The Game Awards garnered a whopping 83 million livestreams for its 2020 ceremony, marking record viewership for the annual show and a whopping 84% increase from last year’s 45.2 million livestreams.
The show, which saw “The Last of Us Part II” take home game of the year, peaked at 8.3 million concurrent viewers globally. The Game Awards partnered with 40 streaming networks around the world to air the ceremony live. Twitch reached a peak concurrent audience of 2.63 million viewers globally, and according to Stream Hatchet, viewership of the official livestream on Twitch, YouTube and Facebook Gaming climbed 129% year-over-year.
On Twitter, The Game Awards saw a 31% increase in conversation volume year-over-year, with unique authors up 65%.
For host Geoff Keighley, the numbers, which come after several years of consistent growth, are a sign to just keep growing what they’ve already built.
“Our philosophy has always been to be very authentic and real and we’re not looking to now put this show on NBC or sell it. We really want to do something that’s at the heart of what we do,” he tells Variety. “When we grow like this year after year after year, we’re just gonna keep kind of moving in the same direction and focus more on the global aspect of it.”
The ceremony itself did go global for the first time this year, taking place in Los Angeles, London and Tokyo in three in-studio, audience-less locations. Typically, The Game Awards takes place in L.A.’s Microsoft Theatre in front of a packed crowd, but, like every other award show this year, it was forced to pivot as the COVID-19 pandemic halted large in-person gatherings.
Despite the circumstances, Keighley says, it didn’t feel too differently from other shows. It still had its major components — the awards, musical performances and exclusive reveals — and the host acknowledges that the vast majority of its audience has always been online anyway.
Still, he says, the uncertainty was the biggest challenge. Unable to know if they’d actually be able to pull off their Plan A, the three-location approach, Keighley and his team had to plan for multiple scenarios.
“For our team, you’re kind of building two or three shows in parallel and knowing that you might have to shift to one of them,” he says. “It was a challenging thing to do that, and then also to know that all three scenarios were very different than what we normally do. So one of the scenarios wasn’t like, ‘Oh, we’re at the Microsoft Theatre doing the same show.’ All of the other scenarios were completely new, so we kind of had to reinvent the wheel three times over.”
And this year still managed to include more A-listers than ever before. In addition to musical performances from Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, it also included virtual appearances from Keanu Reeves, Brie Larson, Tom Holland, Gal Gadot, Christopher Nolan, John David Washington and more.
Those big names were naturally a little more available this year due to lockdown, but Keighley says each of the special guests were there out of a “real respect for gaming.” Plus, those celebrities do help give the show a bit more credibility in the mainstream.
“We still, sadly — even though the show is as big as it is — we still face this perception problem, especially at these bigger magazines,” he says. “This is a show that’s as big as the Oscars, but it’s not perceived that way in sort of mainstream circles. Which is okay, I think we’re slowly getting there. But I think those kind of things help sort of shape the narrative of, ‘wait, this is a pretty big event.'”
Still, it’s a delicate balance, one that Keighley has been treading for years. Going forward, Keighley wants to make sure that the show continues to represent gaming, and not become “just a general entertainment show,” even as video games become more and more entwined with the entertainment industry and the mainstream at large.
“It’s great to have the celebrity talent there, and we welcome them, especially the ones we had this year who were all fantastic,” he says. “But at the end of the day, the ‘Among Us’ new map reveal is probably the biggest booking we could get at this show.”