May 07, 2020
COVID Lockdown and Twitch’s Parabolic Ascent
Gaming in Vogue
There’s a popular meme circulating the interwebs right now about how the World Health Organization (WHO) went from classifying video game addiction as an official mental disorder in 2019, to recommending people play video games during COVID lockdown in their new #PlayApartTogether initiative designed to support the gaming industry while educating about social distancing. Gamers, true to their nature never miss an opportunity to celebrate irony or “pwn” their critics. As the world reels from COVID and experiences an unprecedented lockdown, little has changed in the daily routines for those in the video game streaming community. A community where rolling out of bed, ordering delivery and spending most of the day online has long been the norm. In fact, gaming streamers are thriving as they welcome hoards of new players and viewers looking for a mentally engaging outlet during quarantine.
According to TwitchTracker, Twitch viewership has exploded to nearly double from 1.3M concurrent viewers in January to 2.5M in April. The active gamers and creators on the platform have streamed a staggering 2 billion hours of video game play since quarantine started, and the active number of streamers is also up 15% during the pandemic. An unprecedented number of new people have entered the Twitch ecosystem so far in 2020 and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down for the rest of the year. A recent study which looked at early adoption in Italy, France and Spain due to lockdown is predicting 30-50% additional growth from here as more countries implement stay-at-home guidance.
Solidarity with Healthcare Workers
In spite of negative portrayal in the media as being aloof and disconnected from reality, gamers have shown during COVID that they’re just as engaged and proactive in supporting healthcare workers and those in need. Twitch itself has raised over $2.7M for the COVID-19 Solidarity Relief Fund, joined by others including Riot Games, Nintendo, Sony, and even influencers like Ninja who donated $150,000 to Feeding America.
We also see traditionally non-gaming organizations jumping on Twitch to make a splash in the absence of other mediums. The National Hockey League (NHL) and ESL Gaming league revealed a partnership this week to host an online hockey tournament (Game: EA sports NHL ‘20), with players from all 31 NHL hockey teams participating. The event will be live streamed on Twitch and the two leagues have committed a combined $100,000 to the CDC’s COVID relief efforts.
Influencer Marketing
Twitch doubling viewership in a few months with a strong trajectory in 2020 may be partially temporary, but many of the newcomers to Twitch will stay. As gaming communities are becoming home for an increasing number of people during lockdown, sustained prevalence among social media platforms seems inevitable. There are unique opportunities on Twitch for brands to engage audiences as the gaming vertical emerges toward increasing importance and relevance. Unlike Instagram which is often cited as leaning heavily toward influencer marketing targeting women with 84% of paid Instagram influencers in 2019 being female, Twitch is overwhelmingly male at 81% of all users and notably undersaturated in influencer marketing.