Betar, one of Twitch’s most popular streamers and a talented gamer, had suffered a dispiriting, weeks-long string of “Fall Guys” losses. (The game’s official Twitter account, which currently boasts over 1.5 million followers, had taken to taunting him for it). Now, he was inches from his first win. He maneuvered carefully from platform to platform, with his character, dressed as a hot dog, running, bouncing, diving and bobbing not-so-gracefully across the playing field. And on the virtual sidelines, over 335,000 had tuned in to watch.
Then, the ground gave way under his opponent.
“You said it couldn’t be done!” Betar screamed as his opponent fell into the slime. “There’s the king! Put my crown on!” This wasn’t just another moment for Betar, who already had millions of Twitch followers and been featured in a Super Bowl commercial before “Fall Guys” launched on Aug. 4. His “Fall Guys” victory was his most-watched stream ever.
“He’s never seen such numbers,” StreamElements CEO Doron Nir, who had been tracking “Fall Guys” viewing numbers since the game launched, said of Betar’s viral stream. “And he probably won’t again.”
“Fall Guys” has become a sensation on Twitch. Viewers watched more than 100 million hours of “Fall Guys” players flopping like Betar did throughout August. Streamers of all kinds, from NASA engineers to chess champions, have gotten a boost in viewership after incorporating the battle royale into their streaming schedule. A few of those streamers have even played “Fall Guys” like the TV game shows it was inspired by, talking over matches like John Anderson would narrate a round of “Wipeout.”
But while “Fall Guys'” magic-in-a-bottle success has all the trappings of another “Fortnite”-like rise to fame, it’s not likely we see another Tyler “Ninja” Blevins situation, where a streamer rides the game’s wave to stardom.
“I wouldn’t bet on someone like Ninja emerging from all this,” Nir said. The streamers riding the wave of success are already at the top.
Of the millions of hours of “Fall Guys” watched over the last month, 2.8 million went to Betar, 2.5 million went to former Overwatch pro Félix “xQc” Lengyel and 1.5 million hours to Saqib “LIRIK” Zahid. Smaller streamers did get a big boost, but notable names netted a chunk of the viewers that flocked to Twitch specifically to see people fail.
But viral losing streaks are hardly the only reason people watch “Fall Guys.” Other streamers across YouTube, Twitch and elsewhere have tried to set themselves apart from the pack by broadcasting the hit in other ways.
Joe Walsh, the lead game designer of “Fall Guys,” was carefully timing his jumps as bright gold rotating beams nearly knocked him off a huge doughnut-shaped platform. As segments of the doughnut fell away, bit by bit, and the beams spun progressively faster and out of sync with one another, Walsh wanted to be the last player standing. But his mind was elsewhere.
“Yeah, they’re still pretty bi- ah god,” Walsh said, as he tripped and flopped on his face. He was in the middle of being interviewed on the “Fall Guys” talk show Talk Guys. As the Jump Club minigame wound down (or up, depending on whether you’re spectating or playing) it came down to the final two players. Then, Walsh grabbed the in-game avatar of the show’s co-host Kate Stark, forcing her to collide with a beam and fall into the slime below.
“Oh my god,” she laughed in semi-frustration after getting thrown into the slime. “You are so toxic."
Stark and Gary Whitta, who had previously created the “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” talk show Animal Talking, started Talk Guys as a way to play their new favorite game while interviewing top streamers and celebrities like Ben “DrLupo” Lupo and Felicia Day. The duo compares it to First We Feast’s Hot Ones, where guests have to answer questions as they eat progressively spicier chicken wings.
“Instead of hot chicken wings we have rage inducing minigames,” said Whitta, who let out a litany of curses after getting knocked off the same Jump Club stage himself.
“Fall Guys” developer Mediatonic was inspired by the Japanese game show “Takeshi’s Castle,” a cult classic that had contestants running through similar obstacle courses to survive from round to round. The studio hopes to add more game show-like features, including a broadcast mode that lets streamers control the camera, and Twitch integration where viewers can control in-game cannons. They want “Fall Guys” to run for years and hope to see streamers produce their own home-brewed version of game shows like “Wipeout” or “Hole in the Wall.”
“It's the type of entertainment that anyone can relate to,” top “Fortnite” streamer Ali “SypherPK” Hasan tells The Post. He's been streaming “Fall Guys” nonstop since it launched and is now launching an America's Funniest Home Videos-like YouTube show to capitalize on the hype. “This channel is more like a show, where we try different challenges and edit them together like comedy sketches."
Hasan is trying to build the “Fall Guys”-centered channel off the success he's seen while streaming the game on Twitch. He normally streams to an audience of around 15,000 when playing “Fortnite,” but loses the majority of his audience if he switches to a different game. But he keeps the majority of that audience, sometimes gaining even more viewers, when he switches to “Fall Guys.”
Hasan grew a huge Twitch audience with his skilled “Fortnite” play. By comparison, “Fall Guys” is a more calming experience. Winning isn’t as important as it is in “Call of Duty: Warzone,” “Valorant” and other top games on Twitch.
“People have a certain expectation to win when I play ‘Fortnite,’ but when you play ‘Fall Guys’ there isn't any expectation,” Hasan said. “People want to tune out if you're playing those games and are losing. … ‘Fall Guys’ has the opposite effect. Just look at what happened with Tim."
Sweaty hands, increased heart rates and stress-induced rages are common occurrences when browsing through the catalogue of streamers playing the game. But the humor that undergirds failure in “Fall Guys” — where the obstacles and surfaces are primed to pinball the player’s jelly bean body at the slightest misstep — has given anyone who plays the game on stream a chance to be successful. Players who had trouble getting victory royales in “Fortnite” can still grow an audience by losing over and over again on Fall Mountain. But when a streamer finally finds success, especially after hours (sometimes days) of falling short, it is one of the most heartwarming things you can find on Twitch.
“I stopped playing ‘Minecraft’ and pulled up his stream when Tim was about to win. I was unbelievably happy when he got his first crown,” Stark said. “I mean, ‘he did it’ was trending on Twitter. The fact that something so small could mean so much to people is really special.”
Aron Garst is a writer covering the video game and esports industries. You can find his work regularly in ESPN, WIRED, The Verge and EGMNOW. Follow him on Twitter @GarstProducton.