Four years after Amazon ($AMZN) came and bought out the remains of Justin.tv/Twitch Interactive for $1 billion, Twitch.tv has become the premier video game and variety content streaming website on the internet.
From a year that saw one of its biggest content creators make daytime television apperances to removing across the board ad-free stream viewing for Twitch (read: Amazon) Prime users, Twitch is the king (or queen) of online streaming, with rivals such as Google's YouTube ($GOOG) continuing their struggle to keep up in terms of live content.
In 2017, League of Legends had the most viewership on Twitch and was considered the most popular game on the platform. In 2018, a new champion emerged, and its rise was told by Concurrent Viewer Count cross-sections of hourly check-ins on the website.
2018: The Year of Fortnite
Fortnite ($PRIVATE:EPICGAMES), the "battle royale game" that caused a tectonic shift in the gaming industry due to its popularity, was the #1 streamed game in 2018. In other news, water is wet.
For the uninitiated, Fortnite is a game in which up to 100 players drop into a map, loot weapons, build makeshift fortresses and protective structures through scavenging materials, and do whatever it is they need to do to outlast their opponents.
Fortnite didn't start out as the most-popular game on the platform. In the first two months of 2018, it was only starting to pick up steam through its second content season (December 2017 to February 2018). This was the very beginning of Epic Games' commitment to seasonal updates, weekly content, and other surprises that would help drive growth of the game.
And it showed on Twitch; as the second season ran its course, more people started streaming the game, more people were viewing it, and, by proxy, more people were checking out the free-to-play game.
Then, popular streamer Tyler "Ninja" Blevins got his hands (and audience) on the game. After bouncing around battle royale games following his retirement from professional Halo competitions, Ninja came to Fortnite as it was beginning its seasonal content schedule. The rise of both NInja and Fortnite were in tandem with each other — Ninja saw his 500,000 follwer count grow by 250% in six months — and, by March, the floodgates opened.
In March, a Ninja stream with Drake saw over 600,000 concurrent viewers, a record for the platform. Ninja then followed that up with a stream of a special tournament broadcasted from Las Vegas, which had 667,000 concurrent viewers. That's more people watching something at home than a typical primetime show on VH1, MTV, or Freeform — three cable channels geared towards the all-important 18-25 demographic — in December.
While Fortnite viewership is waning slightly into the new year, the game still raked in billions of minutes watched on Twitch and ends 2018 as the #1 streamed game on the platform.
|Concurrent Viewer Sum (Every Hour of 2018)
|League of Legends
|Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
A consulation prize for League of Legends: broadcasts that trump traditional sports
Just below Fortnite in terms of viewership is the multiplayer-online-battle-arena (MOBA) game League of Legends, which is made by Riot Games ($PRIVATE:RIOTGAMES).
Simply put, League is a game where two teams of five players are tasked at destroying the other team's based while protecting their own. To do so, there are over a 100 champions with their own special attacks and abilities that players can use to crush AI minions, directly attack opposing players, or destroy guard towers and, ultimately, the opponent's base.
League released in 2009 as a freemium game, where the game itself was free-to-play with a rotating cast of free champions, but champions could be permanently bought with money. On Twitch, it had a consistently high number of viewers and channels throughout 2018, partially thanks to its esports/competitive scene through the League of Legends Championship Seires (LCS).
This year, League of Legends reported that it had a concurrent viewer peak of 19.8 million people during its Mid-Season Invitational. That would make the event more popular than night six of the Olympics or the NFL kickoff game.