Today I wanted to talk about the age-old question of what category do you choose when you start streaming or when you plan streams. For context, there are plenty of people that start streaming on Twitch and then choose an over-saturated category and wonder why they get no viewers or they just complain about it. I feel like there are plenty of issues when it comes to categories and there are a lot of things that one need to think about, which is why I wanted to talk about how I approach this topic and how I plan streams. I’ll also give a few examples as to what games are very good for growth, from my experience, and what games are not so great.
First of all, here’s a disclaimer: I’m talking about my experience and what I heard from other people or opinions that I agree with based on my experience. So, take all of this with a grain of salt and don’t hate me for it. Thanks.
If you go into the directory on Twitch and look at the first two rows of the categories there, you can find a lot of very popular categories. Now, not every category there is a great category and it really depends on a lot of factors if you’re “successful”. Take Fortnite and League of Legends, for instance: There are 441K viewers in Fortnite active right now and 404K viewers active in League of Legends. These games are very popular. However, because it’s very popular to stream in those categories, it’s even harder to grow there. The League of Legends category features a bunch of pros and Semi-finals at the top with 175K to 4K viewers in the first three rows of the stream. When you click on the category, Twitch will recommend the biggest streams there to you from the get-go unless you filter from low to high, which it doesn’t do because bigger numbers usually mean better streams and Twitch wants people to consume better content so that they can earn more money. From 4K viewers, it goes down pretty fast down to the hundreds, to tenths. Eventually, you see where 60% of Twitch Streamers are: The 0-5 viewer wall and it already takes ages to scroll all the way down there… and it takes even longer to get from 5 viewers to 4 viewers to 3 to 2 to 1 to 0 and there are plenty of people at 0 viewers. It’s very hard to grow in the League of Legends category unless you’re well-known (through social media, YouTube, the Pro-Scene, etc.) or unless you’re very good at the game (again, the Pro-Scene or high-rank players, etc., Mobafire, Guides, etc.). Unless you’re very entertaining, famous or good at the game, you won’t grow, and it’s similar to that in a lot of the other categories at the top of Twitch’s directory.
A different story, however, are categories like Just Chatting, Music, Minecraft, or New Pokémon Snap. If you’re very talented, you can find a lot of new members for your community in the Music category. The New Pokémon Snap category may be at the top but there aren’t too many streamers in there so the viewers distribute a lot more and it’s easier to find smaller and potentially cosier gems in the masses of streams… The Minecraft category has a lot of huge streams in it but there are also plenty of people that may look at smaller streams or find you through the category. I noticed that I had some of my highest numbers in the Minecraft category in the past because people just like how chill the game is. Meanwhile, Just Chatting is the fastest-growing category on Twitch and is right now at the top of it (at the time of writing). Just Chatting however is tricky to pull off as you need to be able to come up with topics, you may need to be entertaining or you may need to be able to respond properly to messages. At the same time, however, there is plenty of things that you can do in the Just Chatting category like IRL-streams, Reaction-streams or you may just chill and vibe with your community. I’ve found plenty of streamers that I like through the Just Chatting category and I’ve noticed that Just Chatting streams have done really well in terms of new viewers that joined the stream.
So, what I’m trying to say is that the top of the Twitch categories may not be the best choice here because while they may be popular they are also oversaturated. There are exceptions to the rule like with Just Chatting (oversaturated but smaller streams may still find success there), Music, Minecraft or even Pokémon games… but generally speaking, I tend to stray from the top categories just because of how many people there are and how bad discovery is.
From very popular categories to not so popular categories, and from Tripple A titles to Indie Stuff maybe, I’d say that Indie Games have great communities and often present great opportunities for growth but the question here is: How Indie is too Indie or rather how niche is too niche? Subnautica is a very backseat-y fanbase but it is quite popular, especially with Below Zero’s release date being around the corner (May 14th). Undertale, Darkest Dungeon, Stardew Valley, Graveyard Keeper, and many other titles have great communities that are very loyal to these games, so you may find success via these games… but there also titles whose categories are rather dead in a way. Skul: The Hero Slayer may be a great game but the category is seeing fewer and fewer streamers and viewers as of late which means that the category is slowly dying. One of my all-time favourite titles, Dungeon of the Endless, may be fun to me but it’s somewhat boring to watch which is why the category is basically dead at this point. Sure, you can be the top streamer in the category… but it doesn’t matter if you’re the only streamer and if there are no new viewers in the category. The goal is here to aim for something that has a decent amount of viewers/streamers in it but isn’t too niche and too small or maybe even boring. It all depends on your taste and what you’re going for. Generally speaking, I’d stray from the top categories and just keep to categories that are close to the top but not quite there.
Now, what do I do here? Well, I love streaming NieR: Replicant right now which just recently came out and hence is popular… but while streaming a new game can be quite good for growth it can also result in the opposite effect as people tend to try to avoid spoilers and hence stray from the category for a while. The same goes for Cyberpunk 2077: When a game is that hyped, people will probably avoid it for a while if they plan to play it themselves. Alas, I haven’t found too many new viewers through NieR: Replicant but since I’m having a lot of fun with it and since the game is great, my current viewers seem to be enjoying the streams on Fridays and Saturdays. Meanwhile, I stream Just Chatting and Art Thursdays while I play whatever I feel like on Sundays and Mondays. Art is somewhat big for a category but not too big, which is great… and I tend to find more people through my LGBTQIA+ tag than I do through categories anyways, so it doesn’t really matter. With my streams, I tend to go for cosier vibes and people that want to have a nice and chill time, generally go for smaller streams, so that kind of works, from my experience. I don’t really try to grow too much but I tend to play a lot of Roguelikes and my community likes those. I may play Cities: Skylines tomorrow and ask my chat for help and I’ll see how it goes.
So, let’s sum it up:
- You don’t typically want to stream in oversaturated categories unless you’re super good at the game.
- New games can be opportunities but can also cause issues because of people that will spoil you or people that want to avoid spoilers and hence avoid your stream(s).
- The top categories tend to be quite hard for growth. The bottom is even harder, however.
- Indie is great but if you’re going for categories that are “too Indie” then you may hinder your growth based on the choice.
All in all, experiment and find your best solution. From my experience, those pointers up there are the best probably. I’d recommend starting off with the “Warming Up” tag and doing Just Chatting before you head into a game or after you’re done with a game as that helps a lot. Adding challenges to your runs can also help out a lot. If you stream in the Retro category, you gotta add the game title into your title so because there are so many games in that category…
Most importantly, have fun and if you’re a good streamer, you’ll find success somehow.