Two weeks ago, Epic Games Inc. held its first-ever Fortnite World Cup, a three-day video game competition extravaganza that had – at one point – 2.3 million viewers from around the globe.
Now we're getting a closer look at the demographics of those viewers, providing insight into whether the video-game industry's biggest hit has become a mainstream cultural phenomenon. Lots of people love to play Fortnite, a winner-kill-all shooter game, but it's harder to tell how many people want to watch them do it.
StreamMetrics, a company that provides in-depth audience measurement for esports competitions, has new numbers that show the event's U.S. audience was older and more female than might be expected.
It also was as big a draw as traditional sports. The five-hour final broadcast averaged 90,000 viewers per minute in the U.S., StreamMetrics found. That's roughly equivalent to the local TV audience for a regular-season San Francisco Giants game.
In other words, it wasn't the Super Bowl – but it was a respectable showing, said Dan Nemo, co-founder of StreamMetrics.
"The event was a huge success," he said. "There were questions surrounding Fortnite 18 months ago, asking if they could attract the audiences and make it enjoyable for people to watch. Now, they've evolved into a premier esport."
Esports -- video-game competitions played in front of spectators – is a male-dominated field. But StreamMetrics found that the Fortnite World Cup had a more balanced audience in both age and gender than many such events.
Women and girls accounted for 43% of viewers. That's a big jump from the 23% that StreamMetrics saw in June for other Fortnite competitions.
And 44% of viewers were over the age of 35, up from less than a third in previous events. Nemo credits both surges to the hype that surrounded the event.
StreamMetrics, founded this year, is backed by the venture arm of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Devils and Newark's Prudential Center. The group also owns the esports franchise Team Dignitas.
The company says it measure viewers based on a full minute of duration watched, in line with traditional TV measurements. Its numbers could add clarity to an industry that's often mischaracterized.
For example, after a League of Legends championship event claimed 99.6 million unique viewers last year, many media outlets reported that it was nearly as popular as the Super Bowl. But the Super Bowl ratings are U.S.-only, and calculated on an average; esports numbers are often given as a maximum, and are generally global.
StreamMetrics analyzed U.S. streams for the two primary ways fans watch esports: Amazon.com's Twitch and YouTube. For Twitch, the audience is the main Fortnite channel, as well as the 13 largest co-streams hosted by streamers. YouTube's count is based on the main Fortnite channel and the top five co-streams of the event.
While Twitch and YouTube have dominated esports streaming, Nemo expects that competitors will gain ground in the next six to nine months. That includes Microsoft's Mixer platform, which turned heads earlier this month when it signed an exclusive streaming deal with celebrity gamer Tyler "Ninja" Blevins. Nemo said esports is growing too fast to keep streams on only two platforms and that companies are going to try to add unique ways of presenting content to the market.
For StreamMetrics, the goal is simple: building a following by tracking the data.
"We want to be the tool that helps track the growth in viewership and present it in a way with metrics that makes sense to brands and advertisers," he said.