YouTube may have launched the trend of gamers recording themselves as they played, but Twitch has taken it to levels nobody would have imagined possible 10 years ago. The biggest names on Twitch aren’t merely popular now - they’re celebrities.
When Fortnite star Ninja - who even then had the most impressive Twitch stats - hosted rap superstar Drake on his stream in spring 2018, it felt like a watershed moment. The partnership made international news, and it seemed as if video games had finally, truly become an integral part of pop culture. The whole thing had been driven by Twitch.
Whether you’re completely new to this extraordinarily successful streaming service, or you’re simply wondering how much the top streamers earn, you’re in the right place. We’ll guide you through the most successful streamers and games, and give you an idea of just how big Twitch itself has grown.
Having only been founded in June 2011, Twitch has already become one of the most popular websites in the entire world. Its Alexa rank surpasses that of Twitter, Microsoft, and Ebay, and it only narrowly trails Netflix (which ranks number 24). Given that many of its superiors are intended solely for use in China or Russia (Baidu, Weibo, and so on), we get a more accurate picture of the site if we delve briefly into the Twitch demographics by country. In the United States, for example, Twitch is the 13th most popular website.
Our previous statistic might have given you a broad idea of Twitch’s popularity. When you put a proper number on it, though - and when that number is a whopping 2 million people - it should help you truly understand how big it’s gotten. These are the kinds of numbers that many television shows would love to be putting up, let alone a relatively new, internet-only, video game streaming service.
Like cable TV, Twitch is simply always on. Content is being produced 24/7 by a vast number of creators, and willingly consumed by the army of Twitch monthly active users. To put this stat another way, if you wanted to catch up on all the content that had been produced in the past year alone, it would take you almost 17 million days, or 46,500 years.
Just as sports fans or lovers of a TV show like to watch their favorite moments over and over again, so do Twitch fans with their preferred streamers. Twitch introduced its Clips feature back in May 2016, and - like just about everything else on this platform - it’s extremely easy to use. Whether a pro gamer made an incredible play, or their favorite presenter messed up in a hilarious fashion, users can simply click the Clip button, and 30 seconds of video will immediately be saved. Needless to say, based on this latest entry into our Twitch analytics, it’s proved a rather popular feature.
It’s hard to overstate the dominance Twitch holds over the game streaming market. YouTube Gaming - its closest competitor - was launched as a standalone app back in August 2015, before being integrated into YouTube Live in 2018. YouTube Live managed to rack up a hefty 226,390,000 hours of viewing in Q3 2018. That does sound pretty impressive until one looks at Twitch analytics. In that same quarter, Twitch viewers accumulated a whopping 813,790,000 hours of streaming.
None of the other Twitch statistics show just how big a part of people’s lives this platform has become. Rather than just popping onto the website to see who’s online, or to watch a couple of short bursts of gameplay, many Twitch users log on for an entire viewing session. Given that this is the amount of time these same people might have devoted to watching a movie a decade ago, or a couple of episodes of a TV show, this illustrates how Twitch is supplanting traditional forms of media.
Twitch certainly isn’t an overnight success story. Its staggering success has been building up for a number of years now. Justin.tv - Twitch’s predecessor - was shut down and fully replaced by Twitch in 2014. That year, Twitch accumulated 192 billion minutes of total watch time. In 2018, that number hit 434 billion, good for a 126% total increase.
While the top Twitch streamers garner the vast majority of attention, one of the biggest reasons for the platform’s success has been its accessibility. Just about anybody with a decent computer and internet connection can start streaming, as evidenced by the sheer number of unique streams on the platform. In turn, this also gives viewers an incredible degree of choice as to who they want to view or subscribe to.
Those of a certain age like to reminisce about the time when there were only two or three channels on TV. The dawn of cable TV changed that drastically, giving us hundreds of options to choose. However, that still pales into comparison with Twitch. At any one time, you’ve got the option to pick from tens of thousands of broadcasts, all hosted by different personalities playing hundreds of different games. And, based on the Twitch growth trends we’re seeing, that number looks set to keep climbing indefinitely.
This might be something of an outlier, but it still illustrates the insane distances some streamers will go to give their channel a boost. In this case, Zizaran played over 500 hours of the ARPG Path of Exile, which left only 220 hours in the entire month for other activities - sleeping, eating, showering, and… well, you get the picture! If there’s one criticism amongst the Twitch community now, it’s that the scene is so crowded that - in order to really make a name for yourself - you have to invest a huge amount of time.
Considering the fact that it had only been founded three years beforehand, it seemed like a surprisingly big investment when Amazon, purchased Twitch for $970 million in August 2014. As of October 2018, though, Twitch was valued at approximately $3.79 billion, representing a 291% increase in just four years.
In addition to advertising, the other main source of Twitch revenue is subscriptions - viewers subscribe to their favorite channels, and some of that money goes directly to Twitch. Originally all subscriptions cost $4.99, but in 2017 Twitch added two more tiers, at $9.99 and $24.99, respectively. The vast majority of Twitch monthly active users who choose to pay still pick the cheapest option, but those on higher tiers receive benefits such as ad-free viewing and custom emotes.
While some people might be fine streaming for the sheer enjoyment of it, a vast portion of streamers prefer to make a bit of money from it, too. The Twitch Affiliate Program is how the majority of streamers do exactly that, allowing them to gain money from subscriptions, donations, and even game sales. To qualify for the program, a streamer must have the following Twitch stats - 50 followers, as well as 500 minutes of total broadcasts, 7 unique broadcast days, and an average of at least 3 concurrent viewers over the past 30 days prior applying.
Even becoming an Affiliate is a landmark which the majority of streamers can only dream of reaching, but being a Partner is another level entirely. This status is reserved solely for the channels who’ve managed to attain outstanding Twitch growth. Those who manage to so - roughly 1.2% of the 2.2 million total streamers on Twitch - are rewarded accordingly. In addition to boosting their revenues via subscriptions or running adverts on their streams, Partners can create custom emotes for subscribers (which is a bigger deal than you might think, as we’ll see later), lock their chat to subscribers only, and do plenty of other cool stuff.
For those of you wondering how much money does a Twitch streamer make, unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. Most streamers are, understandably, reluctant to share their financial numbers and, as you can see, the CPM for adverts on people’s streams varies wildly. While it’s not exactly clear how this is determined, the most likely cause seems to be seasonal; i.e., the CPM goes up during times like Christmas holidays, when more people are likely to be online for longer, and down after that when people are traditionally trying to save money.
One of the many fascinating Twitch stats for Ninja, this should give you an indication of the heights the top Twitch streamers can hit. While this is still nowhere near the level a professional athlete might make in a popular sport; it’s far more than your average office worker might ever hope to earn. The fact that Ninja has hit this mark by the age of 27, effectively without having to leave his house, is pretty astonishing.
In an ideal world, streamers would be able to keep all of the money their subscribers brought in. However, Twitch provides the platform on which these people can grow and succeed, and, in exchange, they take 50% of all subscription fees from the vast majority of their streamers. That said, some streamers with top level Twitch viewers stats - people like Ninja, for example - have secured deals with Twitch which allow them to retain a higher percentage of these fees.
Through initiatives like Humble Bundle and the annual Games Done Quick speedrunning marathon, gamers have been raising money for good causes for a while now. Twitch has followed suit, with the company and its streamers raising tens of millions of dollars for a variety of charity causes since 2012. As you might expect, given the size of his platform, Ninja has led the way here as well. In July 2018, he raised a whopping $2.7 million in a single weekend for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
It’s no stretch to say that playing video games was traditionally seen as a male-dominated hobby. However, there has been a massive shift in the demographics within recent years, with a near 50/50 gender split among regular gamers now. That said, it’s surprising to see just how one-sided these demographics are. The huge majority of regular Twitch users are male, with less than a fifth or regular viewers being female. While this is one of the more head-scratching Twitch statistics, it certainly makes it much easier for advertisers to target their ads.
The bulk of Twitch viewers are millennials, which makes sense given that this was the first generation to truly grow up with the internet. Again, this is an extremely useful statistic for marketers looking to use Twitch, considering this is a demographic which is perfectly happy to spend money on video games and related products. If you’d like to know the specific average age of Twitch viewers, it’s 21.
Justin.tv was originally founded in San Francisco, and its successor Twitch - which is also based in San Francisco - has remained an American company through and through. Despite that, Twitch itself has very much managed to become a worldwide service. While the USA has by far the most viewers, the rest are actually very spread out, with significant portions of the Twitch country demographics hailing from Russia to the UK, and from Germany to Brazil.
Considering that only 20% of the world’s population speak English in any capacity and the two most populous native English-speaking countries, the USA and the UK, only account for around 27% of total Twitch viewers, this is one of the most intriguing of Twitch facts. The reasons for this are open to interpretation, but - given that English is the world’s lingua franca - non-native speakers might simply opt to stream in English in order to reach the widest possible audience.
If you’re not an experienced Twitch user, then allow us to quickly clarify something for you. Emotes are an enormous part of this platform’s culture, as you’ll see from even the quickest look at the Twitch stats for emotes. They serve a similar purpose to emojis, allowing people to quickly communicate by images instead of words, and if you log onto a Twitch stream, you’ll see that a significant portion of the live chat is taken up by them.
No name has become quite as synonymous with Twitch as ‘Ninja’. As we touched upon briefly in the introduction, nobody has even come close to achieving his level of crossover, pop culture appeal. We doubt it comes as much of a surprise, therefore, to see that he has by far the most successful channel on the platform. In fact, the second most subscribed Twitch channel on Twitch - which belongs to Shroud - is less than half as big as Ninja’s, with approximately 7.8 million fewer followers.
It’s hard to overstate the dominance which Ninja holds over Twitch, as a whole. While plenty of other people have enjoyed an impressive amount of success on the platform, nobody has come close to challenging the Twitch stats Ninja has managed to put up. All of the viewership and subscriber numbers point to Ninja being by far the most popular figure on the entire platform.
There’s not a tangible difference between having 999,999 subscribers and 1000,000 subscribers, of course, but this is definitely a significant milestone. Out of 2.2 million streamers worldwide, only a tiny percentage of them - 0.004%, to be exact - have managed to achieve this level of Twitch followers count. Given that these types of viewer numbers were traditionally reserved for traditional media forms, like TV and movies, the fact that game streamers can have 1000,000 regular viewers shows just how far the medium has come.
Even though the sheer number of streamers keeps steadily increasing, the number of people who make it to the top of the pile is still low. Analyzing who exactly has managed to do this is an interesting endeavour. When you do so, it becomes clear that - while having an engaging personality is important - being really, really good at video games is the most important factor of all. Ninja, Shroud, Tfue and Summit1g - 4 of the 5 top Twitch streamers by subscribers - were all professional eSports competitors, either in Halo or CS:GO, before they started streaming. Basically, while people want to be entertained, they also want to see games played at an incredibly high skill level.
As we touched upon above, a huge part of becoming a successful streamer comes down to your personality. People aren’t going to tune into somebody’s stream and contribute to the Twitch stats needed to make it to the top, if they don’t feel they have a connection with that person. The reason why most streamers use a webcam is that they want to build that connection - it’s a lot easier to connect to someone when you can actually see them - but it’s certainly not necessary to do so. There are plenty of successful streamers who play without a webcam, with some - like Dakotaz - still posting some incredible numbers.
Twitch has been a successful platform for many years now, as we’ve already seen, but the release of battle royale game Fortnite in July 2017 took things to a whole other level. Many of the most followed Twitch streamers now - most notably Ninja and Myth - broke through courtesy of their Fortnite streaming. And, just as Ninja has dominated his fellow streamers, so Fortnite has dominated all other games. It has been the most watched game on Twitch since almost the day it was released, and continues to tower over its competition. For reference, the second-most popular game on Twitch - League of Legends - has averaged a massive 43,000 fewer viewers than Fortnite over the past year.
This is another way to look at Fortnite’s domination of the scene. At first glance, it might not seem like a particularly high number. When you consider the sheer number of games that are being played at one time, though - almost 13,000, per SullyGnome - that’s a pretty ridiculous market share. Fortnite can’t expect to keep this level of control forever, and there are already signs that it might be slipping (more on that below) but, for now, it’s the undisputed king of Twitch.
This is yet another one of Twitch.tv stats that illustrates just how far the platform has come and the extent to which it’s managing to challenge traditional television. In June 2018, Epic Games hosted its first Celebrity Pro-Am tournament. Between the official Fortnite channel, and the channels of all the other individual streamers who were allowed to broadcast it, the event attracted a colossal 1.3 million viewers. Given the rate at which Twitch’s popularity continues to grow, we wouldn’t be surprised to see that record broken this year (probably by another Fortnite event).
Since Ninja is the most subscribed Twitch streamer, it probably won’t shock you to learn that he’s had the most popular individual stream of all time. Having set the record for concurrent viewers at 628,000 in March 2018, when he played Fortnite with Drake, Ninja promptly smashed his own record one month later during a Fortnite tournament in Las Vegas. Again, this is another record that’s likely to be broken (presumably by Ninja) in recent future.
Fortnite might have the highest average Twitch viewer graph, but it hasn’t actually had the most concurrent viewers in 2019. That honour goes to another titan of the eSports scene, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, which had almost 880,000 people watching it at one point. Fortnite isn’t far behind, on approximately 874,000, but there’s subsequently a big drop-off to Apex Legends, Dota 2 and League of Legends, which have peaked at 678k, 493k and 456k, respectively.
While Fortnite remains the undoubted top dog on the Twitch scene, we’re finally seeing the first signs that it might have a true challenger. Apex Legends - another battle royale game, with very similar mechanics to Fortnite - was released on February 4th, and almost immediately shot to the top of Twitch stats charts. For the week or so after its release, it was actually significantly more popular than Fortnite, although that situation has stabilised now. Still, Apex Legends’ popularity on Twitch has grown at an astonishing rate, the likes of which we haven’t seen since, well, Fortnite.
Aside from Apex Legends, it’s fair to say that things have been pretty settled atop the Twitch viewership charts for a while now. The scene tends to be dominated by either Fortnite, or games that have been around for years like CS:GO, Dota 2, and League of Legends. The LoL Twitch stats, in particular, are really stunning, considering the game is almost 10 years old. However, that’s not to say that new games can’t make a dent. Black Ops 4 was comfortably the most popular new game in 2018, managing to peak at a level which challenged all of the aforementioned established titans.
It’s human nature to get excited by the hot new thing and many Twitch streamers will play off this tendency. Even if they’re known for playing Fortnite, for example, if there’s a big new game coming out they’ll make sure to stream that for a few hours upon release, to boost their Twitch subscriber stats. It’s somewhat refreshing, therefore, to see that there’s still a place for nostalgia, even on Twitch. There’s no better example of this than World of Warcraft’s viewing numbers. Despite being released almost 15 years ago, it still manages to attract tens of thousands of viewers at a time. That’s proof of both the enduring excellence of its design and the loyalty of its legions of fans.
We’re at a crossroad right now, with technology fundamentally changing the way we consume media. Netflix might get more headlines, but - as we’ve seen from some of these incredible Twitch stats - Twitch arguably represents this drastic shift even more effectively. It has given tens of thousands of people a way to monetise their hobby, and given millions more the chance to share their love of video games with like-minded people.
We hope that this article has helped to convey the scale of Twitch’s popularity, and aided your understanding of how the platform actually works. We’ve attempted to do so by using Twitch.tv stats from reputable sources, which you’re free to access (and interpret!) for yourselves. Whatever your personal feelings about Twitch, one thing is for sure - this is an incredibly successful and well-executed platform, which looks set to succeed for many, many years to come.