scenes and engaging multiplayer modes tend to rule (seeing even higher numbers during tournament events).
Competitive gaming aside, there are still other factors that bring Twitch its main viewership. Relying on Twitch to check out the newest launches is still an option, if there is a decent enough streamer presence to support that game, that is. When a streamer with a sizable following will play a new title for more than a few sessions, Twitch can be a great indicator for what's hot. However, incredible games sometimes get brushed over on the platform when the heavy-hitters don't pick them up. The longer Twitch has stood the test of time, the more entrenched its longer-lasting streamers have become — not necessarily a bad thing, but this definitely adds to viewer volatility based on streamer whims.
Flip phone rang.— Dr Disrespect (@drdisrespect) September 7, 2019
UBISOFT on the line.
It’s time to dive into some @GhostRecon. I’ll be playing the #GhostRecon Beta from the arena all night.#GhostFest #Sponsoredhttps://t.co/4uNIQ4b0nd pic.twitter.com/x9z0WMeBdw
By the looks of it, it seems to difficult to say whether or not Twitch is a reliable source to discover the hottest recent games. Mixer is still growing and even Twitch's smaller niche streamers still have significant audiences, so things are left up to chance for now. The real factor to keep an eye on is the overall trend of things. Is Twitch poised to make the changes it needs to keep its position as the one-stop streaming platform, or will it find a more narrowed identity as competitors fill the needs of the market?
It wouldn't be surprising if Twitch's unchallenged top categories and streamers continued to carry the platform, while many viewers migrate to alternative sources in order to check out the hottest launches when Twitch fails them. If Twitch truly wants to keep its audience diverse and active — implementing a new, featured category on its homepage for new releases (indie, single-player, or otherwise) could prove quite effective.