StreamElements has published a report indicating that Fortnite streams have “reached peak viewership” after the number of hours watched (on Twitch) declined -30% over a recent 2-month period. Fans of the battle royale game spent 151 million hours watching their favorite gamers back in July, but Fortnite streamtime dropped -13% (to 131 million) in August and another -19% (to 106 million) in September as several other highly anticipated games were released. Despite the decline, Fortnite remains Twitch’s most-watched game, though World of Warcraft (+232.5% to 87 million hours) has closed the gap following its August Battle for Azeroth expansion release.
Howie Long-Short: I’m not ready to declare that we’ve reached peak Fortnite. World of Warcraft and the October release of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (which has a battle royale mode and was touted by pundits to be the “Fortnite killer”) took a temporary share of Fortnite viewership, but neither appears to be a long-term threat; 5 out of the 6 fastest growing channels on Twitch are playing Fortnite over everything else (Twitchmetrics) and the game just set a new concurrent player count record (8.3 million) last week (November 8th).
Fornite remains the title of choice for pro gamers because it’s the most lucrative to play. Daniel Conlan, editor at esportsranks.com, told me “Fornite is already 5th in total prize payouts across all games, ever”; particularly impressive considering “the other titles in the top 5 are anywhere from 5-8 years old.” Fortnite was released in July ’17.
The StreamElements report uses Twitch data because the Amazon subsidiary continues to “dominate as a game streaming platform” (see: 813 million hours viewed in September). YouTube has experienced a rise in popularity, growing from 15% of all live stream hours viewed in March ’18 to 25% in September ‘18 (226 million hours), but that growth hasn’t come at Twitch’s expense; YouTube and Twitch prevent their stars from streaming on competing platforms, so “this is simply the market growing.” StreamElements CEO Doron Nir explained, “YouTube creators are starting to realize the potential of live-streaming (more dynamic, better audience engagement, more income per hour of work) and that’s what is largely driving them to stream more.”
World of Warcraft’s strong September has knocked Epic Games from its position as the most viewed publisher; with 5 of the 20 most watched games on Twitch, Activision Blizzard (ATVI) has regained the top spot for the first time since February. Rising viewership hasn’t kept ATVI shares from plummeting 25% over the last 30 days (to $55.01) though, news that their number of monthly active users declined for a 3rd straight quarter and Tencent’s pending roll-out of widespread restrictions, on online play time for kids in China, have spooked investors.
Fan Marino: Fornite has become a cultural phenomenon, but it’s important to keep sight of why the game has resonated with such a large audience; its virality. The game is as famous for its dances, as it is for its shootouts, eliminating the seriousness out of a last man standing apocalyptic adventure. In turn, that’s created a safe world for corporate brands to associate with and Fortnite has been no stranger to partnerships; Marvel Studios temporarily made Thanos a playable character in game (May 2018) and just last week NFL skins (cost: $15) were introduced to gamers.
Ninja’s rise to mainstream celebrity status (10 million followers) and the game’s inclusive nature (100 participants compete, low barrier for entry) have also helped Fortnite reach an audience beyond the hardcore gamer. Fortnite will peak, but only when the battle royale genre does…or if Ninja gets bored. You may recall Snapchat shares plummeting -7.2% (equating to $1.3 billion loss) when Kylie Jenner announced she had lost interest in the photo sharing app.
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