League of Legends is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) title from Riot Games, which has been a fixture of Amazon’s streaming platform Twitch for many years. The title leverages Twitch as a primary distribution avenue for its professional Esports leagues, as well as associated content such as pre/post-game commentary and weekly recap shows. In addition to Riot’s direct use of the platform, there are a large number of individuals that utilize Twitch as a content creation mechanism for the game. The list of current and ex-professional players that regularly stream on the platform is too long to list, and a surprising number of the former leave the Esports scene while they are still in their prime for a chance at better monetization and fan engagement via a dedicated streaming career.
This confluence of Esports and streamers (both professional and amateur alike) has historically resulted in League of Legends preeminence atop Twitch’s most streamed or viewed titles. Between December 2016 and February 2018, outside of a few brief instances, League of Legends was the most watched title on Twitch in terms of average viewers. It was in February 2018 that Fortnite, and to a broader extent the battle royale trend overall, burst onto the streaming scene in a meaningful manner. Fortnite rode its wild success to pop culture icon on the back of Twitch, leveraging crossover moments between conventional celebrities like sports stars (JuJu Smith-Schuster) and music artists (Drake) with video gaming personalities and professionals (Ninja). At its peak, Fortnite was averaging more than two times the number of viewers to streams of the title as compared to League of Legends, the second most streamed title at the time (according to Twitch Tracker, during the week of July 9, 2018, Fortnite averaged 221,371 unique viewers while League of Legends averaged just 97,326). This gap eventually began to close at the start of 2019 as the fervor around Fortnite began to fade, with the two titles trading the crown of most average stream viewers over the course of the first six months of the year.
Image from Riot Games
The end of June saw Riot Games introduce its first new game since League of Legends was initially released back in 2006. Teamfight Tactics, despite being packaged as a part of League of Legend’s gaming client and drawing from the MOBA’s champion and item pool, is a distinct title in-and-of-itself. Teamfight Tactics is a hybrid strategy-autobattler, similar in nature to Defense of the Ancients Autochess offering. As opposed to League of Legends real-time combat mechanics, players instead formulate a strategy and then let the action play out much on its own. Despite the marked difference in gameplay, Teamfight Tactics has shown that it can resonate with the broader League of Legends fanbase, with initial beta testing of Teamfight Tactics resulting in long queue times, despite its limited roll out.
The production launch of Teamfight Tactics came amidst League of Legends broader 9.13 patch, and the game quickly experienced a rapid increase in adoption as long-time fans of the League of Legends franchise and newcomers alike jumped at the opportunity to take Riot’s newest offering for a test drive. Within a few weeks of introduction, Teamfight Tactics has become the most viewed title on Twitch, both in terms of number of average viewers and time watched (in hours), topping both Fortnite and conventional League of Legends. Per TwitchTracker, for the seven days preceding July 24th, Teamfight Tactics averaged 120,303 viewers who consumed 20,672,020 hours of streamed gameplay content; this represented 9.6% of average viewers and 9.7% of total gameplay viewed across the entire Twitch platform. Together, League of Legends and Teamfight Tactics accounted for 16.8% of total average viewers and 18.1% of all content hours consumed on the platform during the evaluated time period. These stats become even more impressive when one considers that League of Legends and Teamfight Tactics channels constitute only 8.1% of all channels on Twitch, whereas Fortnite streams were conducted on 16.3% of all channels.
While Fortnite’s meteoric rise to the top of Twitch in 2018 was undoubtedly impressive, its recent ceding of ground newcomers and established games alike highlights how difficult it can be to maintain a presence atop Twitch, which is itself frequently viewed as a barometer of a games overall appeal and relevance. Teamfight Tactic’s own ascendance may be short lived, however, its rise to the top of Twitch while in beta form deserves to be recognized. At the very least, League of Legends broader resurgence on the platform despite an onslaught from new titles (and new types of streams) adds credence to the games message, “Legends Never Die”.
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