Escape From Tarkov is currently the third largest category on Twitch, with over ninety thousand viewers as this article is published. This gritty shooter has a Twitch event to thank for its big glow up.
Escape From Tarkov, a military shooter currently in open beta, is about as hardcore as it gets. It’s the kind of game that asks you to count your bullets, inspect your magazines before you reload, and guard your loot from thieving players. Heather Alexandra compared it to a combination of Arma and Borderlands when it was released in January of 2018, writing, “Going out on raids and stealing gear before getting into a massive gunfight that you barely survive is a thrilling experience. Tarkov is punishing, but there’s a lot of fun to be found in mastering its complexities and slowly becoming a hardened mercenary.”
I wouldn’t have expected this to become a sudden smash hit on Twitch, especially not two years after its initial beta release, but over the weekend every single Twitch streamer I follow on Twitter was playing the game. Some of that is explained by a simple marketing gimmick. From December 30 to January 5, Tarkov players could earn loot drops for watching streams of the game. According to Twitch Metrics, a third-party service that tracks viewers on Twitch, viewers of Tarkov streams shot from around forty thousand average viewers on December 29th to over one hundred twenty thousand on the 30th, tripling viewership in one day. The game only got more popular as the event went on. At its peak on Saturday, January 4th, there were over two hundred thousand viewers.
I don’t think the game’s rise on Twitch is only about marketing though. As I’ve been trying to understand what Tarkov, ya know, is, I’ve discovered a simple fact: it is hilarious to watch. Take this clip of socialist dreamboat Hasan Piker getting the shit scared out of him by his teammate.
Or this other clip of CohhCarnage accidentally killing everyone on his team but missing the one person who was actually shooting at them.
The game’s serious tone has revealed a huge potential for comedy. Nothing is funnier than when a person in a life-or-death situation completely fucking whiffs it. It’s why you always laugh when Road Runner leads Coyote off a cliff. Just like PUBG before it, Escape From Tarkov is great television. Although time will tell if people keep watching Tarkov now that the Twitch event is over, I hope that there will be more funny clips that I can send to my coworkers in the weeks to come.