Over the past few years, battle royale games such as Fortnite, Apex Legends, PUBG, and Tetris 99 among many others have risen to the forefront of multiplayer gaming. What is it about these games that make them so popular? Having thought about this for years, I share my hot take on a potentially deep psychological reason what makes these games different from other multiplayer formats!
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[This post is part of a blogging collaboration by Later Levels and Hundstrasse called #BloggersWhoStream. Make sure to give them both credit and follow the hashtag on Twitter for more posts from the community!]
When it comes to streaming, I value the human connection that can be created during a show above all else. It’s incredible when viewers from around the world come by to talk about mutual interests, partake in healthy debates, share life stories, and provide support for one another. It doesn’t take much for this magic to happen, as some of my most memorable streams involved just one viewer in the chat.
Creating that human connection is difficult when streaming to an empty room. For most, the room is empty more often than not. This is a top-heavy medium where the majority of the audience watches just a handful of creators. It’s so uneven that about 89% of active streamers average less than three viewers a stream.
Furthermore, the top 5,000 streamers garner 74% of all watch time. With over 3,000,000 active streamers per month, that leaves 99.84% of active streamers with only 26% of the watch time pie. This creates an environment where tens of thousands of streamers are broadcasting to zero viewers at any given time. Just with Fortnite alone, sort by streams with the lowest viewer counts first and you’ll unearth thousands of streamers without a viewer.
I’m not immune to this phenomenon. There are times when my viewer counter stays at zero for the duration of a stream. It’s actually an improvement over 2017, where I pretty much went the entire year without anyone noticing me. Even so, the feeling of opening yourself up to the world and no one caring is…one of the most demoralizing experiences I’ve gone through as a creator.
There are real advantages to only streaming one video game. Doing so makes it easier for you to attract and maintain an audience that loves that game. Ninja’s fans love him as a skilled player and as an on-screen personality, but they also love Fortnite and can count on him streaming it daily. As much as I would love his money and at least some of his fame, I struggle to wrap my head around how and other single-game streamers keep their sanity playing only one game for that long.
Being a variety streamer can help you stay sane. Streaming games as they move in and out of my life is a more natural way for me to play games and the approach I’ve planned on taking from the start. However, I lose the stability that comes with streaming only one game. I even see this phenomenon with my own small stream, where certain viewers only tune in for Overwatch and others only drop by for Paper Mario. Can’t blame people for wanting to watch games they like, versus sticking with me regardless of what game I’m playing.
In spite of my vow to not get monogamous with any one game, the thought of getting steady with Tetris 99 heats up every time I stream that game.
A few months back, I streamed Tetris Effect for a few nights. At launch, the game seemingly had a lot of buzz. Critics raved about it. The game has incredible music and gorgeous visuals. And not to toot my own horn too much, but I’m pretty good at Tetris too, completing expert mode without losing once. All of those things made me think that this was going to be a great game for me to stream in terms of pulling in an audience.
While I had a blast playing the game, it bombed hard in terms of viewership. When I look back at the timing, it’s unfortunately part of the reason why I didn’t hit Twitch Affiliate late last year when I was right on the brink. Some of that blame could be my own performance and lack of promotion, but I think it’s much bigger than that. At the time, there were about five streamers broadcasting for an audience of under 20 viewers. As I type this, there is one streamer playing the game and zero people watching.
Tetris Effect might be an amazing game, but it’s a terrible streaming game if your goal as a streamer is to draw in an audience. Streaming adds an extra variable to the game selection process that can feel scummy, but it’s something you have to reconcile every time you play with the camera on.
Part of my ambivalence towards the battle royale genre of games thus far is that I’m not particularly good at shooters. My aim has never been that sharp. In the case of Fortnite, I can’t wrap my head around the physical execution required to build walls and ramps at a competitive speed. Because of my inability to perform at a high level in those games, I felt like prey, just waiting for a hunter to gun me down. Regardless of how high I finish on the scoreboard, it almost always feels like a fraudulent result.
I may suck with a digital gun, but I can stack blocks with the best of them. Being able to leverage a lifetime of Tetris knowledge and skills in Tetris 99 has opened my mind to a new perspective on the genre.
Seemingly out of nowhere, the makers of the Titanfall series surprised the world with Apex Legends. No, this is not the next real entry in the Titanfall series. Instead, this is a standalone battle royale game in the vein of Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
My initial reaction before playing the game was to groan at the notion of Respawn Entertainment putting the Titanfall series on hold to chase the trends. While this statement may be true, it doesn’t mean that Apex Legends can’t be a quality title in its own right. Based on my limited time with the game thus far, it may be too soon to brush this off as money grab.
Fortnite opened the doors for cross-platform play in 2018. Now it’s Rocket League‘s turn. Psyonix announced today that their amazing car soccer game is playable across any combination of Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch players! Up until now, PlayStation 4 was segregated from the others.
Really hoping that all multiplayer games going forward are cross-compatible. At this point, its been proven to work on a technical level. It’s only been businesses protecting their best interests that have kept the gates up for so long. This is a great step forward and I hope we get more news like this in 2019! In particular, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Overwatch to make the leap!
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I will never forget the first time I played Fortnite. Before I’d even landed on the ground, I saw the player tracker already starting to count down from 100. “Wow!” I thought. “This is my first game ever and I’m not gonna finish dead last!” Aimlessly wandering the hills, I kept the player tracker in my peripheral view. Minutes were passing, and I found myself alone as players continued to drop in the dozens. By the time I finally found another player and was disposed of, I finished the game in fourth place, even though I hadn’t killed anyone. In fact, I only fired one bullet by accident in that whole match. Having played a number of matches since then, and in spite of me getting at least a bit more familiar with how it works, I haven’t reached that plateau again.
There are a lot of great things to like about Fortnite. Players really enjoy the balance between shooting and building that the game provides. It has a distinct look that appeals to a wide audience. Epic Games’ support of the title is unmatched, from the implementation of the Battle Pass, to an ever-evolving world that players are invested in. But when I think about that game, I think about the disproportionate amount of skill and effort I’ve put into the game relative to my final placings. It got me to wonder, “How much does not finishing in last place influence the player base’s enjoyment of the game?”
Mat, JJ, Jon, and I play a few rounds of Fortnite! I like to think we got progressively better as the day went on. Yeah…let’s leave it at that 🙂
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Don’t blink! Mat hasn’t been duplicated. It’s his twin brother Jon! We catch up on everything being played within the group, discuss the rumors surrounding the next Xbox console, and play a little show and tell!
GAMES PLAYED: Fortnite, Super Mario Odyssey, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Dragon’s Crown Pro, Darksiders II, NBA 2K18, Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Edition
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