Melee Viewership: A Deep Dive
Not too long ago, there was community-wide discussion on if Melee was dying. I wrote a whole column that basically said, “no it’s not dying, but people are becoming aware of many long-term issues we have.” What I didn’t reveal was that I had actually taken a look at monthly Melee viewership numbers since August 2015. I tracked them all in an Excel sheet (one I’ll link at the end of the column), thinking that I would use them for that edition of Monday Morning Marth.
I ended up not doing that. It wasn’t because I thought it wasn’t relevant – I was just too lazy to share them in detail. So with an upcoming month that features Genesis, Pound, and countless other notable events across the globe, I’ve decided to get off my ass and share what I have. In today’s Monday Morning Marth, I’ll be detailing five insights that we can take away from Twitch viewership numbers over the last six and a half years.
Hours Watched is King
There are many things in life where you would take The Crimson Blur’s opinion with a grain of salt. Twitch viewership is not one of them. For my research, I looked at each month’s total hours watched, average viewers, maximum viewers for a given day, and number of broadcasters. In preparation for this column, I wanted to run by what I had with Blur, so I asked him his opinion on each of these metrics. He responded, “The only metric is hours watched,” adding that Twitch’s internal models only reference that metric.
According to Blur, sponsors similarly hold this metric in disproportionate value. The way he put it, hours watched is a combination of the two most metrics for any game: how long you streamed and how many viewers are there. For example, a stream that may carry 10,000 average viewers but only lasts for a couple hours will not have as much advertising ROI as a stream that has 5,000 average viewers but continues for far more time.
The Worst Months In Melee History
I wanted to examine the five worst months for Melee in this statistic. They are as follows.
Unsurprisingly, most of these months came in between our scene’s two longest running major series: The Big House and Genesis. If you remember November 2019, there was no Smash Summit. The biggest event that happened was that Captain Faceroll won DreamHack Atlanta 2019 over Mew2King. Meanwhile, January 2019 came right before Genesis, as did December 2018 and December 2015. The one exception to the rule here was May 2020, which preceded the public launch of Project Slippi and was during the early pandemic. Needless to say, that case had extraordinary circumstances.
The Best Months in Melee History
I also wanted to take a look at the scene’s high points. See below.
I wasn’t surprised to see two months with the most recent iterations of Smash Summit near the top, nor was I surprised to see December 2020 – the month of LACS 3 and the 5 Days of Melee marathon – or May 2018, when Mew2King won Smash Summit 6. What completely blew my mind, however, was seeing April 2016 up there. I had totally forgotten what a huge month this was. It had Pound 2016, Smash Summit 2, and EGLX, tournaments where Hungrybox and Mango, the two best American players, were routinely playing each other. Interestingly, these tournaments were streamed by three different entities, VGBootCamp, BeyondTheSummit, and CLASH Tournaments. We’ll get into what this means later; just remember that for now.
Which Years Were The Best?
After looking at individual months, I wanted to look at years. I unfortunately don’t have the data for all of 2015, as it only goes back to August, so I only looked at 2016 to 2021. Before seeing at the numbers, I guessed that 2016 would remain the biggest year in Melee history, but that 2021 would be right behind it. My prediction for worst year was 2019, and I assumed that 2017 and 2018 would be slightly ahead of it.
For the most part, I was correct. But for whatever reason, I completely underestimated what a big year 2017 was. I used to joke to my friends about how 2017 was the most annoying time to be a community member. This was in part due to the massive amount of drama over player misconduct, the rectangle controller wars, unclear rule sets, and the scene, more or less, moving more to Twitter as its central hub. But in all honesty, that was an unambiguously incredible year for Melee.
The Current State of Viewership
|January 2022**||914,505 (LACS was hosted on YouTube)|
NOTE: Since Ludwig is now a YouTube streamer, the Twitch-specific numbers are not necessarily indicative of how well the stream performed to the public. As a result, I am going to refer to it as a big month of Melee regardless of the deceptive Twitch metrics.
In roughly the last six months, we’ve run the gamut from average levels of engagement (October, November) to amazing (December and, most likely, January when accounting for YouTube) and weak (February). By the time March’s full numbers are released, I expect them to be somewhere above February 2022, but lower than the fall, even with the recent influx of top players entering more Netplay weeklies in the build-up to Genesis 8.
Rise of Home Streamers
One of the biggest differences between streamed Melee today and Melee of the past is where you can find it. By sheer volume, home streamers and influencers hold way more sway in the market than they did in the past. This is in part due to the rise of online Melee as a viable alternative to LAN. As of when I wrote this (Sunday), here are the top ten streamers of Melee in the last 365 days.
|ludwig||914,505 (LACS was hosted on YouTube)|
If you’re curious about what Melee streaming looked like in 2016, here’s the top ten streaming channels of that year. The key difference here is the number of event production streams, particularly ones dedicated to specific regions.
So, where does that leave the next rough “period” for Melee? I’ll get into that in a bit, so before that, I want to share what I think is the “peak” of Melee viewership: October 2016 to January 2017.
Picture this: we were fresh off the biggest LAN tournament of all-time at Evo in July, and somehow the community looked like it was only going to get bigger. The scene had a truly extraordinary run of majors between The Big House 6, Smash Summit 3, UGC Smash Open, and Genesis 4. Each of them lived up to their expectations, with historic moments like Mango winning The Big House 6, Mew2King’s amazing loser’s run at UGC, and Armada all but taking the GOAT title from Mango at Genesis 4 (temporarily, at least). We even got to see Leffen come back from his visa ban.
I’m almost certainly viewing this time with rose-tinted glasses, as it neatly coincided with when I began writing about Melee. But combined, these four months brought us 6,790,006 views, which is the most of any four-month span in Melee history. The numbers don’t lie. This was the perfect culmination of stakes, events, top player interest, memorable tournament matches, and incredible Melee.
My prediction is that this upcoming spring/summer – April to July – will be just as good as, if not better than, that fall/winter for 2016-2017. Here is the list of upcoming events to look out for, as per the Smash Calendar for the next four months.
- Genesis 8: April 15 – 17
- Pound 2022: April 22 – April 24
- Low Tide City 2022: April 30 – May 1
- The Function 2: May 7
- Smash Summit 13: May 12 – May 15
- DreamHack Dallas 2022: June 3 – June 5
- Battle of BC 4: June 10 – June 12
- CEO 2022: June 24 – June 26
- GOML 2022: July 1 – July 3
- Double Down: July 8 – July 10
This list is not completely conclusive, but it’s filled to the brim with events that carry national potential or, bare minimum, could feature top five players in attendance. For all we know, there could be even more majors, let alone a possible return of SCL, which would be even more incredible for the scene. Not only will this season have the same “post-lull” feelings that other high points had in the past, it will have the same post-pandemic feeling that July 2021, the biggest month in Melee history, had. More tournaments isn’t always a good thing – the frustrations I’ve publicly made with the existence of two circuits certainly doesn’t need rehashing – but they’re neatly lining up, one after another, at the perfect time.
There will be many challenges for our scene moving forward, but we’re in a great place. I can’t wait to see how these next few months manage to exceed my gaudy expectations.