The Among Us effect: Most-watched games on Twitch in 2020

Among Us brought new genres to light.
Image via Innersloth

Twitch saw some changes in 2020. In 2019, the majority of the most popular games were competitive shooters like Fortnite. While these games still reign supreme in popularity, other genres crept into the top 10 this year. There was a big change to the popular genres of 2020, thanks in part to COVID-19.

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The list of the top 10 games on Twitch in 2020 can vary depending on your parameters. If you’re measuring the top 10 most-streamed titles and look at the entire year, the games remain the same: Fortnite, League of Legends, and similar competitive games. The real changes appear when looking at the most-watched games, trending games, or changing the date to the latter half of the year instead of the full year. Among Us creeps into the top 10 for every other category.

First, let’s look at the metrics for the year. We’ll get to Among Us’ numbers after.

Most-watched games of 2020

The Twitch logo on a purple and teal background.
Image via Twitch

SullyGnome tracks Twitch metrics up to the last 365 days. It looks at categories, channels, trends, streamed games, watched games, and more. 

When looking at the most-watched and trending games over the year, we’re skipping Twitch’s Just Chatting category. It’s always No. 1 on most charts. While it remains the most popular category in terms of being the most-streamed, most-watched, and trending, it’s not a game. 

The most-watched games from 2020, according to SullyGnome, are:

  1. League of Legends
  2. Fortnite
  3. Grand Theft Auto V
  4. VALORANT
  5. Call of Duty: Warzone
  6. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  7. Minecraft
  8. Dota 2
  9. World of Warcraft
  10. Among Us

These are the popular games for the entire year. Among Us appearing in the top 10 is impressive since its popularity didn’t spike until halfway through 2020. Following the popularity of Among Us, other similar games saw increased numbers. The games differ slightly when looking at the latter half of the year. Among Us appears early in the list with Fall Guys and Phasmophobia just narrowly missing the top 10. 

Trending games in 2020

Image via Twitch

The Twitch trends from 2020 tell a different story. Many games enjoyed a healthy boost from the early portion of the year and sustained popularity from previous years. Others, like Fall Guys and Among Us, appear as a result of the shifting focus from competitive multiplayer titles to games to play with your friends. 

The top 10 trends from 2020 are: 

  1. VALORANT
  2. Call of Duty: Warzone
  3. League of Legends
  4. Among Us
  5. Minecraft
  6. Escape from Tarkov
  7. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  8. Grand Theft Auto V
  9. Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
  10. FIFA 21

When looking at the latter half of the year, more games that aren’t competitive in nature appear, like Phasmophobia and World of Warcraft (due to Shadowlands’ release in November). 

In part, this change was due to the surge in Among Us’ player count. There were a lot of factors as to why a two-year-old game suddenly burst onto the streaming scene.

Among Us 

Screengrab via InnerSloth

Among Us had a profound effect on streaming culture in 2020. But finding it at the bottom of the list is a surprise. It doesn’t make the top 10 when looking at the most-streamed games, but it hits a solid fourth place when looking at the trending games for 2020. 

There are a lot of theories on Reddit surrounding the increase in popularity of the 2018 indie game. Multiple streamers and YouTubers picked it up in late 2019 and early 2020, starting with a smaller streamer named Admiralbulldog. YouTuber Kaif aired an episode on his channel in late December 2019. In January, there was a surge of players (roughly a 46-percent increase), but the average number of players remained slightly above 100. In the following months, there was a steady but slow increase in the player count until July. As much as we’d like to credit Kaif with starting the surge, looking at the time of the player increase, it wasn’t Kaif’s influence but rather a Twitch streamer.

In July, Sodapoppin played Among Us for his Twitch audience and even made a joke about causing the popularity spike. While the game’s Steam numbers climbed slowly in the spring, there was a massive increase in players in July. The average number of players jumped from 616 to 2,104. In August, it went up by 718 percent, hitting an average of 18,790 players. This happened again in September when it reached 151,380 average players. The peak player count also increased dramatically, reaching 438,524 players in September. Kaif may have been first, but it was Sodapoppin’s audience and influence that brought Among Us into the spotlight in July. 

There’s another potential trigger for the game’s popularity. The final installment of The Henry Stickmin Collection, Completing the Mission, was released on Aug. 7. Both The Henry Stickmin Collection and Among Us are made by InnerSloth. Completing the Mission featured Among Us Easter eggs scattered throughout the levels. Many players investigated what the little characters were and looked into Among Us

Regardless of how it started, Among Us was the perfect game for 2020. With COVID-19 forcing people to isolate, lock down, and avoid interaction with their friends and family in person, the inexpensive multiplayer game lets friends play together in a casual way. The majority of multiplayer games that are popular at the same time are competitive, like Fortnite, Warzone, and League. Fortnite saw a massive increase in player count during the early lockdowns in March and April. Among Us fills a similar social niche but creates a friendly, board game-like environment. While there’s competition and the desire to win, it’s not a competitive game. 

Fall Guys

Image via Mediatonic

The popularity of Among Us caused an increase in similar games. Fall Guys was released in the middle of Among Us’ popularity spike. It’s more competitive but equally cheerful and silly. Fall Guys never saw the numbers that Among Us did, but it’s holding strong in trends for the latter half of 2020.

Fall Guys’ numbers may not be the highest, but the game did see a good bump in popularity and it remains just outside of the top 10 for streaming. The Steam numbers only tell part of the story, though. Fall Guys is on other platforms and has a healthy player base outside of just PC gaming.

Just like Among Us, Fall Guys can credit its numbers to a handful of streamers. One of the main ones was TimTheTatman and his infamous series of losses. When the game was released in August, the streamer, like many others in the field, jumped into the chaotic race for the crown. He lost—frequently. And the more he lost, the more followers he gained, increasing those who watched the game. Eventually, he did get his win.

Phasmophobia 

Image via Kinetic Games

The need for multiplayer games extended beyond just Among Us and Fall Guys, though. In October, thanks in part to Halloween, Phasmophobia popped up on the trends as well. Although it’s a four-player co-op game where players work together to hunt ghosts and gather evidence, it lacks any sort of competitive environment. Phasmophobia’s numbers are small, appearing only in the last three months of 2020. Despite this, it’s quickly rising in terms of Twitch trends and popularity.

Due to its release time, it didn’t make the top 10 for the last year. But limiting the data to 180 days instead of 365 brings Phasmophobia securely into the top 10 for 2020. 

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