Sexism in esports
The topic of sexism in esports once again come to the fore this week—this time as a result of a series of tweets by Brianna Wu, long-time game developer who is currently running for Congress in Boston. The controversy began when the Boston Uprising—the Overwatch League team owned by Robert Kraft—tweeted out a simple highlight video, to which Wu responded: “That’s really interesting, but when are you going to add women to this team?” The conversation snowballed on a number of different threads and is difficult to summarize, particularly since Wu has since deleted many of her comments; however, several of her tweets were screen captured by members of the community who wanted to engage with Wu’s points (examples here, here, and here).
The issues surrounding gender disparities within esports are incredibly complex; they are hard to discuss in 280 words, let alone 280 characters. With that said, attempts to oversimplify the issues do far more harm than good. Do we need more women involved in esports? Absolutely. This isn’t just true for professional players, but for casters, game developers, league operators, and so many more positions. While overt sexism persists to this day and there are undoubtedly women who are passed over for positions for which they are qualified because the hiring manager is discriminatory, the underlying causes of gender gaps within esports are far more complex. By the time the Boston Uprising makes a decision about which 12 players to sign for its Overwatch team, we are already at the bottom of a funnel that has far too few women in it. We need to pay far more attention to the top of that funnel by increasing participation rates and social acceptance of women in STEM, technology, and gaming more broadly.
While Wu’s tweets didn’t add much to this discussion, I’m happy to see the more nuanced responses and the continued awareness of the root problem and the importance of solving it. Esports are the one set of sports for which size, strength, speed, and other biological differences are not emphasized, which means that participation rates should theoretically be even across genders. This obviously isn’t the case and there are a number of systemic issues that need to be solved in order to make it so. Awareness of those issues is an important piece of the puzzle, and the collective industry should also be proactive about identifying and pursuing possible solutions.
I have a lot more thoughts on this subject, but the Meta isn’t the right forum for long-winded discussion. If you’re interested in diving into this topic more deeply, an esports journalist recently published an op ed that is worth reading, as it thoughtfully cover the various facets of these issues.
Breaking Down the Drake-Ninja Twitch Stream By The Numbers
Last week, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins — the biggest Fortnite streamer on the planet — broke the record for the single most watched non-esports stream of all time. Streaming alongside Drake, Travis Scott, and JuJu Smith-Schuster the 26 year old Ninja peaked at just over 625,000 live concurrent viewers.
The story surrounding the stream has been covered to no end, with New York Mag, ESPN, USA Today, EW, and Entrepreneur Magazine chiming in among many, many others. To some this was the “we big now, boys!” moment gaming has been waiting for, while others kept their cool claiming this as just another expected event in gaming’s inevitable climb towards world domination.
To me, numbers speak much louder than words. Let’s take a look at why this stream was actually so impressive.
As we’ve written about before, knowing which numbers to assess is instrumental in understanding a stream’s scope. The topline number — 625,000 peak concurrent viewers — is massive, but relatively meaningless alone.
For context, the peak viewership in 2018 of each major franchised league in North America – Riot’s NALCS, and Blizzard’s Overwatch League — is significantly lower than Ninja’s stream, coming in 401,720, and 436,789 respectively.
Additionally, from the beginning of the season until now, NALCS has averaged about 190,000 viewers across both Twitch and YouTube, while OWL has come in at about 135,000 average concurrents. Ninja easily outperformed both of these leagues during his 12.5 hour stream, averaging about 215,000 viewers.
Through our friends at FanAI (disclosure: Catalyst is an investor in FanAI) — a leading data analytics tool specifically tailored for the esports ecosystem — we were able to get our hands on some more colorful data. We analyzed the Drake stream in its entirety and also Ninja’s stream on the 3 days before the record breaking stream stream for comparison. Here’s a simple chart for your viewing pleasure.
Let that sink in – over a 12.5 hour stream, Ninja brought in over 3 million unique viewers with an average view time of 50 mins. In that same stream, Ninja generated over 2.5 million viewer hours for Twitch — a figure which many esports teams strive to deliver over the course of months, or even years.
CNN boasted having it’s second best February in 10 years, but Ninja — streaming with a $100 webcam from his bedroom — would have easily been the network’s biggest daytime broadcaster (compared to shows 9a-4p). The Ninja-Drake stream handily outperformed both Anderson Cooper & Don Lemon in total viewership by multiples of 2.5 and 3, respectively. And while these numbers are not apples and apples, they do illuminate the scope of Ninja’s reach and — bonus points! — they don’t rely on outdated audience measurement tools for reporting!
With a bit of back-of-the-napkin math — this time taking into account his average ~1 million viewable hours delivered each day — Ninja generates 30 million viewer hours each month. According to public figures, the total viewer hours produced on Twitch over the last 30 days is roughly 680 million….that means that Ninja accounts for roughly 4.5% of Twitch’s total current monthly viewer hours generated. Talk about reach!
It’s foolish to underestimate the power of Twitch’s biggest current streamer — both globally to his fans, and to the platform he streams on. The Drake stream is certainly a situational outlier, but as Fortnite continues to take the world by storm we expect more of these pop-culture phenomenons to occur.
Have a question about methodology? Want to geek-out on some of the percentage increases in the chart above? Are you a savvy marketer looking to take advantage of penny CPMs like Bud Light? Drop us a line.