For more than two years, the battle royale genre has been a dominant force on Twitch. But with Riot Games’ upcoming shooter VALORANT, we could be approaching the end of an era that forever changed Twitch.
The meteoric rise of Fortnite in the spring of 2018 was a proliferation of the groundwork that games like PUBG did before the cartoonish battle royale took over Twitch. But since Epic Games’ success, numerous other battle royale titles have emerged.
Fortnite’s success bred competition in the genre from games like Call of Duty and Apex Legends, among others. But Fortnite’s ability to continually adapt its game and release fresh cosmetic content made it almost incontestable from a long-term perspective.
The only thing that could truly bring Fortnite down a peg would have to be something different than a battle royale. And with Riot set to start beta testing for VALORANT tomorrow, now could be the time.
On Friday, April 3, streamers were finally able to show recorded content from an exclusive early access session where they played the VALORANT beta. Even though streamers weren’t able to play the game live for their audience, their prerecorded gameplay was enough to generate massive amounts of viewers.
Peaking at 994,222 concurrent viewers, the VALORANT category posted monstrous viewership on April 3 that totaled 6.55 million hours watched, according to Esports Charts. For comparison, the only other game to even post more than five million hours watched on Friday was League of Legends with 5.3 million.
Over the past seven days, only nine categories on Twitch managed to eclipse the 10 million hour mark for the entirety of the week. VALORANT did more than that in just one day, without streamers even being allowed to play the game live.
Many games have been hyped before and simply resulted in short-term surges in viewership, though. So what makes VALORANT’s hype any different?
First, the game has the backing of Riot, perhaps the most successful publishing company to produce games that can consistently attract an audience on Twitch. The company’s portfolio includes what is consistently one of the most-watched esports in the world, League, year after year. Riot’s history of success is unparalleled.
Additionally, the game feeds a different interest than Fortnite. Over the past two years, personality-based content on Twitch has been almost monopolized by the battle royale category. VALORANT is effectively a flasher, revised version of CS:GO, a game that’s consistently one of the most-viewed esports on Twitch despite having an initial release date in 2012.
By creating VALORANT, Riot is combining the experience it has gained from making League the most-watched game on Twitch in the past year with a newer, spruced up title in a genre of first-person shooters that hasn’t seen much competition.
Prior to the battle royale binge of the past few years, CS:GO was second only to League on the platform. Many content creators, like shroud, Summit1g, and TimTheTatman, have well-documented pasts playing a VALORANT-style shooter, making the game’s ability to retain key influencers highly likely.
This is a stark contrast from some other recently-popularized games on Twitch, like Escape from Tarkov, which ultimately end up being more of a flavor of the month than a long-term powerhouse.
Meanwhile, the potential for VALORANT as an esport will give it an extra boost. While battle royale esports have had a hard time finding their footing and establishing consistent viewership, Riot has proven that it knows how to make a spectator-friendly esport. On the same note, CS:GO, which bears a lot of similarity to VALORANT, also has one of the most high-profile esports scenes in gaming.
Adding all of those elements together, VALORANT has more potential than any other game in recent history to completely reshape the outlook for viewership on Twitch. By highlighting a genre that’s established in esports but underrepresented among streamers, Riot could capitalize on viewer fatigue of battle royales.
At the same time, this move isn’t particularly risky for Riot because the genre it’s stepped into has a proven track record of success.
VALORANT is already one of the most highly-anticipated games in the industry in recent memory, but from an audience perspective, it could be the game that ends an era of battle royale dominance among content creators.