Viewership on Twitch improves every year, but 2020’s growth was unlike anything the platform has seen before.
Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, Twitch’s more than 18 billion hours watched for the year represented an over 65-percent increase year-over-year, according to Twitch analytics site SullyGnome.
In comparison, even the Fortnite boom of 2018 led by Ninja didn’t cause the same level of growth. That year, Fortnite’s more than 1.3 billion hours watched supported a more than 40-percent increase in viewership and the platform racked up 9.3 billion hours watched.
Along with the Just Chatting category more than doubling its viewership, a combination of new games leaving their mark on Twitch in 2020 made a year filled with in-person event cancellations perhaps the most successful in Twitch’s history.
Top 10 most-watched content
Top category: Just Chatting
Since Twitch broke the IRL category into a handful of sub-categories in the fall of 2018, Just Chatting has asserted its dominance.
In its first full year as a category in 2019, Just Chatting was the third most-watched content on the platform with nearly 760 million hours watched. And this year, the category more than doubled that viewership, hitting over 1.9 billion hours watched.
The appeal of the category resides in its flexibility. Over the past couple of years, many top streamers have proven that personality, not gameplay, are what create a successful brand on Twitch.
With gamers moving from game to game on a regular basis, the Just Chatting category regularly serves as an intermission between games. And for some streamers, talking to viewers is their entire content model.
Breakout game: VALORANT
When VALORANT’s beta was released in the spring, the tactical shooter made by Riot broke numerous viewership records with top personalities like Summit1g and TimTheTatman drawing hundreds of thousands of viewers.
With a combination of the beta being released at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and including Twitch-exclusive beta drops for viewers, promotion for the game caused a perfect storm. VALORANT ultimately peaked at 1.7 million concurrent viewers in April.
While interest in the game waned as the year wore on and top personalities started to move back to playing other genres, like battle royales, VALORANT has consistently been able to maintain a steady base of viewers.
Despite not even existing for the first three months of 2020, the game’s 808 million hours watched made it the fifth most-watched content on Twitch for the year.
The COVID-19 pandemic kept many people at home looking for entertainment online in 2020, but that may not stay the same in 2021.
For categories like Just Chatting that saw ridiculous amounts of viewership growth, it’d be wise to temper any expectations of a repeat performance this year.
It’s likely that Just Chatting maintains its spot at the top of Twitch even if the world starts to move back to a more normal flow of events (assuming the pandemic dies down). But some of the growth that all categories have seen will likely taper in correlation with any COVID-19 infection rate changes that may happen.