Twitch's Soaring Viewership in 2021 Cements its Dominance

Twitch's year has been defined in large part by departures, as some of the biggest Twitch stars decided to make YouTube Gaming their new hub of content creation. At the same time, the streaming platform's user base has rallied against Twitch on a number of issues, from inconsistency in its bans to its response to hate raids. Considering how challenging the year has been for Twitch, one might expect that support for the platform has waned on the whole, with both viewers and streamers deciding to support YouTube as the new hub of streaming.

Some fans of streaming might therefore be surprised to hear that the opposite is true. In spite of everything that's happened this year, Twitch has had a very strong 2021 in terms of viewership. Twitch fans spent 24 billion hours watching streamers in 2021, amounting to a 45% increase in viewership over last year. That huge surge in support is compelling evidence that, in spite of its flaws, Twitch remains the definitive home of streaming. YouTube may put up an increasingly good fight as it starts to sign exclusivity deals with major streamers, but for the moment, Twitch still reigns supreme in this genre of entertainment.

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Twitch's Setbacks in 2021

Some big faces have started leaving Twitch this year, potentially indicating a pattern of YouTube Gaming migration. Within this year, DrLupo, TimTheTatMan, and Ludwig have all decided to move to YouTube, joining other major members of the platform like DrDisrespect and Valkyrae. The decision hasn't been easy for all of them; while explaining his departure, Ludwig expressed his love of Twitch openly but said that YouTube just made the most sense for him. Watching this train of departures has made many wonder if Twitch is losing its grip on the streaming industry, considering just how many of its users will be pulled away by these deals.

Likewise, a lot of users have become more outspoken in their criticisms of Twitch in 2021. DMCA takedowns remain a controversial issue among Twitch users, but it's only one issue of several that has sparked debate this year. In September 2021, many Twitch streamers and viewers boycotted the side for a day to protest Twitch's seemingly slow action against hate raids, in which bots flood a streamer's chat with abusive messages. Users also continue to criticize Twitch for its moderation policies, claiming that the platform enforces its rules inconsistently. Between streamers departing and such a long list of controversial issues, one would have expected Twitch to falter in 2021.

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Twitch Still Dominates Streaming

As the viewership numbers indicate, that couldn't be further from the truth. It looks like Twitch has gained even more users in 2021, or at the very least, Twitch users are spending more and more time watching their favorite content creators. If Twitch's usage is surging so much right now, then it doesn't look like it'll forfeit its streaming crown to YouTube Gaming anytime soon. It simply has too much support to stop being the top streaming platform in the near future, and as an Amazon subsidiary, it certainly has the resources to fight for its throne.

None of this is to say Twitch will remain in control forever. If YouTube continues collecting Twitch's top entertainers or if Twitch becomes embroiled in a new wave of controversies, then it's possible that users will finally decide they've had enough of the old streaming giant and give their attention to YouTube. It seems more likely that Twitch will just have to start taking YouTube more seriously as a competitor. It would be wise to create new selling points for both streamers and viewers that make it more appealing than YouTube. Making an effort to remain the top streaming platform seems better for Twitch's future than relying on notoriety. Twitch leads streaming today, but for YouTube, there's always tomorrow.

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