Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to pay tribute to those dear friends who are sadly no longer with us.
While their spirits – and channels with millions of followers – remain, their presence is elsewhere. We laughed and we cried. We spammed and we subbed. We PogChamp’d and we OmegaLUL’d. But the days of seeing their faces on Twitch are now behind us.
This year, the streaming world was shaken by a series of popular personalities leaving Twitch for rival platforms. Sparked in August by the departure of their most followed streamer and arguably the biggest name in gaming, Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins, many more of Twitch’s star content creators followed suit, jumping ship for likes of Mixer, Facebook Gaming, and YouTube, in search of bigger deals, more freedom, and fresh starts. While Twitch managed to renew deals with the likes of Ben ‘DrLupo’ Lupo and Tim ‘TimTheTatman’ Betar late in the year, many of its standout names had already flown the nest by then.
Despite losing streamers who attracted audiences well into the tens of thousands, Twitch remains the top dog in the streaming world by a long way. And those that have left are seeing significantly lower viewership figures than before.
But which names have we lost this year? Why did they leave? And will they be missed?
Ninja is no stranger to breaking ground. Surfing on the initial tsunami of popularity that Fortnite created in 2018, he rapidly became one of Twitch’s biggest streamers by some margin. He amassed over 14 million followers, averaged anywhere between 50,000 to 100,000 viewers, and his stream alongside NFL player JuJu Smith and superstar rappers Drake and Travis Scott peaked at over 600,000 viewers.
Related: Everything you need to know about Ninja
His success shone a light and made streaming, and gaming in general, mainstream. With appearances on talk shows and game shows, and big advertising deals with brands like Adidas – it seemed Ninja was untouchable.
However, in August, he shook things up once again. His shock move to Microsoft’s relatively unheard of streaming platform, Mixer, put the power back into streamers’ hands. It gave them the power to negotiate better deals and contracts, using the prospect of leaving for a rival platform as leverage. This saw the likes of DrLupo and TimTheTatman remain on Twitch, but for bigger, better deals.
In the months following his move to Mixer, it became more and more apparent why Twitch’s most successful star had given them the cold shoulder. Toxic chats, lack of freedom and wanting to push the industry forward for his fellow streamers all added up to his departure.
He broke records on Twitch, the likes of which will not be broken for a long time. But by leaving, he helped those who were staying.
And although he might be playing into a much smaller crowd on Mixer now, he wants you to know that he’s happier now than he ever was and that quite simply, he doesn’t care about his viewer count.
Like Ninja, former Counter-Strike: Global Offensive pro Michael ‘Shroud’ Grzesiek can also say he was the most followed active streamer on Twitch, albeit for a matter of days, when he gained and then quickly lost that title to Turner ‘Tfue’ Tenney.
However, despite being a stalwart of Twitch for a number of years and reaching the milestone of seven million followers, Shroud became the next star to leave the platform and follow Ninja to Mixer.
— Michael Grzesiek (@shroud) October 24, 2019
Like Ninja, Shroud has seen a drop in viewership since moving to Mixer and hasn’t managed to attract a lot of his Twitch community over to his new platform. Despite this, Shroud still claims it’s the best move for his career.
Shroud currently has just over 890,000 followers on Mixer.
Another huge name to depart from Twitch was Jack ‘CouRage’ Dunlop. The former Call of Duty caster, who is now a prominent content creator with 100 Thieves, left the platform to sign an exclusive deal with YouTube Gaming, becoming their first marquee streamer.
While YouTube is home to countless successful content creators, the signing of CouRage signals a real push from YouTube to grow as a streaming site too.
When explaining why he left Twitch, CouRage cited the pressure of keeping up your sub count as one of the main reasons. Similarly to Ninja and Shroud, he also put it down to wanting to “grow as an entertainer” and felt like Twitch was not a suitable place for him to do so.
In the same way that CouRage was the first big scalp for YouTube, Jeremy ‘Disguised Toast’ Wang was the first for another rival streaming platform: Facebook Gaming.
Big news, I’m moving.
Excited to reach more people around the world, continue to give back and lose bets to chat.
— Disguised Toast (@DisguisedToast) November 22, 2019
While perhaps not as recognisable a name as the three above, Disguised Toast is still an extremely popular streamer and is a member of Offline TV, the collective of content creators that features a number of other big Twitch streamers including Imane ‘Pokimane’ Anys.
Disguised Toast had a substantial following of over 1.3 million people on Twitch, but gave it all up to move to Facebook Gaming. He’s kept relatively quiet about why, but what we do know is that he took the $20,000 budget Facebook gave him for an announcement video and donated it all to a children’s hospital.
While not the biggest streamer out there, Soleil ‘EwOk’ Wheeler is certainly an influential and recognisable name in gaming circles. The teenager made headlines in July 2019 when she became the first female and the first deaf person to join esports organisation, FaZe Clan.
But in another shock move, EwOk revealed in November that she too was making the move to stream exclusively on Mixer. While this would’ve been less of a loss for Twitch in terms of viewership, to see a young and inspirational person – who was named in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in the gaming industry – leave for another platform is a blow.
— Ewok (@Ewok) November 14, 2019
The Fortnite streamer now has a following of over 100,000 people on Mixer.
With over half a million Twitch followers, Gonzalo ‘ZeRo’ Barrios is one of the biggest Smash Bros. streamers out there. However, in early December he announced that he would be leaving to stream exclusively on Facebook Gaming.
The pro player, who has won numerous Smash Wii U titles, echoed the sentiments of those who left before him by saying that a new platform would allow him to grow quicker and “explore other options.”
While not a megastar name like Ninja or Shroud, ZeRo is one of the main faces of the large Smash community and has flourished on his new platform. His debut stream on Facebook received over a million views.
Are we going to lose anyone else?
There’s a good chance of it, yes. While some Twitch loyalists such as Guy ‘DrDisRespect’ Beahm have vowed that they would never leave the platform, many of Twitch’s big names have been linked to moves away.
Towards the end of 2019, Twitch made a real statement by securing deals with three names who had been rumoured to be heading to rival platforms: TimTheTatman, DrLupo and Saqib ‘Lirik’ Zahid. It was a strong and positive response to the threat that the likes of Mixer, Facebook, and YouTube now pose to Twitch.
However, the superstar names know their worth now and those further down in the pecking order could see these less-crowded alternative platforms as opportunities to grow faster with less competition.
Whether the trend will continue into 2020 remains to be seen, as Twitch is still the undisputed giant of the streaming world. But as the list of streamers leaving increases, its margin at the top could begin to fall away.