Streaming has become more than a hobby for many gamers and retired esports stars. Streaming is now a profession, and quite a lucrative one, in large part thanks to Twitch.
Everyone’s heard by now that Fortnite streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins earned $10 million while streaming in 2018. But he’s not the only Twitch personality to make a living thanks to subscribers, ad revenue, and donations through the platform over the past few years.
This video gives some insight into Twitch’s top ten streamers from February 2014 to May 2019, showing their rise and fall month by month according to total video views. The footnotes below highlight some of the more intriguing moves on the graph.
While never quite reaching Imaqtpie’s consistent views, retired Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player IzakOOO soared up the charts in March of 2016. The Polish CS:GO streamer reached a little over 5.5 million monthly views before dropping out of the top 10 entirely.
The sudden burst in views could be due to the IEM Katowice Major taking place within the first few days of the month. With all of the excitement surrounding CS:GO during that time, it wouldn’t be a surprise if many of the game’s popular personalities picked up additional interest from viewers. IzakOOO started working as an event broadcaster a year later.
Professional League of Legends player Felipe “YoDa” Noronha suddenly shot up to the number one spot in June 2016 with over 17 million views. This had him soaring above other top streamers at that time, most of which were still in the three million range.
While YoDa is currently the fourth most watched Portuguese League of Legends channel, what caused the major spike in views in the summer of 2016? After that, he went back down the chart for a while. He now sits at a little over one million monthly views on average.
oDa was a jungler for the RED Canids, a pro League of Legends team based out of Brazil. Around the summer of 2016, there was no notable tournament participation from RED Canids. Looking closer, YoDa joined the team in March of 2016. It’s possible his joining sparked some domestic popularity in his region.
While remaining a top League of Legends streamer, YoDa never quite shot up to the 17 million view mark ever again after hitting it here. But in June 2017, YoDa jumps up to the third spot with 5.4 million views. This is most likely due to the debut of his Twitch talk show, “YoTalkShow,” as well as the annual Mid-Season Invitational tournament taking place in Rio de Janeiro just a few months before. League of Legends popularity, and thus YoDa’s, might have grown in Brazil around that time.
In July 2016, retired CS:GO player Jaryd “Summit1g” Lazar took the top streaming spot with a little over five million views. Summit1g was still playing the FPS professionally, although the nearest big tournament he competed in during that time was DreamHack Open Austin a few months before the sudden rise in views. His team, Adaptation, came in seventh place.
In February 2017, Summit1g shoots up to the number one spot once again, this time with over 7.6 million views. During that time, Summit1g was placing in smaller qualifiers and online tournaments with new team Mythic. Summit1g’s variety of streamed games, which include Grand Theft Auto and League of Legends, seem to keep him quite popular.
After he retired from pro play in late 2018, Summit1g joined Old Guys Club. This is a group comprised of retired pro players who now play CS:GO for fun.
Yogscast is a group of friends from the United Kingdom who like to play games together. In December 2016, Yogscast skyrocketed to a 12 million views. Before that, they weren’t anywhere on the top 10. And within that same month, Yogscast disappears once again. After that, they’re never seen on the list again. So what was up with December 2016?
The Yogscast Jingle Jam 2016 was held on December 1, 2016, a charity stream with proceeds going towards Mental Health Foundation, Cancer Research UK, International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Special Effect, and GamesAid. Over the course of the Christmas live stream, Yogscast raised a grand total of $2,577,801, collected from 86,578 donors.
Since 2011, Yogscast have held Christmas live streams to benefit charity. Their 2017 charity drive was even more successful, but with Twitch views continuing to grow all around them, Yogscast got lost in the mix. Fortunately, their stream got them enough viewers to again make the list in December 2018.
In May 2017, the top 10 chart sees Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek for the first time. With 1.5 million views, the retired CS:GO player appeared at the number 10 spot. He disappears for a few months, but he’s back in August 2017. And this time he’s in the top spot with eight million views. By September, he’s at nine million. Then in October, 10 million.
Shroud’s incredible skills at the game and his fame in the CS:GO world played a big part. In August 2017, Shroud retired from Cloud9’s pro team and became a full-time professional streamer for the esports organization. His switch to full-time streaming played a major role in his taking the number one spot.
Around the same time that Shroud was dominating Twitch, viewers may see a familiar face on the left of the graph. Tyler “Ninja” Blevins appears in the number ten spot in August 2017 with 1.7 million views. Before Ninja appeared in the top 10, he was playing Halo: Reach and Halo 4 competitively with some success. But when Fortnite came out in July 2017, Ninja would see a rise to fame he could never have imagined.
In November 2017, Ninja started to slowly creep up the top 10 chart. In February 2018, Ninja more than takes over the graph. With 19 million views per month, he’s more than 8 million views above Shroud in second place. This was thanks to the 500,000 subscribers he gained at the end of February, the result of a partnership between Twitch and Epic Games that delivered the Fortnite Twitch Prime Pack.
In early March, Ninja tweeted out that he had hit 2.4 million followers on Twitch. His YouTube had also grown to 3.4 million subscribers. Twitch has since come out and stated that all of Ninja’s many subscribers were the real deal, having put him in a class of his own.
In March 2018, Ninja reaches an incredible 43,600,000 views thanks to a popular stream with rapper Drake. The celebrity stream was only the beginning for Ninja. While his numbers continued to slowly drop, even being overtaken by Shroud and Tfue in January 2019, Ninja has continued to be the best known and most successful Twitch streamer to date.
Fortnite star Turner “Tfue” Tenney shows up in the top four by June 2018 with over 6.6 million views that month. Just a few months earlier, FaZe Clan recruited Tfue, which contributed to his sudden spike in views. Tfue continues to stay in the top three until December, competing with Ninja and Shroud for the most views. Then, if only for a month, Tfue dethrones Ninja as the most watched streamer. In January, Tfue takes the number one spot with over 12 million total views.
Tfue sued FaZe Clan in May over an allegedly restrictive and unfair contract. This resulted in FaZe founder Ricky Banks to go on Twitter rant against his star player. He claims that FaZe Clan is the reason for Tfue’s success, and his chart does prove that Tfue’s viewing numbers went way up after his association with FaZe. He doesn’t appear on the chart until May 2018, a month after he signed on with FaZe Clan.
Still, Tfue was popular before then. That’s how FaZe first came to notice him. But the contract debacle is sure to make many popular streamers rethink signing with an esports organization after they begin to accrue attention.