Before we tackle the 3 points that separate big and small launch games, I want to address the concept of oversaturation. I’ve touched on it before using the example of the sheer quantity of League of Legends streamers making it easy to get lost in the crowd. Launch games are no different. There are some games that are just incredibly crowded at launch. One that I feel a lot of people can relate to at the time is Fallout 4. Day 1 of launch, there were 30+ streams that had over 1k viewers. If you’re looking to make an impact with a game like Fallout 4 and have a small viewer base, waiting a few days for the hype to die down is not a bad idea.
With that topic squared away, let’s breakdown three important points that affect how well certain games will perform at launch and down the road.
When you think of popular game franchises, what are some that come to mind? Mario, Zelda, Halo, Call of Duty, League of Legends, World of Warcraft, just to name a few. These are all incredibly popular games/franchises that have companies spending millions in marketing and advertising. When these franchises launch a new release, they have huge sales and fan-bases flock to buy the latest game in the series. These are games that have great brand/name recognition.
Branding is one of the most important aspects of a game to have the potential to be something that sticks around for more than a month. If there’s a big name behind a game, there’s a good chance there’s an audience that will be there to support it/watch the game.
Splatoon vs Mario Maker
When you look at the key differences between Super Mario Maker and Splatoon in this category, it’s pretty obvious. Super Mario Maker has a brand that extends over 30 years with millions of games sold. Splatoon was a completely new IP by Nintendo. To many gamers, there was a lot of uncertainty on if the game would be something they would enjoy. The game also wasn’t on the radar for most gamers unless you were a big Nintendo fan or a Wii U owner starving for a new game. So right off the bat, Splatoon had a lot of branding and recognition issues.
2. New Experiences for Viewers
While branding is an incredibly important factor for predicting popularity, I honestly feel that this point is way more important when it comes to choosing a successful stream game and not just a popular launch game. Countless Mario and Zelda games have been launched since twitch has existed, yet Super Mario Maker has been the most successful! Why is that? Games that provide new experiences each playthrough are way more likely to be a success than something with limited replay value.
Games like League of Legends and Hearthstone both have great brands, but they also have new content all the time. Riot releases new champions, item changes, and patches on an almost monthly basis. These types of patches/content releases allow viewers to get new experiences each month as the game evolves. Every game of League of Legends can be different and exciting, which also keeps viewers tuning in. Companies that are willing to release new content on a regular basis prevent their games from reaching a content ceiling and will continue to generate new experiences for both streamers and viewers.
Splatoon vs Mario Maker
This point is where Splatoon suffered the most as a launch game. The game launched with a lot of missing features like the inability to play with friends in a private match, a limited selection of modes and weapons, and to top it all off, you could only play 2 maps at a time on a set timer. This was a huge blow to a game that needed a robust list of features to support an online setup opening week. Launch week is the biggest opportunity for a game to shine in front of a big audience. After that first week, if the game doesn’t gain attention, your stream will have very few chances to get that same opportunity. Splatoon in its current form is a really great game that has a ton of depth and strategy to it. There are a ton of great weapons, levels, and modes to choose from. The issue is most of these things were not there at launch week, and it was a missed opportunity for Twitch streamers.
Mario Maker, on the other hand, had a satisfying amount of core features and unlockables right from the start. Once you figured out how they gave you the pieces to make levels with, it took about 2 hours to unlock all the tools. But the real success for Mario Maker as a stream game lies in the longevity of the 100 Man Mode. In this mode, you play randomly selected levels that were created by the community. This means, barring crazy luck, you’re getting a new level every time you play. From a viewer’s perspective, being able to see a streamer play a completely new and hard level every single time means endless laughter and joy.
The third point to a game’s longevity on Twitch revolves around the players and viewers behind it. Every huge game on Twitch generally has anywhere between 5-20 big streamers that are consistently playing the game. No matter when you tune in, there is someone with over 1k viewers streaming the game. It’s very hard for one streamer to maintain a community on his/her own, so it’s essential that there are multiple. When you have multiple big streamers playing a game at different times, they can pass the viewership to other streamers when they go offline to help circulate the audience. If you’re a middle-sized streamer and a big streamer goes offline, that’s a huge opportunity for you to entertain new viewers and make your case as to why they should watch you as well.
Splatoon vs Mario Maker
Splatoon not having as big of a community was directly affected by the fact that at launch, the game was not at its full potential. A few big name streamers played the game, saw that it lacked a lot of features, and moved on to the next game. Nothing really caught the attention of someone with a dedicated community. There are a lot of dedicated streamers within the Splatoon community that provide great content, but none of them have the reach of someone with over 100k followers.
Mario Maker on the other hand attracted a lot of big name streamers over time, putting the game in the top 5 streams on Twitch for the first week. This allowed viewers to check out the game and allowed a few mid-sized streamers to make a name for themselves. There were even huge opportunities for streams that barely pulled in 50 viewers to explode into consistent 1k streams. After the first few weeks, there was a consistent group of streamers with solid fan bases that could keep the game in the top 20 of the games directory each and every day.
Branding/recognition, new experiences, and community carry a lot of weight when choosing the right launch game for your stream. Splatoon by no means is terribly off. They do have a dedicated community, albeit a small one. There are plenty of people who have grown their streams from Splatoon, just not at the same pace as Mario Maker, which has exploded in popularity and helped a handful of streamers really grow their streams! These 3 three points aren’t just important for Nintendo games; they can be applied for all games at launch. So when you’re deciding on what game to get into at launch, use these 3 points to guide you and help with the decision process!