Games, and especially esports, have always had a constantly evolving meta. Recently, gaming platforms have also adapted more quickly to what people are watching -- leading content creators to new games, styles and genres. Twitch has always had a subtle meta -- a term used in this article to denote the prevailing viewership trends. With the dramatic increase in viewers over the course of the pandemic, that meta became more defined as streamers elevated new and old games alike to top places on Twitch.
During 2020, Chess, Fall Guys, Among Us and more all experienced spikes in popularity leading them to dominate gaming content. Alongside those games is the rise of the Just Chatting category, which has brought more variety into the top channels on Twitch as streamers hop in and out of titles with more regularity. Inside the Twitch Meta will be a recurring segment on Nerd Street Gamers as we look at how the Twitch meta has changed each month, starting with April.
Methodology note: The stats in this article were compiled by looking at the previous 30 days of Twitch stats from April 26 making this an accurate look at Twitch trends in April but not an exact measurement of total viewership for the month. The data is sourced from a combination of Twitch Tracker, Streams Charts, SullyGnome and Twitch Metrics and is cited where applicable. There are some small differences in stats between sites even when following the same parameters, but every stat is close to where it appears on the other sites as well.
GTA V tops Twitch in hours watched
Many of the top games on Twitch come from esports titles or new releases, but GTA V shows the power of keeping updates coming to open world online titles. GTA V roleplaying has become more popular over the last year as it trailed only Just Chatting with over 230 million total hours watched over the past month (as of writing). Just Chatting took the top spot once again with over 280 million hours watched according to SullyGnome.
For a game that came out in 2013, GTA V is a unique case study in what gives games staying power on streaming platforms. The open creativity combined with a nostalgic world most gamers have played in make GTA V incredibly popular and unique among the other top games.
The next closest game to GTA V was League of Legends with over 150 million total hours watched. Following League of Legends, the next five most-watched games have been mainstays on top of the charts for the past year: Call of Duty: Warzone, Fortnite, VALORANT, Minecraft and CS:GO.
With GTA V coming in as the third most-watched game in the past year, the game appears to be locked into the top tier of Twitch games indefinitely.
Fell out of the meta: Among Us
Among Us was the dominant title on Twitch for most of last fall. The game saw 221 million hours watched over three months in fall 2020. As the game tapered off, a new map was teased that might have put a jolt back in the game’s viewership.
The Airship map came out on March 31 giving a perfect benchmark for tracking the impact in April’s viewership. On release, it did receive a solid bump in viewership, with Jimmy Fallon getting a squad together to play the game on The Tonight Show. And, well, a game is probably falling out of gaming culture once the late night TV shows get their hands on it.
That bump after the map came out helped Among Us, but it landed only at No. 17 in terms of total hours watched over the past 30 days according to Twitch Metrics. That places it in solid company on the Twitch leaderboards between Rainbow Six: Siege and Escape from Tarkov. Just looking at the last seven days shows a game that has lost momentum quickly, with Among Us coming in at No. 32 in the past week according to Twitch Tracker.
Among Us will likely keep sliding in the months to come, though Sony's announcement on Thursday that the game will be released later this year on Playstation 4 and PlayStation 5 might give it another bump.
Although it doesn’t look like Among Us is destined to rejoin the top 10 games on Twitch in the future, the game captured the gaming audience’s full attention for longer than almost any indie game ever has. The nuanced social strategy of the game will likely be an inspiration for similar games in the future. Not bad for a three-person game studio.
Just Chatting develops its own meta
At this point, Just Chatting is officially in it’s own tier. No other game is going to match the level of viewership found in the Just Chatting category. Over the past 365 days, Just Chatting has been viewed about 900 million more hours than the next closest game in League of Legends according to SullyGnome.
There is no true consistency to the Just Chatting section. On any given day it might be a robust mix of political commentary, game shows and water-based calisthenics. Twitch remains a primarily English-speaking platform, but Just Chatting will showcase tons of different languages. Spanish-speaking streamers like Ibai, Portuguese-speaking streamers like Alanzoka and German-speaking streamers like Rewinside all command large audiences on Just Chatting at any given time.
While Just Chatting is locked in, how streamers approach the internal meta within the category is evolving. The most notable influence on that front was Ludwig Ahgren’s subathon which saw the streamer break Twitch records by being live for 31 days straight. Among those records was the record for total subscribers on Twitch at any given time, previously held by Tyler “Ninja” Blevins following his stream with Drake in 2018.
Ludwig certainly wasn’t the first streamer to do a subathon -- and there’s no way he thought it would go 31 days -- but his massive success with the format will likely lead other streamers to try their own. Or maybe not. Being live on Twitch for 31 consecutive days sounds like a special type of hell.
A few major streamers have already announced plans to do their own subathons including Felix “xQc” Lengyel. Despite Ludwig breaking total subscribers records and literally never shutting off the stream, the subathon ended up being nearly perfectly split in half between March and April, so xQc finished as the most watched streamer in April. With 32 million hours watched for xQc, he handily beat Ludiwg’s 22 million hours watched according to Twitch Tracker. Naturally, Ludwig hasn’t been live as much in the later part of the month.
With xQc doing a subathon in the future, he has a real chance to take over the subscriber record from Ludwig. Given xQc’s popularity, the subathon might quickly become even more of a go-to choice for streamers. As May approaches, esports events will give VALORANT and League of Legends a big boost. But the real question is if the fascination that followed upstart games was a product of the pandemic or a trend that will take hold over time.
Lead image credit: InnerSloth