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Can live stream gaming platforms hold onto their momentum?

by Samuel Whitehead

November 27, 2020

The gaming live video streaming market has shot to new heights in 2020. Seemingly, the increased usage of platforms such as Twitch, YouTube Live, and Facebook gaming, have all benefited from the pandemic, and therefore, the desire for entertainment within the home.

However, now certain platforms have had an upsurge in their audience, the questions begin about their ability to retain their users. Naturally then, it’s time to predict gaming's live-streaming future…

There’s no doubt that the future of live stream gaming belongs to three parties: Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook. As seen earlier this year, breaking into this space is extremely difficult. A glance at Microsoft’s effort, Mixer, highlights the problems platforms can face and that's with the backing and money of tech giants Microsoft.

Hugely popular Fortnite streamer Tyler "Ninja" Blevins signed on to be Mixer exclusive in 2019, but the live streaming venture struggled against competition from Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook. Now, Mixer is finished, and Microsoft has partnered with Facebook gaming.

So, if we are determining that the future of live stream gaming is Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook: what is the fate of those platforms?

Twitch

Well for Twitch, the story of their future suggests a continuation of their current trajectory, upwards! 2020 has been an extremely successful year for the live streaming platform, with average concurrent channels at a record 103,000, up from 53,000 in January of this year. Twitch has seen some insane growth increasing its average concurrent viewers from 102,000 in 2012 to over 2 million in 2020. Evidently, COVID-19 has had a massive impact on those figures, but while some will argue that the numbers are temporary, we believe it's set to continue.

COVID-19 is going to be present for some time, and despite major advances in a vaccine for the virus, society will not return to complete normality in 2021. As Rishi Sunak warned recently, “the economic emergency has only just begun”, therefore, unemployment will endure. This will have a telling effect on platforms such as Twitch. The Coronavirus spike in users may convert many into permanent streamers.

Additionally, many who are unemployed may turn to live-streaming as an income and an opportunity to start something new. For a variety of reasons, the gaming market is growing and this fact has started to become general knowledge. The success of gaming streamers has been noticed and the increase in unique channel creations in 2020 supports this.

Youtube

For YouTube, the story of growth in 2020 is a similar one to Twitch. However, on a smaller scale. In Q3 of this year, YouTube had 758,000 concurrent viewers, up from 328,000 in Q3 of 2019. Without a doubt, the same trends, which have brought success to Twitch in 2020, have delivered success to YouTube live. Incredibly, it seemed YouTube may have captured the biggest gaming streamer on the internet back in July when Ninja streamed on their platform. Unfortunately for YouTube, he’s now back with Twitch after the failure of Microsoft’s Mixer.

So, what does the future hold? Historically, YouTube’s focus on its live services is unpredictable and there are questions over whether creators trust the platform. True Geordie has recently left the site due to this very issue. Despite this, the figures from 2020 are very positive and there’s no reason to doubt YouTube’s increase in growth, especially due to the current climate of society.

Facebook

For Facebook, 2021 will be about whether or not they are ready to catch up with the major players. Now Microsoft’s Mixer is no more and the giant technology brand have teamed up with Facebook, could there be an influx in gaming streamers coming from their disregarded platform to Facebook’s?

Facebook’s best bet is focusing on new streamers. As previously mentioned, there is and will be, lots of streamers migrating to platforms deciding where to apply their trade next. There’s no doubt that any rookie new to streaming, will be familiar with Facebook’s platform and potentially, not with Twitch’s. We predict Facebook gaming may just be the no.1 growth opportunity for live gaming streamers, challenging YouTube for second place.

At the moment, average concurrent viewership on Facebook Gaming might be only 369,000, however, hours watched vs hours streamed statistics, tell a more positive story. Curiously, despite Twitch having more unique channels than YouTube Gaming and Facebook, the gap in hours watched is significantly tighter. So even though live-streamers broadcasted 7.6 million hours on Facebook compared to 206 million on Twitch in Q3 of 2020, dissecting the figures show that for each hour streamed, 23 hours are spent watching on Twitch while 136 hours are spent watching on Facebook.

The industry as a whole?

Seemingly, 2021 will follow the status quo within the gaming stream world and there will not be any substantial changes to the big three. TikTok, Instagram, Periscope, and LinkedIn all offer live services but will have little impact in a gaming sense. Unquestionably, the biggest platform to watch out for will be Facebook gaming. Admittedly, Facebook will not replace Twitch in the viewer's eyes but may creep closer to YouTube. Twitch is far too ingrained into the streaming culture to be unseated but YouTube is a realistic target. Watch this space.

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