Not so long ago, you had to buy a game individually to play it whenever you wanted to. It seemed like only yesterday when you needed to line up at Gamestop to get your hands on a copy of the latest blockbuster title. But the subscription service model has pretty much taken over the world. You pay a little every month to gain access to any game at any time and be able to play it anywhere.
Most people welcome this change because you’re not paying obscene prices for one game. You can cancel at any time, along with an ample amount of choices. What’s not to like? As you would expect in a general shift in commercial culture, there are different brands that all have their own style of delivering this type of service.
The question is, which one would fit your gaming needs?
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Streaming Trends in 2020
Last year a streaming platform rivaling Twitch popped up out of nowhere. They came onto the scene with a bang by poaching their top talent. Ninja moved exclusively to Mixer and took his millions of millennial followers with him. Another top streamer, Shroud, has already left Twitch for Mixer, so it looks like the Microsoft-owned platform is set to expand on this trend this year.
The hot streak of battle royal games may finally be fading away as fewer people are watching Fortnite, PUBG, and Apex Legends. The casual or ‘real-life’ streams are still popular and don’t seem to be rising in popularity nor falling out of favor.
Expect to see a lot more cross-platform options and further integration of virtual reality hardware. With the past few years being abysmal for E3, it seems like gamers aren’t too bothered about this once highly prestigious event. Live stream reveals events of games by their developers will grow in popularity.
Rise in Views
As you may know, the world is gripped by a pandemic. This has done wonders for Twitch, the leading streaming platform. The number of hours streamed is up by 15%, and the average daily minutes watched have risen by 12%.
With children being out of school as well as parents staying at home, households are simply watching more of what they like. Video game streaming is now getting reliable and consistent numbers throughout the day instead of peaking after working hours.
People want to see collaborations and greater cooperation between games from different nations. That’s something that NKN is working on to fix. They offer a ‘decentralized internet’ ethos, which essentially allows anyone to share their internet with anyone else around the world. It’s a blockchain platform, so it’s self-regulating and leaves a trail of events, keeping users secure. Its robust infrastructure is set to provide a universal solution to the disparity between poor and fast connections.
Twitch has also seen a 3.3% rise in new channels being created. So it’s not just an increase in viewers, but people are leaping to start their own streams too.
The Rise in Streaming Hours
Amazon owns Twitch, which reports accurate numbers for the total rise in streaming hours. The percentage of viewership has risen dramatically, which has seen the number of viewing hours go from 33 million to 43 million in 2 weeks in March. With social distancing in full effect, people are compelled to stay at home and interact with each other using video games as their bridge to civilization.
This has probably increased in April; however, these figures are yet to be accurately surmised. Almost every modern streaming platform offers the option of streaming ‘chat’ sessions. There is no doubt that this is causing the spike in numbers as gaming stream platforms are far more comfortable to use than conference call software. It’s also a cultural thing, as more millennials are comfortable using text chat as well as webcams.
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Top Video Games to Stream in 2020
League of Legends
League of Legends has been a consistent giant in the streaming world. It regularly outshines even the top Fortnite streams. It will come as no surprise to many that this game has seen a staggering rise in viewership. In December 2019, it had 105,000 viewers on average, tuning in every month. In 2020, it had 134,000 in January, which shot up to 174,000 in February and then somehow slumped in March to 166,000. However, in April, it skyrocketed up to 210,000. Bear in mind this game is over a decade old, and it’s still pulling in massive numbers.
Thanks to popular YouTubers like JackFrags, Valorant has seen an uptick of up to 1 million viewers on streams around the world. The great thing about streaming is, anyone from anywhere can watch you play. Traditional channels only air in their domestic regions, but Valorant has Spanish, Dutch, American, Brazilian, and Russian streamers, all adding to the overall views. This could be because the closed beta began on April 7, and this is just hype for a new first-person shooter. Some of the largest channels are taking in viewers of 100-300,000! This 5v5 tactical shooter is competing with Tom Clancy’s Siege and Counter-Strike Global Offensive.
Fortnite’s new chapter 2 was rolled out in October 2019, and it seems like this was a sign from God. Already down to just 75 million hours of watching in the same month of release, Fortnite’s viewership has increased back up to around 90 million hours as of April. This is where it was in August of last year. Although this is under half of what it achieved at its peak, it’s better to be where you were last year than showing signs of weakness. However, despite everything, it’s still the number one game out there.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Talk about a textbook panhandle graph. CO:GO was down to 578,000 players at the end of last year. In April of this year, this more than doubled to a staggering 1.1 million active players. Looking at TwitchTracker, it pulled in 156,000 viewers in May regularly. For a game that’s almost 10 years old, this shows that competitive twitch-style shooters are still popular. The number of hours watched in April was a blistering 86 million. CO:GO has always been a game with a competitive footprint. It’s challenging Fortnite for the top spot in the competitive shooter world.
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Best Streaming Services
Although dedicated streaming services like Mixer and Twitch are rightfully seen as the top dogs, several other platforms are rising in popularity. In 2020, you will see a trend in the console and developing studios funding their own subscription-based streaming services. However, unlike Twitch and Mixer, they will also be used as an online library for games. Essentially, you pay a monthly fee to gain access to as many games as you want. You don’t need to buy another game ever again. Cancel anytime you want to and access your games on different platforms in one place.
The old giant that truly led the way in the streaming service, Steam is still going strong. But what’s keeping this service alive is the super friendly attitude and opportunities given to indy-game developers. YouTubers like PewDiePie have consistently used Steam to find quirky, outlandish, exciting, new games that have been made by micro studios or just by one person. However, you need to download the platform and the games onto your machine. It’s sad really because although it paved the way, it’s now refusing to evolve to stay relevant.
This is the new age of streaming services, and PlayStation is finally doing things right. With the cloud-based subscription service, you have access to all the games on the platform if you have a PC or PlayStation 4. As you would expect, older titles from the previous consoles will also be available on the service. As of October 2019, it has over 1 million users, but since it was launched more than 6 decades ago, this seems to be a bit low. It costs $59.99 for one year, which isn’t bad at all. It also has a 7-day free trial for those who want to try before they subscribe.
This service finally got out of beta testing and was released to the public this year. However, it has been tangled in licensing disputes since the beginning of this year. Activision, 2K Games and Bethesda have all pulled out. It was initially going to offer users a library of games via a cloud system, but now it has opted for the user to bring his or her games to the platform. It sounds like a reverse Steam model, which is bizarre and unnecessary. Don’t be surprised if this platform collapses this year.
Streaming services have given indie developers a chance to shine, and Jump is taking it one step further. Unlike Steam that does have AAA games, Jump is purely dedicated to indie games. For just $4.99 a month with the option of first going through a 14-day trial, you have access to hundreds of games across all genres. This is something that niche gamers will definitely want to try because you’re gaining access to games that could become a massive success in the near future.
As you would expect, the largest tech giant in the world was going to get in on the action sooner or later. Released just in November of last year, it’s a cloud-based service, so you wouldn’t have to download a single game you buy. The platform has many great titles such as PUBG and Destiny 2, however the most significant game right now, Fortnite, is unavailable, which is strange since it’s the hottest commodity on the market.
Best Streaming Platforms
The best streaming platforms right now are Twitch and Mixer. It’s evident that by looking at the two and compared to everybody else, they have the largest and most consistent viewing numbers. It’s easy to set up an account, and even if you don’t have one, you can still watch others play games. Navigating around both platforms is quite easy. The layouts are vibrant and clear, but they’re also conscious of giving the viewer maximum screen space. The issue for both is that they still get outcompeted by YouTube. Obviously, YouTube has the financial support from Google, so although both platforms seem to be gaming havens, they still can’t compare with the big dogs.
Twitch has developed quite a reputation. It’s both good and bad. The strongest attribute Twitch has is being consistently reliable. It’s rare to have streams freezing or massive lag spikes randomly occurring. It has excellent bandwidth and adaptive measures such as a low latency button to maximize your internet connection to the streamer’s connection. However, it does have a recurring issue of adult-oriented streams. Many female streamers have been allowed to wear very skimpy clothes or hardly any without being reprimanded by the platform. But as with any streaming service, there are thousands of channels to watch, so take some personal responsibility to avoid such streams.
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When it first ventured onto the scene, it was touted to be the Twitch-killer. However, this seems to have been a fallacy. Although YouTube Gaming does get quite a few streaming channels pulling in a few thousand viewers, it’s primary use by streamers is to upload highlights of their streams. This is quite unusual, but this has caused Ninja to accumulate 23 million followers. YouTube Gaming is also separate from the main YouTube website, which mostly shows that it’s not a dedicated streaming service. It’s a great platform of edited clips and videos, but not the most popular for streaming.
Mixer made a big move by capturing Twitch’s top performer. It’s reported that Ninja was paid tens of millions of dollars to make the switch, and so far, it hasn’t hurt Twitch or Ninja. Mixer gets thousands of viewers for the top games on the market, but Twitch receives hundreds of thousands. It’s still a very young platform, as it was only released in 2016. Twitch has a 10-year advance in the market, and the difference in regular viewers could be because of this. Both platforms have significant bandwidth, speed, and the stream rarely jitter or lag.
Facebook has released Facebook Gaming as a live streaming service. As you would expect from a mainly social media platform, the layout isn’t that great. It does seem a bit more cramped than the others, but it still pulls in respectable viewing figures. Some of the more popular games have channels with thousands of viewers. The video controls are easy to use, and there aren’t many issues with lag or video quality.
Take Home Message
Cloud-based subscription streaming services, like console and gaming brands, are going to become more popular this year. It seems like the standalone streaming services like Twitch and Mixer will remain top dogs. Keep in mind that the viewing numbers and hours watched on average are sharply rising due to the lockdown effect of the pandemic.
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