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Games That Got A Second Chance At Life Because Of Streamers

Streamers, especially the most popular ones, can spark trends with the sheer power of personality. People call them "influencers" for a reason. In fact, fan favorite streamers and YouTubers can sometimes be the sole reason why viewers decide to pick up a game. Fans might feel inspired to buy simply because of how fun a game looks on stream, or feel convinced after listening to a review from an expert perspective on a particular title. 

Some games, like ones from known series or publishers, might have the marketing power to reach audiences either way. However, some games are a harder sell than others. Every once in a while, there comes a game that probably wouldn't have seen a shred of its current popularity without the help of beloved streamers. In other cases, established games have waned in popularity, only to surge back to the top after receiving streamer attention. Here are some games that got a second chance of life thanks to streamers. 

Among Us

"Among Us" rose from obscurity into iconic status in 2020. In this social deduction online multiplayer game, friends literally stab each other in the back and call each other "sus" as they try to figure out which player is the villainous Imposter. "Among Us" remained relatively unknown for the first two years it existed, but the development team at InnerSloth kept it going out of sheer passion for the game. 

Players aren't sure exactly who kickstarted the "Among Us" meta on Twitch, but there's no doubt that popular streamers propelled it to where it is today. Developer @forest_bass posted a graph of the game's player base growth from launch until the boom in 2020. The game peaked at only a few dozen players in the first month, but by late 2020, the game was pulling in hundreds of thousands of players at once. "Among Us" artist Amy Liu has claimed that the first major boom in the game's popularity involved primarily Brazilian and Korean streamers.

In addition to streaming, "Among Us" quickly caught on thanks to the pre-existing popularity of social deduction games like "Mafia" (a.k.a. "Werewolf"), as well as the fact that people were investing more time into online multiplayer titles during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Escape from Tarkov

"Escape from Tarkov" still isn't actually a fully released game. However, that hasn't stopped the survival shooter from regularly popping up as one of Twitch's most-watched titles. Battlestate Games conducted the "Escape from Tarkov" Alpha test way back in 2016, and the closed Beta test has been going since 2017. Players can still gain early access by pre-ordering the game from the developer's site.

A great deal of the game's success can be credited to streamers and Twitch drops, which allow players to earn rewards by tuning into specific streams. As noted by Game Rant, survival shooter enthusiasts like Dr Disrespect and DrLupo have been some of the top streamers praising "Escape from Tarkov," and the game's Twitch New Year drops also stood out as a particular event that drew many viewers to the intense title.

PCGamesN reported that, at one point in December 2019, "Escape from Tarkov" became the top game on Twitch with about 124,000 concurrent viewers, surpassing even "League of "Legends" and "Fortnite." Game Rant confirmed that the viewer count continued to rise in the following months, even well after the Twitch drop events concluded. Fans of the game claim that lobbies are still regularly packed with players, though it doesn't quite top charts like it used to.

Sea of Thieves

"Sea of Thieves," Rare's co-op pirate adventure game, surged to the top of Twitch in January 2019 thanks to streaming stars. According to Esports Observer, the number of hours watched surpassed 1 million during that month. This was a huge jump, as previous reports rarely showed more than 500,000 hours watched.

Summit1g, who has a reputation as a variety streamer, took a break from playing "Fortnite" to become the most-watched "Sea of Thieves" streamer, and Esports Observer reported that his channel was the only one to consistently reach 20,000 concurrent viewers for some time. Summit1g reached 8.19 million hours watched and an average concurrent viewership of 36,000 people in January 2019, which actually made up about half of the game's overall viewership. Other streamers like TimTheTatman, CouRage, and Ninja boosted the game's popularity after adding it into their rotation, as well.

The excitement surrounding the game didn't end there. Apparently, "Sea of Thieves" experienced another revival in May 2020. According to Esports Charts, Rare added content that caused viewership to rise by over 526% from late April into May. Yet again, Summit1g attracted most of the curious viewers.

Rust

Facepunch Studio's "Rust" had some minor success as a survival co-op, but it didn't truly become a contender for the top spot on Twitch until streamers spotlighted it. According to StreamsCharts, "Rust" peaked at 166.8 million hours watched in January 2021. From late 2020 to January 2021, the percentage of hours watched had risen a drastic 483%.

Two particular dedicated servers filled with Twitch mega-stars helped to turn this mildly popular survival game into the hit it is now. OfflineTV set up one of the two private servers that drew attention to the game. The LA-based content house operates a YouTube channel with over 2.6 million subscribers and includes many household streamer names, including the likes of Pokimane, LilyPichu, and Disguised Toast. 

These streamers sparked such a revival in the "Rust" community that the devs actually dedicated Twitch drops and exclusive skins to some of the most active players. EGOLAND, the other popular private server, hosted popular Spanish content creators like Auronplay, El Rubius, and TheGrefg, who also inspired exclusive in-game items.

Chess

Chess unexpectedly took over Twitch with 20 million hours watched in February 2021. The digital version of the ancient strategy game spent the next few months hovering in Twitch's top 20 games, not-so-coincidentally after "The Queen's Gambit" aired on Netflix in October 2020. However, it couldn't have stayed in the Twitch spotlight without the help of chess streamers.

Hikaru Nakamura, also known as GMHikaru, is one of the most well-known chess streamers. Upcomer reported that the grandmaster streamer has instructed Pokimane in a live chess lesson and played multiple games against MrBeast live on Twitch. Nakamura's GM title is the highest status a professional chess player can officially receive. The International Chess Federation (or World Chess Federation) awards these titles, which are often held for life. In other words, it makes sense that he'd help lead the charge in chess' recent surge.

Adding to the hype, major esports org TSM signed GMHikaru into the organization as a content creator. This effectively signaled to the esports world that there was value in adding a chess player to an all-star roster.

Minecraft

"Minecraft" viewership significantly rose during the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily thanks to streamers. According to The Verge, April 2020 saw the number of new "Minecraft" players increase by 25 percent, and multiplayer sessions increased by 40 percent. Streamers also contributed to that surge with "Minecraft" roleplays.

Over the last couple of years, groups of streamers started forming private "Minecraft" SMP servers (aka survival multiplayer servers). One of the more famous servers was called Dream SMP, named for its most notable founder, "Minecraft" YouTuber Dream. 30 of the game's most popular streamers have joined the fun on this server, including the likes of tommyinnit and Captain Puffy. Dream SMP bases its content and storytelling on the actual streamers' personalities, but uses occasional scripted scenarios to drive appealing storylines and captivate audiences. The Verge has documented the rise of the Dream SMP fandom, which has led to growing fan art and fan fiction communities. 

Of course, it's important to note that "Minecraft" has stayed relatively popular over the course of its existence. The iconic block-based sandbox game has challenged its players to manifest their own pixelated creations and join friends on adventures for some time now. Many people who know the fandom seem to agree that what really changes is how often streamers pay attention to the game, rather than how popular the game is at any given moment.

Grand Theft Auto 5

"Grand Theft Auto 5" and its online counterpart are already hugely successful, so it's no surprise that it's a streaming success. The game typically tends to hover in Twitch's top 5 categories until special events push it to the top, like a content update or the attention of certain major league streamers. In May 2021, however, the game claimed the top spot on Twitch thanks to the growing "GTA 5" roleplaying trend

Viewers generally agree that "GTA" roleplays spike viewership every so often, bringing in tons of interested parties before another dry spell. Then, content creators inevitably get back into the game later down the line and the cycle repeats. 

An exclusive server called NoPixel attracted massive audiences early in 2021, thanks to some big names taking part in the fun. Dexerto reported the "GTA" resurgence in 2021, during which NoPixel roleplayers like Pokimane, Valkyrae, and Sykkuno played alternate personas in a crime-ridden city. NoPixel creator Koli even approved a second server where more aggressive, chaotic "GTA" roleplayers like xQc could run free. During this time, the viewership numbers for "GTA" rivaled other Twitch viewership titans, including "League of Legends" and "Fortnite."