This week in partnership with Steam Hatchet we take a look at hours watched over two consecutive summers of Battle Royale on Twitch, but first up, a history lesson.
The Battle Royale phenomenon has made a huge long lasting impact on the gaming industry this past year, most notably with the arrival of the free-to-play game mode of Fortnite, developed by Epic Games and released on September 26th 2017.
This wasn’t the first game or game-mode of the genre however, not by a long shot with rival BR and survival games released as far back as 2002. The likes of the Battlefield for instance, developed by Dice, and published by Electronic Arts. Other historical titles in this domain are DayZ (an ARMA II mod released by Dean Hall), H1Z1, and the “forever in Alpha” fan favourite Rust among others (Minecraft, yes), delivered to you by Bohemia Interactive, (Currently) Daybreak Game Company and Facepunch Studios respectfully. Another BR game that defined the category is PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, more commonly known as PUBG, developed and published by PUBG Corporation, a subsidiary of South Korean video game company Bluehole.
As we get into the numbers of hours watched over the last couple of years, regardless of player base, tournaments structures and marketing, the Battle Royale sensation achieved something quite remarkable in breaking all kinds of records in such a short time frame.
As some titles had their shot at the big time, there are clearly only two BR games that rule the roost right now, Fortnite and PUBG.
With close to 80 million hours watched last year in August 2017, PUBG’s rise to fame can be attributed to many things, but as most new games that arrive on the social streaming platform it was a mixture of curiosity, learning how to play and influencer entertainment.
At the time of PUBG’s release, it was something fresh, realistic, fun, brutal, gladiator-esque, session based all or nothing, any play-style works ethos, and for many it was exactly what they wanted. It took its time to grow and slowly (glitches and performance issues aside) became a staple of the genre and a hardcore fan favourite.
“However the game’s viewership numbers can’t all be accredited to the purely competitive element of the game…”
With some of the teething problems out of the way it wasn’t long before esports tournament organisers such as ESL, PGL, StarLadder, Auzom, (acquired by ESP Gaming) among many others to pick up the game and push it organically into the esports limelight. However the game’s viewership numbers can’t all be accredited to the purely competitive element of the game. PUBG Corporation, through pure genius or serendipity, managed to create the almost perfect symbiosis of gameplay entertainment. On the one hand, streamers get to showcase multiple types of intensity, depending on their play-style, and through their personality. Endless situations can arise at any moment allowing them to showcase their knowledge of the game, skill and keep their audience on the edge of their seats, desperate to know what’s going to happen next.
On the other hand, the forced downtime between games, queuing, warming up and even dropping onto the battleground gives them ample opportunity to engage with viewers, promote themselves, sponsors and partners on a much deeper level. The tempo of the game cycles, for really successful and skilful streamers, is close to that of a short episode of your favourite TV show, pulling us in, compelling us to binge watch the whole series in one go. Combine all this with the chatting functionality and community building functions of Twitch, and the promotion of Guy Beahm‘s alter ego and internet sensation DrDisRespect, PUBG captured everyone in its grasp, for a while…
Capitalising on PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ efforts Epic Games quickly transitioned Fortnite into what is arguably the most successful game on the planet right now.
Pushing above 200 million hours watched in July 2018, the creators of the game had their own stroke of genius, or luck that put Fortnite into a realm of its own. Less realistic than its rival, warm vibrant colours, smoother, less bug ridden and ultimately better optimised, the game mode arrived on the scene as if it had been planned for years. Sure the game had been in the works since 2011, available in early access in 2017, it was only after what seemed like a trial or marketing coup in September 2017, making the very popular game mode free-to-play, that sucked in all the fans of the genre to at least try it out.
“Take into account the generation of players raised in Minecraft for all those years, now had something new and fun to play, that wasn’t too far from what they were used to, but this time the characters can dance”
Making the game available to anyone with a device capable of running it has the obvious effect of bringing in less wealthy gamers. It’s less intense and more cartoon like visuals had an immediate effect on the younger generations of players too. Take into account the generation of players raised in Minecraft for all those years, now had something new and fun to play, that wasn’t too far from what they were used to, but this time the characters can dance. And here is the masterpiece from Epic Games. Making dancing synonymous with Fortnite was and still is incomprehensible, but it is, and for whatever reason it is their greatest achievement to date. The trend caught on like wild fire, from news reporters, to football stars, artists, memers and even the teachers started “flossing” and everyone knew it was “because of Fortnite”.
“With every record broken for an individual streamer, it was time to double down and make Fortnite an esport”
Meanwhile as all this was happening a superstar of the game was rising through the ranks. A fun-loving family-friendly streamer named Richard “Ninja” Blevins. Epic Games once more saw great opportunity in what is the world’s biggest gaming influencer and putting him in the driving seat of the game along with one of the most influential music artists in the world was marketing royalty. With every record broken for an individual streamer, it was time to double down and make Fortnite an esport.
Unfortunately like more and more publishers right now, Epic hasn’t allowed the community to build, stress-test, trial tournament structures and figure out what system works best. They pulled everything in-house immediately and swung around a giant stick of tournaments, bursting the piñata full of hundreds of millions of dollars. Their one crucial error in a long line of majestic achievements.
Finally, for those who made it here and paid attention to the graphic above, the dip in viewership during August 2018 can realistically be attributed to fair variety of factors. But it is mostly down to other games arriving in the market or that maybe the honeymoon period for Ninja and Fortnite is over. With so much bad press about his life choices it is fair to assume that his viewership would take a hit, and by proxy so would Fortnite as a whole.
As the summer period comes to an end and more games get released and more tournaments push the boundaries, only time will tell where the numbers will go.
We are partnered with esports data and analytics company Stream Hatchet for this weekly series. Find out more about the company here.