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Analysis: GTA V Live Viewership on Twitch

Gamoloco's Nicolas Cerranto examines the numbers behind the clash of two phenomena

Nicolas Cerrato is the Founder of Gamoloco.com, a data service focusing on live streaming viewerships in video games.This article was co­written with the Gamoloco team.

After the worldwide release of the PC version of Grand Theft Auto V by Rockstar Games on April 13th, 2015, the game quickly became the top seller on Steam and at other game retailers, whether digital or physical.

The same happened when the Playstation 4 and Xbox One versions came out in November 2014, except there was one major difference: according to data circulating around the web, ​ GTA V sold ten million on the new gen consoles while "only" two million copies were purchased by PC owners​.

With this in mind, let's take a look at GTA V's live streaming viewership numbers for these two weeks in particular, as well as in general from September 2014 (when Gamoloco's Games database was started) to April 2015.

All data in this article, except for the "Copies Sold" metric, comes from www.gamoloco.com​. ​ To find out how Gamoloco gathers live streaming numbers, please visit the FAQ.

Below are some "GTA V on Twitch" infographics, showing a lot of key data, followed by our analysis.

Comparing Launches

Looking at the graphs, the first obvious take away is that​ the PC launch gathered three times as many Hours Watched in live streams than the console version​, which sold five times more.

This is a huge gap: a 15 (3x5) differential from new gen console to PC when you're considering live streaming. The number is nothing short of shocking and says a lot about how different the live streaming market is compared to the traditional brick and mortar business of selling blockbuster games.

The first explanation that comes to mind is that ​ Twitch is a heavily PC­-centric platform​. In ​a previous analysis​, we established that 78 per cent of Hours Watched on Twitch are spent watching people playing PC games​. The GTA V numbers show the same kind of dominance for the PC, only more important.

Why would PC gamers watch Twitch more? Because they're usually more passionate gamers than console gamers. Not only do they invest time in building and maintaining their gaming hardware, they play a lot and when they don't... they talk about games and watch other people play. Console gamers are more casual on average: millions of GTA buyers just want to have fun in a gangster­ game, but would not even consider sitting in front of a Youtube "Let's Play" or gaming live stream for a few minutes.

That being said, there are other factors that could have contributed to widening the gap between PC and console viewerships:

­ Streamer opportunity: "​As a PC only streamer, maybe I could score good numbers showing GTA V?"

This shows by looking at the average number of channels, which increased 36 per cent on PC week compared to new gen week, and the weight of the top 5 channels, which dropped from 32 per cent to 17 per cent at the same time. This suggests that many mid­ to major streamers (gathering anywhere between 500 and 4500 CCV's on average) who had never showed GTA V before, all did it for the first time, adding their viewership to the game's total.

­ Viewer question 1: ​ "How good does it look?"

(Super) high­end PC's allow for better graphical quality than consoles and graphics are always a hot topic at first sight of a major new game or port. ­

Viewer question 2: "​What can you do with the newly introduced video editor?"

It is possible that gamers came to see how the video editor works, and what kind of content it allows to create. However, this feature seems to fit Youtube's format of edited videos more than Twitch's live entertainment. With no data on the actual content shown to viewers, it is hard to draw any conclusion.­

Top 5 Streamers

When it comes to content producers, live streaming has a few super duper uber popular content creators, followed by an extremely long tail comprised of millions of anonymous streamers.

This holds true for GTA V: on the weeks we are considering, the top 5 streamers on the game gathered between 17 and 33 per cent of the total Hours Watched for GTA V, while there were from 900 to 1300 broadcasting at any time. In this regard, streaming is a lot like singing or acting​ :

  • it looks like a dream job
  • many give it a try
  • very few can make a living from it
  • it's really hard to explain their success
  • those who make it become iconic, at least for their core audience

One of the biggest GTA streamers around is UK-based​ Syndicate​ - a major Youtuber with close to nine million subscribers on this platform. As you can see, syndicate was the #1 GTA V streamer on both launch weeks, and he didn't even try that hard, with only 14 hours of streaming/week on average. This means whenever he went live, he had an army of thousands of fans, potential viewers, waiting to be entertained by their idol. 40K CCV's on average is huge​, especially when you're neither a pro gamer, a pro tournament organizer, or Riot Games.

Aside from Syndicate,​ Streamerhouse (a channel gathering several streamers)­ also made it into both top 5s. The biggest difference compared with Syndicate? They streamed almost 24/7. All other names in the top 5 are the usual suspects when it comes to killing it in live streams. Overall, ​ live streaming is quite a predictacle game, and it shows here.

Lirik​, who appears on the PC week only, is actually even more popular in live streams in general than GTA specialist Syndicate, as he ranked second overall on Gamoloco in April 2015​, trailing only Riot Games' channel. The only explanation for that guy not making it into GTA V's top five streamers on new-gen week last November is because he chose not to stream it: another sign that ​the PC release got streamers more excited Tha 5 new gen console release​. All top Five streamers, on both weeks, speak English.

GTA V vs Twitch's top 5 games

Something else we pointed out in a previous analysis​, is that AAA games are not kings in live streaming. ​The top four games on Twitch are all free to play with a strong Esports scene, and the usual #5, Minecraft, isn't AAA either​.

That's why we found it interesting to look at how GTA V, big boss of all AAA's, performs in live streaming compared to the most watched games out there. First it's important to understand the scale on the graph and how high it goes: last March, ​League of Legends represented 24 per cent of all Hours Watched on Twitch​ . If we were to list Gamoloco's 20K+ games here, 99.9 per cent of them would appear below the GTA V and Minecraft lines.

AAA games usually don't stand the test of time on Twitch, something that is true even for GTA, to some extent. Still, GTA has ranked in the top 30 games eversince Gamoloco's database was started, which makes it one of the most steady perfomers among AAA games​, together with FIFA, which has been on the rise in live streams over the past few months, and Destiny.

While its longevity is rare for a AAA title, ​ GTA V isn't to be considered a mega hit in streaming terms either, as it only broke the top ten games once since last September. Considering how important a platform the PC is on Twitch, it will be very interesting to look at how GTA V fares in the coming weeks and months, now it's available on the right platform for streaming.

Also something quite important is that while we chose to focus on launch weeks as points of comparison for this article, something very interesting happened in March 2015:​ GTA V did better in live streams that month, when the "Heist" mode was released, than in November, when the new gen version was released​.

Room for Growth

From looking at the graphs above, it is not obvious how good Grand Theft Auto V actually does as a AAA game out on the streaming field. As a console only game up until a few weeks ago, it had to carry that "low console reach" boulder all around live streaming channels, all the while it managed to keep a classy ranking with a smile. With the PC version now out, GTA takes a major step towards higher figures in live streams.

That being said, even with the big PC launch burst last April, GTA V managed to beat League of Legends for just one day, on April 14th to be exact. The key to esports games, compared to AAA titles, is that they're built to entertain their communities in the long run. When done right, the snowball effect becomes extremely powerful and can generate more interest, at least in live streaming, than big time Day 1 launch campaigns.

GTA V got its best rank on Gamoloco so far just last month​, coming in fifth. What is very likely to happen now, if no action is taken from the studio or publisher, is that GTA V will slowly go down in the rankings.

To avoid this, they could maybe try and ​bring more of their dozens of millions of casual console players to the media​. It might also be worth it to take a look at what it is exactly that made the Heists release bump stream numbers like it did​. The key to Counter­Strike, MOBA, Hearthstone and Starcraft is that their game design allows to replay the same game for thousands of hours, literally, without gamers getting tired of it: maybe Heist is one step in the same direction for GTA?

Looking at the data, maybe you have suggestions yourself? Feel free to let everyone know your thoughts, there's a lot of information on a brand new field in there.

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Nicolas Cerrato

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A passionate gamer, I quit studying to open a gaming center back in 1999, when I was already dreaming about Esports. Since then, I've been involved in this field in various positions including pro team manager, shoutcaster, event producer, video producer and salesman.

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