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WC3 Reforged: Streamers at a Turning Point

14.11.18 | UgriWC3 25349

Introduction

There is debate raging on Reddit about whether or not it is fair for Grubby to play extensive reruns on Twitch, and whether this affects smaller channels negatively. 

Even though this is just a minor aspect of a much larger topic -- We hope to provide some commentary and analysis on the matter. The question remains: how will current major Warcraft III streamers adapt to new competition from larger channels that are now seeing a resurgence into the game?

How can smaller channels thrive and grow with Reforged?

For this analysis, I have chosen to focus on purely English speaking streams.

Lexicon

Confused between the terms streamer, caster, commentator? So was I! And I still am to some degree since apart from "streamer", there is no particular solid definition to be found online for those other terms. Many forum posts, however, discuss the difference for which I will provide a concise summary.

Artosis is commentating while Tasteless is casting (from reddit)

  • Streamer : Someone who streams video games live for an audience. 
    If any twitch channel holder is a streamer, this term is mostly used to define someone streaming his own content whereas...
  • Caster : Wrongly so I feel, some tend to confuse the term with "host". Applied to online gaming, a caster is someone commentating the play of others, usually during tournaments.
  • Commentator : During GSL, organizers seemed to make a difference between Artosis the commentator and Tasteless the caster. A commentator would be more in charge of the analysis while a caster would be taking care of the play by play description.

In others terms, if Grubby, Neo and Remo are all streamers, Grubby is even more so. Neo and Remo are both Casters but maybe Remo even more so, while Neo could be more of a commentator.

In retrospect, I am not sure that this little explanation helped at all. Now that the Associated Press clarified the use of the term "esports", I cannot wait for them to sort this one out!

Overview of the current WC3 ecosystem on Twitch

For this analysis, we will, for now, ignore any WC3 'opportunists' streamers such as sodapoppin or SjoW. Note that the latter was a successful SC2 player and a decent WC3 one known as SjoW and could very well become a big player once Reforged comes out.

I went through a few guides and overall there are six rules to follow in order to have a chance to become a successful streamer:

  1. Have a good set up (reliable internet connection and equipment)
  2. Play a game you like, and are passionate about, hereby Warcraft 3
  3. Interact with your audience
  4. Stick to a schedule
  5. Bring something specific and even unique
  6. Network with other Casters

 

The game is definitely growing on Twitch since Warcraft III Invitational!


Total hours watched per month for Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne

These kind of graphs not only show amazing growth, but also illustrate the dire state of WC3 back in 2015. From about 300k hours viewed per month in 2015, WC3 grew to 3M hours viewed in July 2018.

Warcraft III invitational, organized in February 2018 for the launch of patch 1.29, pretty much marks the start of a steady growth in audience. This trend should obviously increase with the announcement of Warcraft III Reforged at Blizzcon as we wait for the results.


The "big four" of Warcraft 3

Four streamers dominate the rankings for the most viewed WC3 channels in the last three months with 95,000 watched hours and over.

Obviously Grubby dominates in terms of watched time and average viewers. The latter category is calculated by Twitch in a weird way which rounds down the average view count by a noticeable margin.

Those channels are successful because each one of them has built a strong identity and is active on social media. 

Grubby: the leader of the scene 

Grubby, as a popular retired professional player, attracts viewers just by his name. The growth of his channel, however, is due to the work he puts in on his YouTube channel and to the casual atmosphere he maintains during his stream. He puts on a focus on interactivity with his audience in-game with fans donating to see a random strategy being attempted by the orc legend. His schedule is well known by his fans and something uniquely Grubby is having a dedicated day of the week for each race.
Reforged should only serve to strengthen Grubby's position as the lead streamer of Warcraft 3. His fanbase is well consolidated and his name is simply attached to the game for eternity.

His channel : https://www.twitch.tv/followgrubby 

Back2Warcraft : an opportunity to turn professional

Back2Warcraft are semi-professional and depend on the tournaments' schedule, most of which are located in China. This means that Neo and Remo have to stream quite often at non peak hours thus hurting their viewership to some degree. Their channel is also focused on competitive play as none of them play on stream, they are casters. In the current state of the game, it is possible that B2W is hitting a glass ceiling with a follower growth of 1 per 147 watched hours, the same as Grubby nowadays. With Foggy as the only strong European lead in international tournaments, it may be hard to drag the western audience to the competitive scene. 
Reforged will be a new opportunity for Neo and Remo to finally go professional, and become full time casters. If WC3R establishes itself as an important esport next year, the interest in watching those competitions with higher prizepools and potentially new players will increase drastically.
Their channel : https://www.twitch.tv/back2warcraft

ToD : a choice to make?

ToD has the same background as Grubby as a retired professional player. In-game interaction with his audience is however minor since no requests nor suggestions are allowed under threat of banishment. His schedule has been hard to follow lately with his travel to the US. Still, he is the fastest growing streamer in the 'big four' with one new follower for every 62 watched hours. He is known for being very competitive no matter what game he plays.
He tried to qualify for WGL the last months. Will ToD return as a professional player? Will he invest more time commentating tournaments? Will he now focus on just playing the ladder to entertain his audience? 
ToD just turned freelance after a few years working for ESL and will probably have to think about how best to brand his channel before Reforged comes out. Well known for his casting of SC2 major events, ToD should obviously be picked by Blizzard to cast WC3R's ones.
His channel : https://www.twitch.tv/tod

WTii: popular in a niche of a niche

You have to give credit to WTii. WC3 was not a very popular game and he managed to make a name for himself on Twitch playing custom games and 4v4s.

Reforged should bring new life to the custom game genre with stunning graphics and newly created custom maps thanks to the new World Editor. The challenge for WTii will be to attract this newly created audience to his channel, he should be up to the task.
His channel : https://www.twitch.tv/wtii

 

Small streamers holding on

To complete the top 10 of our WC3 streamers rankings, we have five channels with over 14,000 watched hours in the last three months. 

  • iNSUPERABLE : 106 average viewers, 37k watched hours
  • Hi2Chaco : 128 - 31k
  • MaDFroG : 107 - 26k
  • NightEnD : 58 - 16k
  • Lado : 56 - 14k

Hi2Chaco is the only caster of the list, the four others being players streaming their games. Chaco is usually acting as a secondary caster to Back2Warcraft. He is currently moving from country to country and that may not be the ideal way to work on new Reforged opportunities.

iNSUPERABLE is doing a good job with his content, streaming his own game in a sort of taunting way, really interacting with his audience in-game in a region lacking a real leader stream-wise.

Lado has established himself as the "shoes off, feet up!" streamer, playing from his couch.

NightEnD and MaDFroG are two former pro undead players that just turned WC3 streamers. They might be chasing the same audience and hurt one another in the process.

 

Are Grubby's reruns hurting small streamers?

This was the topic of the article in the first place. The question was brought up on reddit from this comment by Neo on his stream.


Neo : "I'm not a big fan of Grubby's reruns"

Neo's theory about Grubby's reruns is that they hurt "Tier 3" streamers capability to develop their fanbase. Since there would be a Grubby stream available  24/7, the casual WC3 viewer would miss on their chance to connect with other streams.

I thought this was an interesting topic, so I was on the look out these last few days and tried to think this through.

Grubby's fanbase is endemic

Grubby's viewers are there for a particular show. Many of them do not play the game and have no intention to watch anybody, aside from Grubby, play. They simply aren't interested.

Simply put, Grubby's content is the best channel to watch for anyone not interested in the competitive scene. When Grubby's channel is offline, there is just less light directed towards WC3 on twitch.

Viewers will always favor high production value

The success of the channel is due to the massive amount of work put into it. The same would go for Back2Warcraft who also dedicate time to work on the back end of the scene (sustaining Liquipedia or reddit successes for example).

An amateur channel with poor production value and a hectic schedule will not build up their brand whether Grubby reruns a stream or not. 

Mostly a timezone issue

Grubby is already streaming at Europe's peak hours and we still have smaller channels running. Tier 3 channels like defined by Neo (from 50 to 110 average viewers) from Europe already compete with Grubby when he is live.

Reruns would only affect American streamers. Usually a rerun has 4 to 5 times less viewers than a live stream from what I witnessed the last few days. The biggest American channels are those of iNSUPERABLE and Lado. They might lose a small percentage of their viewership when there is a rerun.

I still find it profitable that the American scene can enjoy Grubby's show and discuss it among themselves in a delayed fashion. These are 1,500 more people that would build up Warcraft 3's audience in general for maybe a dozen American viewers that will not watch the local streams. This will also help rejuvenate American interest in Warcraft 3.

Protect your stream's value

The rerun option is a useful tool to approach a new audience but has to be used wisely. A 24/7 live stream would just diminish the value of the content as it would look just cheap to be always running. I am sure Grubby thought about it and calculated the right rhythm for his reruns to be aired.

As for small streamers, they need to build up their brand and have long term plans if they want to grow. I do not believe it is possible to grow above the 150 average viewers count without putting in the extra work. 

The situation will be the same with Reforged as many new streamers are expected to come into the game which to me, is very exciting. Most of them have either a WoW, HotS or SC2 background and will jump onto the Reforged hype train like SolidJakeGGLowko or RotterdaM that were all present during the WC3 Summit in Irvine.

If Grubby's reruns are too much to bear now, it is just going to get worse.

Khaldor also announced that he will start streaming WC3 starting Sunday for the next GenoZ American Cup.

It's absolutely amazing for me to see how many people are excited about WC3:Reforged and how the hype has also revitalized the interest in WarCraft 3 itself! I'm really happy to see my first Esports game get this much attention again and got definitely caught by the excitement as well. I already started to put the occasional WC3 commentary onto my YouTube channel and will also try to cast a few smaller tournaments on Twitch while HGC is still on a break! Reforged is going to be an amazing addition to the RTS genre and I'd love to be part of the WarCraft 3 Esports scene once again! -Khaldor

Miscellaneous

  • Ugri is not tied to Grubby at all, this was an honest take on the subject.
  • I support small streamers and watch many of them. I for example like GarinTheGoat's channel, I think he is really entertaining.
  • Growth can be achieved through dedication (see the 6 rules to be successful) and not by switching off bigger channels.
  • With Reforged in sight, now is the right time to put in the extra work if one so desire. 
  • Feel free to discuss whether Neo or Remo is the caster, and which one the commentator!

Have fun on Twitch everybody.

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