For years now, Twitch’s record for most concurrent viewers on a single streamer’s channel has been hotly contested, with streamers topping each other in slow-building increments. Today, however, Spanish streamer TheGrefg made everybody else look like they’d been wrestling for discarded peanut shells. As of writing, he topped out at nearly 2.5 million—a new all-time record that beats not just individual channels, but entire games.
Today, TheGrefg, a popular Spanish streamer, revealed his official Fortnite skin, which brought so many viewers to his channel that he managed to break the record for most concurrent viewers on an individual’s stream—a record that, according to some measures, he previously held, having managed to pull 660,000 concurrent viewers to his Fortnite Galactus event stream in December. Previous holders of this record include household names like Tyler “Ninja” Blevins.
But TheGrefg didn’t stop there. Time and time again, Twitch has proven that the most fertile soil for hype is... hype. As word got out about TheGrefg’s accomplishment, more and more viewers piled into his channel. His viewer count skyrocketed, first past 1 million concurrent viewers, then 2 million, all the way up to well over 2.4 million.
Previously, Fortnite held the record for most viewers across Twitch, pulling 2.3 million concurrent viewers to its season-ending “Device” event in June of last year. But these viewers were spread across numerous channels, and in-game space to experience the event was limited, which forced many to watch it via their favorite streamers. During a stream that started as an announcement of his Fortnite skin, TheGrefg singlehandedly beat Fortnite.
This might seem like it came out of nowhere, but it really didn’t. Over the past couple years, international streamers have grown in popularity, with Spanish streamers snagging an especially large piece of the pie. If you check Twitch’s most popular games and categories—Fortnite, Minecraft, Rust, Just Chatting, etc—it’s common to see not just the top most-viewed slot occupied by an international stream, but the top handful of slots. According to data provided by streaming utilities company StreamElements and analytics partner Arsenal.gg, four of the top ten Twitch streamers of 2020 (in terms of hours watched) were international streamers, with three of them—Auronplay, Ibai, and Rubius—primarily speaking Spanish.
However, while there are bilingual and multilingual streamers, Twitch is still widely divided along linguistic lines. Spanish streamers, for example, recently made their own server for resurgent survival game Rust. Though the Spanish server does not overlap with that of English-speaking streamer collective OfflineTV, who are commonly credited with making Rust big again, it nonetheless was the primary driver of one of the game’s biggest weekend’s ever.
Doubtless, international audiences on Twitch will only continue to grow as more time passes. This will force Twitch to reckon with tests the wider gaming community hasn’t exactly passed with flying colors. For example, on Steam English remains users’ primary language choice at 34.71%, but Chinese (27.94%), Russian (10.33%), and Spanish (4.62%) are not far behind. Despite this, Steam has struggled for years with racism and xenophobia, born in part of a hands-off approach to moderation. Twitch tends to be more hands-on, but it’s highly inconsistent and relies on users to do the lion’s share of day-to-day moderation of their own channels. Among other things, this has resulted in some channels outright banning non-English speakers. In other words, even outside of obvious racism, which Twitch forbids in its rules, tensions exist. How the company will handle them in the coming years remains to be seen.