Video Game Streams Have Larger Audience than Most Sporting Events

Video games are watched by more viewers than viewers of sporting events like the World Series and the college and professional basketball finals.

The World Series, the NBA Finals, and the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship all have something in common. They are all major sporting events with millions of viewers. Isn't League of Legends a video game? Yes, it is. And the Season 3 World Championship had more viewers than either of the other events mentioned in 2013. Tickets to live gaming championships (like the Dota 2 International Championship) sell out in record time.

Twitch Leads the Pack is said to have 45 million unique visitors to their site on a monthly basis. This is more than television streaming sites, such as Netflix and Hulu, report. Both Hulu and Netflix get about 6 to 12 million unique hits per month. 

These numbers are vastly different. People seem more interested in watching gamers stream their play, even if they aren't in a championship than they are in the television being released today. But what could be the reasoning behind such a growing trend?

Option 1: Gamers resemble real people.

When someone is watching a sporting event or even a movie, the athletes and actors are seemingly in perfect form for their art. They spend hours with trainers to specialize in their craft and they are getting paid millions, just to throw a ball down field or play a part. These people are a world away from the rest of us.

Gamers, however, are just normal people. Sure, they have spent time honing their craft if they play professionally, but the average streamer does it for the love of the game. People can really connect with a game streamer on a more personal level than a celebrity. Due to the nature of Twitch's streaming service, the chat also allows viewers to form a deeper connection to the host by being able to ask questions and get answers directly. They are able to form a connection.

People can really connect with a game streamer on a more personal level than a celebrity.

Option 2: Today's television and movies are not as entertaining.

Good quality shows are hard to find in today's media. With the constant flow of new reality shows taking over, people are searching for alternative sources of entertainment. Sometimes, being able to play a game isn't an option, but watching someone else play provides entertainment for the meantime.

Streamers also allow for new games to get better exposure. People might be on the fence about purchasing a game and being able to watch someone play the game live could help to a gamer on a final decision to make a new game purchase.

Option 3: Cable is too expensive compared to online choices.

Like most products and services of this generation, things are vastly more expensive than they were just a few years ago (yes, I can remember paying $1.25 for a gallon of gas not that long ago). I was paying nearly $175 for my cable service just last month, not counting my internet and home phone service.That's a pretty big chunk of change when your income is not that large to begin with.

With broadband internet available, cable service is not a necessity to watching entertainment. With consoles allowing various streaming services to watch as well, access to streaming content is easier to get access to. Hulu and Netflix both have streaming subscription plans starting at $7.99 ($11.99 for Netflix if you need more than 2 streams in your household). Amazon Prime, which you do pay for yearly, is $99 and includes their streaming service. This breaks down to about $8.25 a month. So let's do the math.

Year of cable (with on-demand and DVR services for comparison): $175 x 12 = $2,100

Year of streaming services:

  • Netflix or Hulu Plus: $7.99 x 12 = $95.88
  • Amazon Prime: $99
  • All three services for a year = $290.76

That is a total savings of about $1,810 a year by watching content online versus purchasing cable service. In gamer terms, that is about 30 new games priced at the $60 mark. Not to mention that while prices are rising on cable service, the packages are getting smaller as content providers want even more money and are pulling their channels from cable companies not wanting to pay for increases.

That is a total savings of about $1,810 a year by watching content online versus purchasing cable service. In gamer terms, that is about 30 new games priced at the $60 mark.

Also, there is a lot of free content also online. Watching Twitch costs nothing. If you like a stream, you can choose to subscribe for $4.99 which removes the ads for a consistent streaming experience. A good many channels also offer their shows free of charge on their websites.

There is always other options.

Of course, these are just a few justifications for why video game streaming is more popular than traditional venues. Each person that logs on to a streaming game or live championship has their own reasoning for it and those reasons may not fall within any of the above options. 

So how popular is eSports?

According to SuperData Research, viewers around the globe totalled over 71 million viewers watching competitive gaming. About half of those viewers are in the United States alone. Most viewers dedicate 2.2 hours watching streams at a time. More gaming companies are moving toward this industry, such as Riot Games and Valve. Non-gaming companies are even tossing their hats into the ring, usually in the form of sponsorships, such as Intel and Coca-Cola.

Watching live competition gaming is not a new concept. It has been around since 1982. With the advent of streaming, however, it no longer requires a person on location to watch. This allows the sport to reach a far wider audience than previous generations. Last year, Twitch viewers watched a total of 2.4 billion hours of game streaming content.

The year 2013 saw eSports players officially recognized by the US government as professional athletes. This movement would allow foreign eSports players the ability to get visas to compete in gaming here in the States.

Last year, Twitch viewers watched a total of 2.4 billion hours of game streaming content.

Video game streaming is still a growing industry, but it is expanding by leaps and bounds. The openness of the community and the ability for anyone to stream their play (especially since the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 allow direct streams) makes it even more of a draw than professional sporting events and television media.

Why do you watch people streaming video games?

(Twitch logo by Twitch Interactive. Stats from Twitch site and Quantcast.)

Published May. 1st 2014
  • Federico Senence
    Featured Contributor
    So much on TV is cookie cutter and the same stuff repackaged over and over that I'm not surprised by the numbers. If it wasn't for my kiddos I would be on that list of streaming only. It's cheaper for sure. YouTube has captured my attention for hours at times which, outside of watching Bruins hockey, I can't say about TV. Twitch was a homerun idea.
  • Mary Yeager
    Senior Intern
    Netflix has a lot of the shows my kids watch on it plus we get dvds they like as well so they aren't missing too much without the cable.
  • zoLo567
    Senior Intern
    It has been amazing to watch video games rise over the past 25 years. What was seen as a small hobby has evolved into the new national pastime.
  • Mary Yeager
    Senior Intern
    I've been gaming since Atari. It is amazing how far it has come and grown.
  • Ryan Mayle
    Featured Contributor
    I'm just going to say, I'm glad someone figured out a way to play Twitch on Chromecast, watching eSport tournaments on a TV is much more enjoyable then behind a desk.
  • Mary Yeager
    Senior Intern
    I will have to research that. Thanks for sharing!
  • SDowner
    Featured Contributor
    The time I spend watching streams is pretty small, probably about equal to what I spend watching TV (YouTube is probably where I watch the most content currently).
    Generally, my reasons for watching streams are pretty simple: I like the person that is streaming (either because they are funny, informative or in some other way entertaining), there's a means to 'join in' with both the audience and the streamer, and it's a great way to share something that everyone involved with the stream enjoys.
  • Mary Yeager
    Senior Intern
    Community is strong with gamers and live streaming or even recordings have strengthened that. Thanks for sharing.
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    I like streams more for the community potential and getting to share obscure games you love with your audience. Most people never touched Syndicate or The Bureau, but after I stream it, they'll immediately go and Google it and/or find it on Amazon to give it a try. Too many titles fall through the cracks, it's a great alternative to retrospective reviews to help spread the fun around to those who missed it the first time.
  • Mary Yeager
    Senior Intern
    I have to agree. I have discovered a lot of new games through watching Twitch, as well as a lot of great gamers.
  • Clay
    Featured Contributor
    I like how streams are more raw and true to life instead of something manufactured.
  • Mary Yeager
    Senior Intern
    That is a very good point and I totally agree.
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    I watch because traditional media and cable are dead. Here's to the future of entertainment! *tink*
  • Mary Yeager
    Senior Intern
    Won't be that way if the FCC has their way tho by killing Net Neutrality.

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