If you thought of Twitch streams in particular when watching a pandemic, you’re far from alone. Streamlabs and Stream Hatchet have found that Twitch viewership has more than doubled in a year, from “only” 3.1 billion hours in the first quarter of 2020 to 6.3 billion hours in the same quarter of 2021. Most of that increase came in the spring of 2020 when lockdowns sent people fleeing, but there has been largely steady growth since then – this is a 16.5 percent jump from just the previous quarter.
Others don’t have as much opportunity to boast. YouTube Gaming had its own pandemic-related surge, but viewing time fell sharply in the first quarter to 1.37 billion hours. They are now lower than before everyone was urged to stay home, the data shows. That gave Facebook Gaming a chance to narrow the gap. With a viewing figure of 1.06 billion hours, it was the smallest of the top three, but it represented steady growth that hasn’t stopped since its peak in the early 2020s.
For Twitch, at least some of that growth came from non-gaming streams. “Just chatting” was the most-watched category on the Amazon service for the second quarter in a row, and now represents 12 percent of everything people watch on the platform. Grand Theft Auto V and League of Legends were distant runners-up. The battle royale hit Garena Free Fire led YouTube Gaming’s viewership, while PUBG Mobile remained Facebook Gaming’s star attraction.
The continued rise and shift in content is not entirely surprising. Twitch already dominated live streaming, and it became even more popular when musicians and other non-game creators flocked to the platform as a substitute for in-person concerts and discussions. Even game-focused streamers have more reason to use Just Chatting – if they can’t socialize in person, they might as well make money with virtual conversations. The question, of course, is whether a live-streaming service can keep up this momentum once mass vaccinations make it safer to go outside.
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