The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the world of real-life events grind to a halt. Whilst sport has experienced a major downturn in participation and viewership, esports and gaming’s growth has accelerated and seen huge increases in players and watchers as more people have had more free time. Indeed the world of sport and gaming/esports have come closer together as sports, and sportspeople, look to indulge their passions whilst under lockdown. Stream Hatchet’s COVID-19 impact on video game streaming audiences report gives a Q1 2020 top-line overview of how game streaming platforms (e.g. Twitch) have performed, changes in audience scale, the initial impact Valorant has had (Riot Games new first-person shooter game), how Travis Scott’s Fortnite: Astronomical events faired against past fusions of music and gaming, and how esports sim racing streamed hours have changed.
Key take-outs from the COVID-19 impact on video game streaming audiences report are:
- Gaming live stream watch time have increased 35% year-on-year
- More than 50% of all gaming content is watched on Twitch
- YouTube now has 22% of the live streaming market
- Facebook has experienced the fastest growth in the last year with viewership up 900% (YouTube is up 51%)
- Microsoft’s Mixer has seen a drop of 8%, despite signing a number of high profile streamers e.g. Ninja
- Weekly game viewing is up on average 70% year-on-year
- Valorant, despite still being in BETA, is breaking live streaming records. In its first 4 weeks, it amassed over 323m hours of watch time – twice as many as the second biggest launch in history (Apex Legends)
- Travis Scott’s Fortnite: Astronomical reached a peak audience of 2.8m people, making it the biggest music/gaming crossover event ever
- Esports sim racing live hours watched is up 1000%, growing from 700k in April 2019 to 6.8m in April 2020
Whether these numbers are sustainable, and how much of the audience will be retained post-COVID once there is more competition for attention, only time will tell. Our prediction is that a decent-sized portion of the audience will remain deeply engaged, and a much larger number of people will continue to engage casually. All in all, COVID-19 will have acted as a positive catalyst for growth for both esports and gaming.
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