Entertainment

10 best streamers of the decade

by Calum Patterson

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Since the early days of Justin.tv, and its transformation to Twitch in 2011, livestreaming of all varieties has skyrocketed in popularity in the last ten years. Here are the top 10 streamers who defined this decade and set the standard for the streamers of the future.

Now widespread and mainstream, livestreaming started this decade as a niche. Big-name YouTubers and professional players would use it as a side-gig, as a cool way to interact with fans, but it took some truly innovative individuals to create the network of streaming we see today.

Early adopters of livestreaming set the groundwork: Day9, GoldGlove, DansGaming and many more, but the explosion of the medium came later in the decade. This list is aimed at compiling the most successful and influential streamers from 2010-2019.

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It should be noted that this list is only for those creators who are best known for their livestream content. This means YouTuber’s or professional players (for example ProSyndicate or Faker) will not be present, as their success and popularity is owed more to their other ventures than streaming.

There were a handful of names who could have deserved a spot on this list (stick around for some honorable mentions at the end), but this has been narrowed down to our top 10.

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10. Castro_1021: The king of FIFA

Twitter: @castro_1021
Twitter: @castro_1021

28-year-old Edwin Castro stands out on this list as the only FIFA streamer, and rightfully so. Starting out on Twitch and YouTube in 2014, Castro’s exciting and boisterous streams were the template which many other FIFA streamers and content creators emulated. But, his charismatic personality and charitable nature made him stand out from the crowd, head and shoulders above the competition.

In both 2015 and 2016, after his mother had brain surgery, Castro’s charity livestreams for Macmillan Cancer Support and St Jude’s Research Hospital raised hundreds of thousands. As of 2019, he has raised almost $400,000 for good causes. EA even gave him his own 95-rated ‘hero’ Castro card in 2016, in recognition of his charity efforts.

In 2017, he became the most followed FIFA channel, and in 2019 surpassed 2 million total followers on Twitch, adding to his 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube.

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9. Pokimane - Leading the way for female streamers

Twitch: Pokimane
Twitch: Pokimane

Twitch’s number one female streamer, Imane ‘Pokimane’ Anys has paved the way for others to follow in the coming decade, as the livestreaming space becomes less male-dominated. The Morrocan-Canadian has only been streaming since 2016, but in that time has risen to become one of the platforms biggest stars, in the face of daunting competition.

Her ability to capture an audience regardless of the game she’s playing (or not playing one at all) is the envy of many other streamers. Her meteoric rise in 2017 earned her the title of Streamer of the Year at the Shorty Awards, and she has gone from strength to strength since. Continued and exponential growth proves her ability to adapt, moving from League of Legends to Fortnite and much more. Perhaps most impressive, is her ability to avoid and bat down controversy and drama. Now boasting a whopping 3.6 million followers (12th overall), she heads into 2020 as the uncontested top female streamer, and as streaming becomes more mainstream, the sky is the limit.

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8. TimTheTatman - Proof that consistency is key

Twitch: TimTheTatman
Twitch: TimTheTatman

One of the veterans of Twitch, Tim ‘TimTheTatman’ Betar started out as a variety gaming streamer in 2012, when the platform was still in its infancy. He quickly positioned himself as a rising star, and over the years has attracted big-name sponsors including Monster Energy, Audio-Technica and Razer. 

His longevity is the reason he makes this list though, as Tim has been a constant in the otherwise turbulent world of content creation, where ‘flavor of the month’ streamers rise and fall. Regardless of the game he’s playing, the Tatman’s streams often attract upwards of 20,000 live viewers, who stay for the gameplay, the community, and infectious laughter. Ten years on from now, we won’t be surprised to see Betar’s stream still pulling in tens of thousands of viewers every day, thanks to his almost unparalleled consistency and dedication.

7. Sodapoppin - Redefining what streaming can be

Twitch: sodapoppin
Twitch: sodapoppin

Another streamer who started in the early days of Twitch in 2012, Chance ‘Sodapoppin’ Morris has come to define and redefine IRL and variety streaming, as well as making it his own. Morris actually started out on Xfire, a site that is now a relic of the past, but was where many early adopters of livestreaming made their bones.

One of Sodapoppin’s great feats over the decade has been his ability to move between all manner of content, from gaining popularity as one of the world’s top World of Warcraft players, to gambling streams, and just about everything in between. His ‘sellout Sunday’ broadcasts, where viewers donate to have any video played on stream, became a hit, and is a formula other streamers have also borrowed. Reruns of these episodes on his YouTube channel have amassed millions of views too. He has maintained his relevancy throughout all the developments and changes in streaming culture, still averaging over 26,000 concurrent live viewers throughout 2019. A streaming veteran and innovator, Sodapoppin will be remembered as one of top variety channels of the decade.

6. Imaqtpie - A LoL legend

Imaqtpie
Imaqtpie

Fortnite might be the biggest game for streaming right now, but before that, League of Legends was top dog, and Michael ‘imaqtpie’ Santana has been the face of LoL streaming for much of the decade. Formerly a professional player for Team Dignitas, imaqtpie made the transition to full-time streaming in 2014, and quickly became the biggest name in League of Legends on Twitch. As LoL became a livestreaming sensation, viewers flocked to Santana’s channel, for the perfect blend of entertainment and high-level gameplay.

His channel currently boasts the 4th most unique views of any individual streamer, which is even more impressive given his dedication to only one game. He was the first winner of  ‘Streamer of the Year’ at the inagural Esports Industry Awards in 2016, and there was no more deserved winner of that title at the time. Admittedly, League of Legends has been pushed to the number two spot on Twitch pretty much since Fortnite took over in early 2018, and LoL streamers generally have seen a decline in viewership, but imaqtpie has been at the forefront, for this decade at least.

5. LIRIK - Variety gaming at its best

Twitter: LIRIK
Twitter: LIRIK

Saqib ‘LIRIK’ Zahid started on Twitch in its first year, back in 2011, and has come to represent the quintessential variety streamer. His success is unprecedented, not least because of his eclectic taste in games, but the fact that he never streams with a camera. Very few other streamers can boast anywhere near LIRIK’s success while not showing their face on stream (Dakotaz is another), and it's a testament to just how enjoyable Zahid’s streams are - and have been - for almost ten years running.

It wasn’t until around 2014 that LIRIK began to rise to the upper echelon of Twitch, but he quickly surpassed much of the competition, exploding in 2015 and continuing to stay in the top 5 throughout the next two years. Even when Fortnite took over, LIRIK was able to dabble in and out of a variety of games, while seemingly everyone else had jumped on the battle royale hype train. When a new game releases, LIRIK’s channel is the first port of call for many gamers, who will often make their own purchase decisions after seeing him take it on first. With no face cam and no over-the-top hype and exuberance, LIRIK is the standard by which no-nonsense variety gaming streaming is judged.

4. Dr Disrespect - "The face of Twitch"

Twitch: Dr Disrespect
Twitch: Dr Disrespect

Compared to the names before him, Dr Disrespect (real name Guy Beahm) is a relative newcomer to streaming. A former game dev working on Call of Duty, Beahm had actually started his character as early as 2010, and brought it back for his foray into Twitch streaming after quitting his development job in 2015.

It was a leap of faith that most certainly paid off for the Doc, as his White Goodman-like character was an instant hit, sending him to Twitch stardom as early as 2016 thanks to his H1Z1 streams. Moving on to PUBG, Fortnite and now a wide variety of games, it is the Dr Disrespect character that keeps fans coming back. One of the great innovators of streaming, Beahm took production value of broadcasts to another level, combining green screens, transitions, audio mixes and more to elevate livestreaming to a place that had never been seen before, and is unrivaled to this day. He’s also helped push video game streaming more into the public eye, even featuring in a recent Jimmy Kimmel sketch on national television. Despite being a late entry into this decade, 2020 is wide open for Dr Disrespect to truly become the face of Twitch.

3. Shroud - All skill, no fill

Twitter: @shroud
Twitter: @shroud

Michael 'shroud' Grzesiek is the shining example of a professional player making the transition to full-time streaming, and completely taking over. After retiring from CS:GO at the pro level, shroud was the leading star at the dawn of the battle royale craze on Twitch, and his PUBG streams in 2017 are still seen by many as his golden age.

He blew everyone’s mind when he first hit 30,000 subscribers in 2017 – an unthinkable number at the time – and he has gone from strength to strength since. He hit 100,000 subscribers in March 2019, coinciding with the launch of Apex Legends, another first-person shooter he instantly dominated. His nickname ‘human aimbot’ is well-deserved, and to this day he continues to wow his millions of fans with unmatched technical ability in almost any FPS game he touches. Now on Mixer, shroud will aim to diversify the streaming medium even more beyond Twitch, and this next decade could be his best yet.

2. Ninja - Taking streaming to the mainstream

YouTube: Ninja
YouTube: Ninja

Despite only reaching his current levels of popularity in early 2018, there is an argument that Ninja deserves number one on this decade list. He started streaming when he was a Halo professional, and ran a popular channel that most streamers would envy, but it was the meteoric rise of Fortnite that took Ninja to the unprecedented levels we see today.

Month on month, Ninja kept breaking records; most viewers, most followers, and, as Twitch hit critical mass, he hit a peak of 250,000 subscribers - a feat that has never been replicated by anyone since. The level of Blevin’s fame hit home when he got a few games in with Drake and Travis Scott, breaking the concurrent viewership record for an individual creator - a record he surpassed with his own Fortnite tournament only a few months later.

In addition to appearances on Super Bowl ads and Jimmy Fallon, his sponsorships with the likes of Adidas and Red Bull, Ninja has led the way in de-monopolizing Twitch in the livestreaming space, when he shocked the world with his move to Mixer. He quickly broke their subscriber record too, reaching 1 million subs in only 5 days (although they were free for his first month). Ninja’s ambitions go beyond livestreaming in the next decade, as he aims to be the leader of gaming entertainment’s next evolution.

1. Summit1g - The ultimate trendsetter for a decade

Twitch: summit1g
Twitch: summit1g

Even in the face of Ninja's unprecedented success, for a list of the entire decade, there's only one name that can sit at number one. For a decade-long list, it seems only right that the most influential and continually successful streamer for the better part of 10 years take top spot. For that, look no further than Jaryd ‘summit1g’ Lazar.

For those less familiar with summit, he may seem like just another variety streamer who has somehow managed to remain popular over the years. But, if there is one individual who has constantly led the way and been a trendsetter for most of the last decade, summit is undoubtedly that person. Streaming since 2012, not only is he a veteran of Twitch, Lazar has also inspired countless others. Formerly a semi-pro CS:GO player, he is technically skilled, highly entertaining, and willing to try his hand at any game. More than any other streamer, he has proven time and time again to be the trailblazer. From Sea of Thieves to GTA RP, if there’s a new trend on Twitch, Summit1g probably started it.

He became the most followed streamer in January 2018. Although he has since lost that title, he later reclaimed the spot as the most subscribed streamer in 2019, taking over the likes of Ninja and shroud, eight years into his Twitch career. It’s this unparalleled longevity at the top that earns him the spot above Ninja. His relevance has never waned after eight years on Twitch, and his ability to still be at the forefront of streaming trends is why he earns number one for the decade. He has remained controversy-free and always dedicated to his community, never hopping on trends, but always creating them.

Honorable mentions

It was difficult to narrow down the many great broadcasters that have defined this groundbreaking decade for streaming, and there were many deserving names left off the top 10. Imaqtpie’s fellow League of Legends streamers like Nightblue3 and tyler1 helped him dominate the charts at the height of LoL’s popularity. Streamers like Forsen, Asmongold and Kripp all made their favorite games their domain, and attracted huge and loyal fanbases over the years, in games like Hearthstone and World of Warcraft.

The emergence of IRL streaming has also been a talking point this decade, with ICE_POSEIDON, Greekgodx and even Andy Milonakis are just some of the names behind the phenomenon.

Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
xQc is primed to be one of the biggest stars in 2020.

Professional players have also been a massive attraction to streaming. Some of the best streamers to double as pro players include the likes of Nadeshot and Scump in Call of Duty, s1mple and ScreaM in CS:GO, Faker and Sneaky in League of Legends, and so many more.

As we look to the next decade, there is a new set of stars who are primed to take over. Missing out on this list due to becoming most popular in the latter part of this decade, xQc, NICKMERCS, Tfue, Myth, DrLupo, Dakotaz and Daequan could be on this very list in 2029. The future of gaming livestreaming is more promising than ever.