League of Legends‘ Twitch presence hasn’t been waning by any stretch, but there has been a large void in the streaming community of Riot’s stalwart MOBA title ever since the banning of Tyler “Tyler1” Steinkamp from the game. The streamer, known for producing strategies based entirely on trolling his teammates and opponents alongside extremely toxic behavior, was banned indefinitely in spring 2016. Calls to “free Tyler1” have been present in every high-profile League of Legends event’s Twitch chat ever since, and Riot finally caved, allowing Tyler1 to return to the game and to the Twitch streaming platform as a result on January 8, 2018.
What followed was the complete shattering of the record for most concurrent viewers for a non-event. The record was previously held by SK Telecom 1’s Faker, the consensus best League of Legends player in the history of the esport, with 245,000 concurrent viewers at the peak of his first forays into streaming. Tyler1’s return swiftly climbed over 300,000 concurrent viewers in under 20 minutes, with the peak concurrent viewer number reaching somewhere over 400,000 people.
Tyler1’s return was always going to be a big deal—regardless of his toxic behavior, or perhaps because of it, he had cultivated a massive following prior to his banning—but it appears Twitch may not have anticipated people were going to respond so quickly and in such numbers. Twitch’s streaming services went down right around the same time Tyler1’s stream hit 300,000 viewers so quickly, and although the incidents may not be related, it seems more likely that they are.
Beyond the staggering numbers of his viewership, however, Tyler1 also showcased a new personality on stream. When teammates made mistakes, Tyler1 would respond with positivity and advice rather than offensive statements, and he consistently refuted players’ and viewers’ attempts at baiting him into falling back on his old, more polarizing habits. If that behavior holds, it will be a huge boon to League of Legends and other esports titles looking to be perceived as more legitimate sporting avenues ahead of a 2022 Olympic debut.
The self-labelled “most reformed player” in League of Legends certainly has a long way to go in proving that title to be true, but the first stream in his much-anticipated return offers some hope that his presence—and the huge influence he wields over League of Legends player toxicity—might just be a net positive for Riot Games and the League of Legends community.