The Skyrocketing Success of Online Gaming

In the Era of Electronic Sports, Who Are the Most Popular Game Streamers?

Even though they’ve been around for decades, video games aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Over 2.5 billion people in the world play video games. The revenue from the competitive esports market alone reached $655 million in 2017. Over the next few years, projections show that number climbing steadily.



Video game streaming will grow in popularity as more people play video games. People enjoy seeing the finest players in the industry compete, and Twitch is frequently at the forefront of streaming platforms. We analyzed the most popular channels, games, streaming, and how esports stack up against more traditional forms of athletic competition. Click play to explore our findings in more detail.


Which Stations Get the Most Viewers?

The most popular channels during the past year must be examined first. With over 11 million subscribers and countless hours of live broadcasts, Ninja’s channel is clearly the most popular. When we calculated the total watch time of all his viewers over the past year, we found that they had watched his stream for a total of 24,263 years. His station regularly had a large and healthy audience of 69,037 people. As a result of his recent appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” and her subsequent appearance on his livestream, Ninja is becoming more well-known even among individuals who aren’t into video games or esports.

Second place goes to Riot Games, the studio behind the popular eSport “League of Legends,” whose viewers primarily tune in to watch gameplay of the game. Riot Games streams have over 3.2 million viewers and a combined viewing time of 11,446 years. The total amount of time spent on watch by the Shroud community over the past year is 11,270 years, placing them in third place. Over 4.5 million people regularly listen to Shroud.



All of the other channels in the top 10 in terms of viewership have substantial numbers of viewership years. There are 7,338 players in the Overwatch League, 6,294 in sodapoppin, 5,601 in LIRIK, and 5,601 in summit1g.


So, what exactly does this mean? More people than ever are tuning in to streams of others playing video games to pass the time. A 2017 survey indicated that the global audience for gaming videos exceeded that for HBO, Netflix, ESPN, and Hulu put together for the first time.


Which Games Get the Most Viewers?

The next step was to investigate the most popular games for online viewing. As could be expected, “Fortnite” dominates this category.


The video game “Fortnite” has recently become extremely popular, yet it was not created recently. Those anticipating its release were left wanting for the next few years after it was first announced at the 2011 Video Game Awards. In 2014, more information was published in a Game Informer edition, although the game didn’t launch until 2017. This was still a beta version of the game. However, it was made available to the public without cost in the latter half of 2017. Over 40 million copies were downloaded in January of 2018, and by the end of the year, it was the most watched game on Twitch. We calculated that the total amount of time spent watching “Fortnite” by all players over the past year to be the equivalent of 1,640 human lifespans.


Infographic Showing The Top Video Games Streamed On Twitch

Over the past year, approximately 3.5 million Twitch streamers have shown interest in the increasingly popular battle royale game. The “Fortnite” craze has taken the world by storm, and it shows no signs of abating. It has even become a part of NFL halftime shows.


Next up is the popular video game “League of Legends.” Riot Games created this game, which has a total play duration of 111,285 years, as was previously indicated. After “Dota 2” (53,100 years) and “IRL” (47,174 years), “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” (60,708 years) comes in at number three.


Popular Twitch Streams

Twitch’s popularity can also be gauged by determining which channels and games were the most popular at their respective peak times. On January 28, 2018, nearly 1.1 million people watched ELEAGUE TV’s broadcast of “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.” Almost 700,000 people were watching the “Fortnite” channel at its peak, and 627,784 people were watching Ninja at the same time.


Charting the Most Popular Online Videos

In particular, Ninja’s “Fortnite” feed featuring hip-hop superstars Drake and Travis Scott and NFL player JuJu Smith-Schuster broke the Twitch record for the most viewed stream by a single player.


Other well-known public characters, including the controversial YouTubers Logan Paul and KSI, are also attracting large online audiences. Twice in 2018, they met in the ring to fight for the YouTube Boxing Championship Belt, attracting over a million views each time. More than 2.9 million people watched the video game industry’s biggest convention, E3, live on Twitch at the same time.


Analyzing the Data

Finally, let’s compare the size of the esports and traditional sports audiences. Over 103 million people tuned in to watch the NFL’s 2017-18 Big Game, but the League of Legends 2017 World Championship came in second with 80 million viewers.


Comparison between Online and Live Sports Viewing: An Infographic

Several esports tournaments, including various “League of Legends” battles, drew more viewers than the NBA Finals, which drew 17.7 million.


Does this suggest that esports have become more popular than the NBA Finals? Okay, so maybe not quite.


Comparing esports and traditional sports viewership is like comparing apples and oranges. Nielsen ratings are based on the average number of viewers that watched a show from start to finish. That is to say that they are not considering the number of viewers who tuned in for a little period of time and then tuned out, or the number of viewers who started watching but then stopped. Given that Nielsen does not include foreign viewership in its totals, while esports considers data from all over the world, it is clear that any comparisons made here should be taken with a grain of salt.


Infographic Highlighting the Largest Ever Live eSports Event

It’s also worth noting that esports events are popular not just online but also in physical venues. There were a record 173,000 people in attendance at the Intel Extreme Masters tournament in Katowice, Poland. That’s a huge number of spectators who saw the game live.


Streaming’s Bright Future

The meteoric rise in esports’ popularity and Twitch’s viewership numbers is remarkable. Twitch’s VP of Developer Experience Amir Shevat recently discussed the platform’s development and stated that the company hopes to capitalize on interactive livestreaming. Making games where the audience may have an impact on the action is crucial in the future of gaming and a guaranteed way to keep today’s digital audiences interested.



Our research team contacted for viewership data on the most popular Twitch channels over the past year. On October 8, 2018, we ranked teams based on their cumulative viewing time over the prior year. For easier comprehension, we transformed the raw hours of data presented on the data source website into years of actual viewing time spent on each channel. The top games from the past year’s worth of data were studied in the same way, with the addition of information about how many streamers were broadcasting each game and how many average viewers watched it. We took’s average life expectancy data for North America (79 years old) and divided it by the total number of hours viewed for each Twitch channel and video game to determine the number of human life spans based on watch time.


Similar methods were used to scrape, but not normalize, data such as stream duration, average viewership, and total number of followers for the most popular channels. In order to establish the top 15 most watched broadcasts, we used data from to identify the channels or streamers with the most concurrent peak viewers ever.


In order to make a fair comparison between esports and traditional sports in terms of audience data, we chose the most popular and recently held events from each genre during the past year. From there, we aggregated data from,, and to determine the overall number of unique viewers for the analyzed esports tournaments. The conventional sports TV ratings were compiled using data from,, and



The fact that and are independent third-party sites with no connection to is the primary restriction of our research. Both sites rely on their own APIs to collect and display data, and both are in beta, so they could have flaws. The numbers reported in this study are only indicative of metrics between October 17, 2017, and October 17, 2018. This is because of the dynamic nature of viewers, followers, and stream times.


We also recognize that a direct comparison between TV and digital audiences is not valid. Esports events typically go by the total unique viewers, which accounts for international viewers but fails to release the total minutes consumed per event, in contrast to how Nielsen TV ratings calculate viewership metrics using the total consumed minutes of events/total minutes of events or average concurrent viewers (ACV). To sum up, TV ratings cannot be converted to unique digital viewing counts.

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