The 5 most watched games of 2020 (On YouTube)

The year of 2020 will not soon be forgotten. An unprecedented year to say the least, a global pandemic and countries administering quarantines where necessary meant that a great deal of people were confined indoors and took refuge in an effort to offset boredom by either playing games or watching other people play games.

Twitch is no doubt still the biggest player when it comes to watching video game content. There are other companies and platforms out there that eek away at their margins. Facebook Gaming, YouTube, formerly Mixer (RIP), they’re not quite storming the purple castle just yet.

While YouTube is not the premier location for video game livestreams, many Twitch streamers have a YouTube presence of some sort and often use the website as a repository for the VODs, montages, or just their more planned video projects that aren’t right for Twitch.

The following data comes from YouTube themselves, and is an indication of what their audience is consuming, and potentially to some degree what they’re promoting. Without further ado, these are the top five most viewed video games on YouTube in 2020.

Minecraft (201 Billion Views)

It boggles my mind personally how Minecraft became such a staple of Gen Z pop culture in the first place, and the fact that it’s generating over twice the views of its nearest rival is bewildering to me, but the numbers don’t lie.

People like PrestonPlayz, DanTDM, and long time Minecraft veteran CaptainSparklez all continue to add big numbers to the game’s grand total on the platform, whether that’s from direct streaming or using YouTube as a virtual storage space for their VODs. There were also several streams from big names in the Minecraft scene that benefited Covid-19 relief efforts, and (while not obviously done for this reason) this would have bolstered the views the game received overall.

The now Microsoft owned title seems like it will be an almost endless supply of content for at least the near future, and it being a kid-friendly video game it has a huge demographic that YouTube will promote as much as possible, so expect to see this as the number one result again in 2021 and beyond.

Roblox (75 Billion Views)

Roblox is a series that makes me feel incredibly old, much like something like Tik Tok does as I just don’t get it. The alternative Minecraft has grown quite the audience, and has likely been helped in no small part by the shooter mod, Bad Business.

Being another family-centric avenue of content, YouTube stands to reach a wider audience, get more views and make more money by promoting Roblox to the right age group (if you’re thinking about it cynically of course). The fact that it’s more or less a newer version of Minecraft with a slightly different aesthetic therefore means it makes logical sense that Roblox is running second place to its more storied genre brethren.

An extremely popular form of the content is creating “movies” and stories using the customisable characters, and while this certainly isn’t what I look for in my content, I’d imagine it’s just the thing kids will want to watch infinitely and from as many sources as possible.

Garena Free Fire (72 Billion Views)

So, I will confess that Garena Free Fire has not been on my radar before writing this, but upon doing my research, it seems like it's a mix of Fortnite, PlayerUnknown’s Battleground with a slight hint of Grand Theft Auto in the GFF account design as well. Apparently, it doesn’t matter that I’ve never heard of it because this mobile Battle Royale has been doing just fine with its viewership and has no problem racking up insane metrics.

The channel Badge 99 is seemingly the frontrunner for providing Garena Free Fire content, with a whopping four million subscribers and regularly getting around one million views per video. P.K. Gamers is also a channel that has found success with GFF, but from the content I’ve found there’s little commentary and what videos I have found that have a voiceover in some context are non-English speaking so they’re probably raking in a huge portion of the non-Western market.

Being a mobile title, it’s impressive that it managed to get this high in the viewing rankings and outperform games like Call of Duty Mobile and PUBG Mobile, games that you would think have typically wider appeal for the weight that their names carry.

Grand Theft Auto V (70 Billion Views)

Despite being launched almost eight years ago, Rockstar’s prime series is still pulling in a crazy amount of views on YouTube alone. Whether people want to watch gold medal guides to missions, insane stunt races, or mods featuring Marvel characters, it seems as though GTA V is still as popular as ever.

GTA V has done a great job of staying current thanks to its near limitless stream of content that Rockstar keeps supplying it with (all of which being completely free), with the Cayo Perico Heist being the latest edition that adds a completely new map to the game. The users GTAseries have helped the community with guides on how to do basically everything in the game and MrBossFTW makes almost daily uploads about content for GTA Online.

Sadly, Red Dead Online has not been anywhere near as popular as Grand Theft Auto Online, but I think that’s been more related to Rockstar’s lack of genuine content for it. And with GTA Online accounts receiving updates even today, I think it shows a clear bias and that Rockstar has a favourite child when it comes to the two games.

Fortnite (67 Billion Views)

Another familiar face, other Battle Royale titles like PUBG, Apex Legends, and Call of Duty Warzone have entered the scene within the last few years, but Fortnite has withstood these usurpers at the gate and racked up over 60 billion views in the twelve months of 2020.

It’s no coincidence that Fortnite has managed to maintain its relevance as not only a video game that people want to keep playing, but to stay up to date in pop culture thanks to its numerous crossover events with other popular video games, film franchises, and its outside-the-box events like its special screening of a Rise of Skywalker trailer and Travis Scott’s virtual concert.

Epic Games’ marketing strategy deserves some big kudos for the plays that they’ve made. When they shut down the game for a day after the asteroid hit and “destroyed the map”, the event made national news after many children were left annoyed and confused and probably led to them complaining to their parents.

There’s no doubt we’ll see more collaborations from Fortnite and other franchises in the future, and you'll continue to see big numbers from the game.

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