Watch us play: How live-streaming platforms are helping esports explode in popularity

Watch us play: How live-streaming platforms are helping esports explode in popularity

Esports are exploding in popularity, and through the medium of live-streaming on Twitch.tv, Mixer and Youtube, their potential audience just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

A player playing Overwatch, the hugely popular FPS from Blizzard studios.
A player playing Overwatch, the hugely popular FPS from Blizzard studios.

Esports are the world of competitive, organised video gaming where players from different leagues and teams face off in the same games that are popular with the average online gamer, most notably Fortnite, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, Overwatch and FIFA.

The most popular are watched and followed by millions of fans all over the world, who attend live events or tune in on TV or online to watch their favourite players play.

Streaming services like Twitch, Mixer and Youtube allow viewers to watch their favourite gamers play in real time, and this is typically where the most popular streamers expand their fanbases by showcasing their skills and personalities for their viewers.

The “Celebrity” factor

Twitch has grown rapidly in popularity, and has led to the emergence of “Celebrity streamers”, the most popular being the Fortnite streamers Tfue, the recently departed Ninja, who joined Microsoft’s new streaming rival Mixer and the evergreen Shroud, who also recently joined Mixer.

Their rise to prominence is no surprise; the most popular streamers can boast of up of 3.7m followers on their channels and peak viewership on their streams of up to 100k viewers, leading to widespread exposure and popularity across the 3 streaming platforms.

Twitch’s popularity has stemmed from recent releases such as Fortnite, the ever-popular survival game where 100 players fight against each other in player vs player combat to be the last one standing. It is a fast-paced, fun game where strategy and improvisation are key to victory. Fortnite boasts of an impressive estimated 125 million players, and the very best and most popular stream for their audiences across Twitch, Mixer and YouTube. 

Other hugely popular games on streaming platforms such as League of Legends, CS: GO and Overwatch all have the same appeal; large, global player demographics and popularity, the chance to support and watch their favourite personalities and to watch the best play at the highest level.

These games also have enormous user bases: League of Legends has an active player base of over 80 million monthly players, Overwatch an estimated 37m monthly active users and CS: GO has 17.22m active users every month. 

The importance of competition in esports

You may ask why are players spending so much time watching others play their favourite game instead of playing themselves? One word – Competition.

Competitive esports has reached unprecedented levels of popularity, and competition is rifer than ever. Gaming tournaments are now massive events and draw enormous global audiences in person and through streaming platforms.

Riot Games, the creator of League of Legends, have set the benchmark for making tournaments on par with major sporting events, with no expense spared on production, entertainment, atmosphere and providing fans of the game with the most exciting world finals yet.

The opening ceremony of the 2019 Worlds Finals, likened by many as the esports equivalent of the infamous Superbowl halftime show

The sold out AccorHotels arena in Paris hosted the finals, attracting an estimated 20k fans to the venue and setting a new record for peak concurrent viewership on Twitch with a massive high of 1,743,204.

The Worlds final smashed the previous Twitch concurrent peak record of 1,618,073, which was held by Fortnite’s “The End” event, which saw the map turn into a black hole and teased the launch of Chapter 2, the long awaited Fortnite rework.

Fortnite can also attract huge crowds, as the Fortnite World Cup, held at the sold-out Arthur Ashe Stadium on 26-28 July 2019, hosted 23k fans and also had concurrent viewers of over 2.3 million across YouTube and Twitch, making the Fortnite World Cup the most-watched competitive gaming event of all time. 

How streaming brings fans together

Whilst most fans choose to watch from their home, online with friends or in person, viewing parties are increasing in popularity as esports become more and more mainstream and accepted. Platform, a video game and esports bar based in Shoreditch, held a viewing party for the tournament, and attracted fans in the same way a football game would.

Fans came out in force, wearing team colours and jerseys and audibly showing their support for their favourite team. I asked Joe, who was supporting G2, Europe’s representative in the world final, about why he thinks esports are becoming so popular, saying “esports is a way to bring friends together and play something fun and exciting. We all work different schedules, so the chance to play a few games of League together and find the time to watch it together in person or on a streaming platform is the perfect way to catch up, watch and talk about something we’re all really passionate about.” 

Fans watching the 2019 League of Legends world finals at Platform, an esports bar in Shoreditch, London
Fans watching the 2019 League of Legends world finals at Platform, an esports bar in Shoreditch, London

The growth of esports shows no signs of stopping, and with streaming platforms further fuelling exposure and awareness of the industry, you can expect to see many more players start their streaming careers, become a celebrity streamer, and if they’re good enough, find themselves competing for a coveted world championship title one day.

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