The viewership and player count of Rust has skyrocketed to record highs recently, leading to a massive payday for the developer FacePunch Studios.
Rust is a brutal game, in a good way. In the game, players start out naked with a rock and a torch on a procedurally generated (i.e. random) map where they must fend for themselves. Scavenging, crafting, and surviving is the name of the game — and it often turns violent.
Since it’s full release in 2018, Rust has always had a steady player base of 50,000 to 75,000. Recently, this has peaked to 243,988. In addition to surging viewership on Twitch, you could say Rust is having a moment.
This surge is thanks to popular video game streamers. Near the end of December, popular livestreamers such as xQc (7.4 million followers) and Pokimane (7.1 million followers) began playing together in the same “world” (aka server). By streaming their hijinks to their fans, this exposure caused a massive breakout for the game as fans wanted to get in on the action. Of course, the popularity of multiplayer games during the COVID-19 pandemic is also a factor.
Imagine a lawless, desolate world where a man evades the clutches of Team Rocket in order to fulfill his dreams of starting a waste management company. I didn’t make that up. Rust is the perfect game for streamers because it’s an open world where the player can do whatever they want, whenever they want. This lack of structure keeps viewers engaged since they don’t entirely know what’s going to happen next.
Getting streamers to play your game is arguably the best advertising you can get as a developer. Although technically any game can be live streamed, open world/open ended games such as Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto, and World of Warcraft consistently do well in terms of views. Viewership translates into player interest, player interest translates into sales, and sales translates into updates which keep viewers engaged longer.
Thanks to streamers, player interest is at an all time high which has led to $2 million worth of sales and microtransactions in two days. The question is whether or not FacePunch Studios can keep this engagement alive for the foreseeable future.
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