Where did all the viewers go?
Recently, I saw several tweets about players/streamers noticing a decline in their viewership on Twitch and YouTube. There soon followed supporting tweets with numbers from Twitch and Steam. This made me curious, and I decided to take a closer look.
Join me in an attempt to understand what is happening – and why.
To do so, I want to take a look at
1 Twitch statistics for AoE2 coming from twitchtracker.com. Specifically, we will look at ‘hours watched’ and ‘concurrent viewers’.
Note: numbers were tracked individually for AoE2 and AoE2 DE from November 2019 to September 2020. For this period, I added them up.
2 Steam statistics coming from steamcharts.com. Here we focus on the ‘number of players’ playing AoE2 DE.
3 Twitch statistics for individual streamers. I picked Hera, TheViper, and T90 as large and influential channels, where viewership changes should be easy to detect.
To that end, I picked ‘channel views’ and ‘channel followers’ to indicate viewer interest.
For all of the above, we will look at the period from January 2020 until July 2021.
AoE2 on Twitch
First things first. If we look at the total numbers of hours watched and the number of concurrent viewers across all channels, we notice several things:
- There are growth spikes whenever significant events happen. Most notably, during “King of the Desert 3”, “Red Bull Wololo 3”, and “Hidden Cup 4”. HC4 is a clear outlier, causing peak numbers in hours watched and concurrent viewers. This is also followed by an almost equally steep decline.
- As erratic as the overall growth is, it is also fairly steady.
- Year-over-year, we have more hours watched and more concurrent viewers in July 2021 than in July 2020 (+467,400 hours and +581 concurrent viewers).
- This might not sound much, but it does represent an annual growth rate of 20% and 18%, respectively.
- Last but not least, the rolling average for the last three months does show a downward trend in May, June, and July 2021. I expect this to continue, especially since RBW5 will only be in September 2021, while RBW2 was in August 2020.
So it would seem normal to see a weak August and then to bounce back in September.
Overall, these numbers show a short-term decline, which might indicate a long-term problem. I think it would be wise to act now to make sure they don’t.
AoE2 on Steam
Let’s shift our focus a bit from the viewers to the players. Based on the steam statistics for AoE2 DE, we notice a few things in the first of the two charts on the right:
- The average number of players is (very) slowly growing.
- We have a slight and – so far – sustained upwards trend.
The more interesting chart for me is the second one, though:
- It does confirm the very slow annual growth rate of 1% (14,448 in July 2020 versus 14,596 in July 2021, an increase of just 48 players).
- However, we also see that this seems to be cyclical. The blue bars (an increase of players versus the previous month) and the red bars (a decrease of players versus the previous month) make it clear that 2021 is evolving along very similar lines as 2020 did.
- If this holds, it will support my earlier statement that we might see a weak August – and indeed September – not only in viewer numbers but also in player numbers.
Back to Twitch. Now we take a look at individual channels rather than the whole game.
Note: I do not have the time and resources to analyze all the amazing content creators out there. I went with Hera, Viper, and T90 but did not intend any disrespect to the likes of MembTV, Lidakor, Ornlu, MbL, Liereyy, Tatoh, Jordan, and tons of others.
Both charts follow the same color scheme. You will find Hera in blue, Viper in yellow (of course), and T90 in red. There are no numbers for Viper from January to May 2020 due to his temporary move to Mixer – you may remember.
Right away, both charts (channel views and channel followers) make us feel good about AoE2:
- All three channels show steady growth over the whole period.
- T90’s curve shows the expected bumps in March 2020 and March 2021 due to HC3 and HC4, respectively. It is nice to see that he maintained the momentum from these events and did not experience a drop.
It would be interesting to see this for subscriber numbers. We might see such slumps one and – a smaller one – three months after each event.
- If we look closely, though, we can see the curves flatten out ever so slightly in the last three months.
Since I am an inquisitive fellow, I wanted to see if numbers support this impression. So I calculated the relative month-over-month (MoM) growth for each of these channels in the given period, which allows us to see a few things:
- While the absolute increase in the number of followers is not too different across these channels, the relative growth for Hera significantly outpaced the others for the better part of 2020. This makes a ton of sense, seeing as he started with a smaller number of followers.
- Towards the end of the period, the various monthly growth rates converge between the 1% and 5% mark for each channel, with Hera still leading the field. This means that T90 and Viper grow faster in absolute numbers than Hera does.
- Once again, we see the impact of HC3 and HC4 on T90’s growth rate – no surprise there.
These numbers support the impression that fewer people are watching AoE2 and fewer people are playing AoE2 compared to the past few months. When looking at a longer period – like the past 12 to 18 months – we still see a slight increase across the board.
While this is nice, I do not find it reassuring. Considering the efforts and money that went into the AoE2 community during this period, it does not seem unreasonable to expect a higher increase and less erratic growth for viewers and players.
So why is the AoE2 community not growing faster?
Why do we see a decline in these numbers at the moment?
What would it take to ‘stop the rot’ and get more people interested in watching and playing this awesome game?
I think the main drivers for the recent drop in viewers and players are
I don’t have numbers about AoE2 viewers/players and their geographical distribution. If a majority of them were in the northern hemisphere, summer vacations might have an impact. Especially in combination with the next factor:
- Loosening of COVID-19 regulations in many countries
With vaccination rates going up and incident rates going down in many countries, regulations are less severe than they used to be. People can spend time with their friends. They can travel and feel somewhat normal. And they do.
Looking at the bigger picture, we can see a pattern of higher engagement around high-profile events. One problem is that these events are disconnected and unrelated to each other. Contrary to people watching the UEFA Champions League, the ATP tour, or a national sports league, AoE2 fans and viewers do not have the pleasure – and thrill – of watching players compete in multiple events over a period of time, culminating in a great season final.
Yes, events like King of the Desert, Hidden Cup, and others are great. But they are just blips. There is no continuity. It is not enough to just increase the event frequency, either.
Increasing the frequency of events is not enough, though. Take Red Bull Wololo. These are really entertaining events, and I enjoy watching them, and the sponsors and organizers seem to deem them a success. So much so that RBW5 has just been announced to happen from September 13-19. My first reaction when I saw that was “already?”
And I was not alone. Several tweets popped up, expressing similar sentiments. Once again, I did not want to rely on my – necessarily biased – feeling. So I went to check the numbers.
As you can see in the chart below, the organizers are indeed rushing RBW5 a bit. The number of days between RBW events dropped significantly after RBW4.
August 02, 2025: Red Bull Wololo XXVII was announced. People scurry through the post-apocalyptic landscape of AoE2. They whisper of a long forgotten game mode called “RM”. Viper has won 12 in a row due to his new robot hand. Hera gets second again.
— Vaurion (@vaurion) August 2, 2021
I feel like the RB wololo tournaments are happening way too often. Feels a little hard to be hyped for this one
— Morley Games (@MorleyGamesYT) August 3, 2021
There might be several reasons for doing RBW5 so soon after RBW4. The success of previous events and the upcoming release of AoE4, to name but two.
Whatever the reasons, this will not be enough to make the community grow faster and more reliably in the long term.
I strongly believe that it would help the AoE2 community to have such a series of events. In the video below, I explain why I think so, how it would benefit viewers, players, casters, and sponsors – and how it could work.