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Game streaming viewership nearly doubled during the pandemic

Some platforms did better than others

In this photo illustration a Twitch (service) by Image: Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

With much of the world sequestered at home in 2020, viewership of three major streaming platforms — Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming — was sky high. But streamers who put their effort into Facebook Gaming and YouTube Gaming saw a larger uptick in viewership compared to those who streamed on Twitch. The data comes courtesy of a report issued Thursday by Streamlabs and Stream Hatchet.

The study shows that overall viewership across Facebook Gaming, Mixer, Twitch, and YouTube Gaming was up 78.5% to a total of 27.9 billion hours. Twitch still occupies the top spot among the three platforms with 90% of the “market share of hours streamed” compared to Facebook and YouTube. Mixer shuttered in July, with its users transitioned to Facebook Gaming in June.

A graph showing a marked increase in hours of streaming content produced in 2020. Image: Streamlabs, Stream Hatchet

In 2020, Twitch’s viewership was up 67.36%, increasing from 11 billion hours in 2019 to 18.41 billion hours in 2020. That increase is partly because streamers broadcast 76.2% more hours to the platform, climbing from 431 million hours in the fourth quarter of 2019 to more than 761 million hours in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Meanwhile, data show that YouTube streamers put just about the same amount of time into their broadcasts in 2020. Roughly 54.9 million hours were streamed in 2020 versus 55.4 million hours in 2019. However, YouTube’s viewership of that streaming content increased twofold. Data show that viewers consumed 6.19 billion hours of streaming content in 2020, up from 3.15 billion in 2019.

Facebook Gaming saw the biggest bump, although its market share is much smaller compared to the other two major players. Viewership was up 184% in 2020 to 3.1 billion hours, nearly triple what it was in 2019. As on Twitch, Facebook streamers put in more effort, increasing their broadcast hours by 186%.

You can find the full data on the Streamlabs blog.