Steven R. September 18, 2019
The landscape of Twitch streaming is starting to shift in a surprising way.
Long the most popular game on the platform, Fortnite has seen a profound dip in popularity over recent weeks. The statistics highlight how tumultuous the last few months have been for the game, and the awkward position the game currently finds itself in.
As discussed by The Gamer, Fortnite’s average viewership has dropped to its lowest point since emerging onto the gaming scene. Per Twitch Tracker, the game has averaged approximately 90,000 viewers throughout the month of September.
This is a 24% dip from August and marks the lowest point for the game since January 2018, well before its rise to mainstream visibility.
Explanations for this are numerous and the significance of this statistic is open for debate, but the numbers have sparked a larger conversation about the state of Fortnite, the direction the game is heading in, and how different it is from other prominent esports titles.
How important are streamers like Ninja and Tfue to Fortnite?
Streamers have been an integral part of Fortnite’s success both as an esport and as a pop culture phenomenon. Personalities like Turner “Tfue” Tenney and Tyler “Ninja” Blevins have kept hundreds of thousands of eyeballs on the game for nearly two years now, complementing other factors like Epic Games’ rigorous update schedule and the viral popularity of the game’s dances.
That has worked brilliantly for both Fortnite publisher Epic Games and the influencers that have grown in prominence alongside the game. Recently, that's changed.
The start of Fortnite Season X was met with overwhelming frustration from pro players and streamers for a variety of reasons, most notably the B.R.U.T.E. mech. Players complaind that the B.R.U.T.E. was overpowered and difficult to interact with.
When Epic stubbornly refused to bend despite an increasing number of complaints, some prominent streamers dropped the game in a form of protest.
Minecraft streaming enjoyed a massive resurgence as a result, while the launch of World of Warcraft Classic drew in plenty more.
Also cutting into Fortnite’s numbers on Twitch are the practices of individual streamers. Ninja famously left Twitch to start an exclusive partnership with Mixer, taking his fans with him and becoming more of a variety streamer in recent months. This week also saw Tfue announce that he is taking a break from streaming after a permaban scare stemming from his use of racist language during a stream.
Ninja could transition back to Fortnite at some point and Tfue will eventually return to action. Still, this dip shows that “Fortnite streamers” aren’t necessarily locked into playing the game in order to continue their own individual success.
Is Fortnite dying?
The dip in Fortnite viewership is definitely ominous, but it’s unclear what the actual significance is at this point. While Epic Games would certainly prefer to have Fortnite dominating the charts on Twitch, they likely won’t be overly concerned with it unless it is accompanied by a similar dip in the actual player base for the game.
To this point, it is unclear if this is actually happening. Epic Games does not publicize its player counts in the way that Steam does and as such, it remains unclear if the overall popularity of Fortnite is in decline.
The one barometer that exists when it comes to Fortnite’s health is the behavior of Epic Games. To this point, there hasn’t been any sort of outward change in approach to how Epic handles the game from either a development or community perspective.
Epic will always present itself as operating from a position of strength, but the company isn’t unwilling to react to perceived problems, as was the case when Epic offered free battle passes to players shortly after the launch of Apex Legends.
Epic could appease many streamers and pro players by doing things like removing the B.R.U.T.E. or bringing back pump shotguns, but so far they have generally stayed their course.
Fortnite’s popularity on Twitch may be on the decline, but odds are the game itself is doing just fine.