Academy Awards vs Game Awards Viewership: Are Video Games More Popular Than Cinema?

The Academy Awards, more popularly known as the Oscars, are the biggest night for Hollywood. It’s a prestigious awards event meant to highlight the artistic and technical talent the movie industry has to offer. So why is its view count shrinking?

Many people speculate about the Oscars’ diminishing popularity. At the same time, they can’t help but notice another awards show that attracts increasingly more viewers and fans: the Game Awards.

The Game Awards started out as a modest endeavor in 2014. Now, it has become popular enough to have people compare it to the Academy Awards in less than a decade. Let’s see why that is, and if we can truly make that comparison. 

What Happened to the Oscars Viewership?

The Oscars audience is slowly but surely declining. In 2020, just before the pandemic was officially declared, the Oscars registered its record-low audience with an estimated 23.6 million viewers. Compare that to the 1998 audience when 55.2 million viewers tuned in to see Titanic as the winner, and you might see the problem. 

The Academy has closely monitored viewer count since 1974 through data and analytics company Nielsen. 

YearNumber of Viewers (In Millions)

In 2022 the Oscars drew in 16.6 million viewers. It’s substantially better than 2021’s 10.4 million viewers but still very low. The dip in 2021 might be understandable given Covid-19 restrictions, with many presentators attending virtually via videoconferencing calls.

Even so, we’re looking at a smaller and smaller audience. We’ve heard a lot of fan theories and speculation as to why the Oscars aren’t doing so well: The show is too long, the academy voters aren’t diverse enough, the show is “too woke”, and even that Hollywood makes too many superhero movies. 

Let’s look over these theories and see whether they hold any truth.

“Nobody Watches TV Anymore”

It’s true streaming services started a cable-cutting trend but the Oscars are easy to find online. The ceremony was available on ABC, and the proceedings were streamed on different platforms like Hulu, FuboTV, and YouTube TV in 2022. 

If the argument is that no one watches broadcast programming anymore, so they wouldn’t be familiar with the nominated titles, keep in mind that Netflix’s Roma was nominated in 2019. Other nominations like King Richard were also released on streaming platforms like HBO Max. It’s unlikely people who prefer streaming are completely unfamiliar with the movies or actors in the event.

“It’s Because Social Media Ruined Our Attention Span”

Some claim the show drags on for too long. Since we live in the age of TikTok with dissemination of bite-sized information, no one feels like watching an event lasting over 3 hours. 

While this might be true to some extent, people commit to shows with hundreds of episodes like Grey’s Anatomy or Dragon Ball. If the content is good and engaging enough, people will stick around.

“It’s Always the Same Type of Winners”

People have criticized the Academy for years for blatant favoritism towards winners and nominees. Past trends show that the Oscars heavily favor US releases that are romantic historical epics, biographical dramas, romantic dramedies, and family melodramas. These movies are generally released in the last 3 months of the calendar year.

Producers are also aware of this patterns, prompting them to release so-called Oscar baits. Oscar baits refer to movies produced for the sole purpose of fitting these characteristics in hopes of earning a nomination or award. The Deer Hunter (1978) is a classic example of this. It earned 9 Oscar nominations by following the Academy’s preferred formula.

“The Jury and Nominees Aren’t Diverse”

The Academy Awards has long received criticism over its lack of diversity. Since its inception in 1929, only 6.4% of nominees haven’t been white Americans. Since 2010, that number  has increased to 7.5%. 

Because of this, people boycotted the 88th Oscars ceremony (2016) online through the social media hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to counter the Academy’s bias. Celebrities like Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith also skipped the ceremony in protest. In response, the Academy promised changes in its membership, and announced new inclusion standards slated to go into full effect in 2024.

“Hollywood is Becoming Less Relevant”

When the Covid-19 pandemic began, a slew of celebrities filmed themselves covering John Lennon’s Imagine. Seeing celebrities isolating themselves in mansions with private cinemas and huge yards, and claiming “we’re all in this together” shattered many fans’ infatuation with Hollywood elites. This marked the beginning of less and less celebrity worship, even if it was replaced by internet personalities.

Among the younger demographic, Hollywood isn’t that interesting either. Only 10% of Gen Z seem to prefer movies and shows as their main source of entertainment. Naturally, this will impact the Oscars’ audience numbers in the future. 

“It’s Just a Popularity Award”

In 1955, people first berated the Academy Awards as a popularity contest within the Hollywood private club when Grace Kelly won the Oscar over Judy Garland. Despite 27 films and her acclaimed portrayal of Esther Hoffman in A Star is Born, Garland never won an award. 

Years later, people are still upset with the Academy’s preference for popular movies as opposed to actors’ performances. For example, in 2005, Heath Legder’s subtly moving acting in Brokeback Mountain lost to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s more straight-forward portrayal in Capote

“The Oscars Are Out of Touch”

The Academy started out by promoting fun and mindless escapism through movies. The audience they claim to pander to has long evolved since then, and romantic or historical dramas just aren’t doing it anymore. 

Star Wars fans had a long beef with the Oscars, since the Academy didn’t view the series favourably despite its massive popularity. The jury also overlooks superhero and horror movies, and cult classics like The Terminator, The Shining, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly never received a single nomination. The Academy seems to have a long list of no-no’s when it comes to themes and subjects.

“The Oscars Aren’t for You”

When faced with these points, actor Seth Rogen came up with a good argument. Namely that the Oscars aren’t for the audience but for the industry members to share awards and ideas with like-minded individuals.

We can debate whether Hollywood’s echo chamber is a good idea or not, but it’s by far the best explanation for the decline in Oscars viewership. The question is whether this is a good enough reason for the Academy to accept its dwindling audience. 

What Are the Games of the Year Awards?

As the name might imply, Game of the Year is an awards event presented annually by the Game Awards committee. Established in 2014, the Game of the Year Awards has a voting jury of over 100 video game media outlets and publishers. 

Each jury member completes an unranked ballot which features a top 5 video game choices. The games with the most votes across ballots are selected as nominees. The vote for the final Game of the Year winner is decided by both the jury and public voting. The jury’s vote weighs 90% and the public one 10%. In 2022, the Awards partnered up with Discord to conduct public voting. 

Despite being around for a tenth of the time the Academy Awards has existed, the Game Awards has already had more diverse and genre-diversified nominees. From fantasy to sci-fi, and card games to fighting games, it seems like there’s no gaming equivalent to the Oscar bait. 

YearNominees and Winner
2014Winner: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Bayonetta 2
Dark Souls II 
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
2015Winner: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Fallout 4
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Super Mario Maker
2016Winner: Overwatch
Titanfall 2
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
2017Winner: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Horizon Zero Dawn
Persona 5
Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds
Super Mario Odyssey
2018Winner: God of War
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Marvel’s Spider-Man
Monster Hunter: World
Red Dead Redemption 2 
2019Winner: Sekiro: Die Twice
Death Stranding
Resident Evil 2
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
The Outer Worlds
2020Winner: The Last of Us Part II
Animal Crossing: New Horizons 
Doom Eternal
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Ghost of Tsushima
2021Winner: It Takes Two
Metroid Dread
Psychonauts 2
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Resident Evil Village
2022Winner: Elden Ring
A Plague Tale: Requiem
God of War Ragnarök
Horizon Forbidden West
Xenoblade Chronicles 3

Games published by US publisher Electronic Arts and Japanese publisher Sony Interactive Entertainment has won the award twice. US publisher Bethesda Softworks holds the most nominations with no wins. 

Celebrity guests like Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, and Christopher Nolan have also made appearances during the ceremonies. This goes to show how popular the Game Awards have become recently. 

The Game Awards is attracting a larger and larger audience too. 

YearNumber of Viewers (In Millions)

In 2022, the Game Awards reached its highest numbers of viewers across multiple platforms including Steam, Twitch, YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram.

That isn’t to say the Game Awards has never landed in hot water. Plenty of video game fans have disagreed with the Game of the Year nominees winners in the past, and don’t shy away from expressing their frustration online. 

In 2021, the Game Awards announced it won’t feature video game giant Activision Blizzard, as the company battles numerous lawsuits alleging sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. People were torn between feeling the decision wasn’t fair to developers who worked hard and feeling the Game Awards didn’t take enough of a stand given the seriousness of the accusations. 

A year later, an individual jumped on stage during Elden Ring director Hidetaka Miyazaki’s Game of the Year acceptance speech. The hijacker apparently wanted to nominate Bil Clinton for the award too. Despite the absurdity of this situation, it’s a relief no one was hurt and the man was later arrested. The incident led many to question the Game Awards’ security though. 

The voting system is also often the subject of scrutiny with people feeling their vote counts too little, and accusing the Game Awards of being a popularity contest. This was a huge debate in 2020 when Ghost of Tsushima seemed to be the most popular choice for the Game of the Year award among the public but the controversial (and media-favorite) The Last of Us Part II won.

How Are The Game Awards Different from The Academy Awards?

As award events and ceremonies, the two aren’t very different in principle. They both have a jury, nominees, award winners, an event lasting about three and a half hours, and an audience sweating bullets. That’s about where the similarities end.

First big difference is around the voting process. The Academy has around 6,000 members that decide the nominees. The Game Awards has around 100 video game outlets voting on nominees. The Academy also votes on the winners, whereas the Game Awards has a public vote too. The final Game Awards vote is decided 90% by the jury and 10% by the public. 

The second big difference lies with the nominees, and how diverse they are. While people have for long criticized the Oscars for favoring white actors and dramedies, the Game Awards seem to go stronger on diversity. Publishers from all across North America, Europe, and Asia have been nominated. 

The jury also nominated creators and esports teams from all over the world, titles from both AAA studios and indie developers, and titles handling a wide array of themes and subjects. The Game Awards is far from perfect, but miles better than The Academy Awards in terms of diversity.

The Game Awards is also a great opportunity for promotion but that means it has a lot of corporate sponsorships. In this sense, it might remind you of the Super Bowl more than the Oscars. 

Lastly, of course, they cater to different audiences. The Game Awards is designed for video game studios, developers, esports teams, and gamers. Meanwhile the Academy Awards is of interest to Hollywood celebrities, directors, producers, writers, and lastly cinema aficionados. 

So why do people keep comparing the two, and comparing viewer counts? Well, people put the two side-by-side not so much to compare events, but to compare industries and popularity. 

Are Video Games More Popular Than Movies?

While Oscars fade into obscurity, the Game Awards enjoy a growing crowd of fans and popularity. This could also be linked to the fact that the video game sector is blooming, and seeping into popular culture. The Covid-19 pandemic gave further visibility to video games as a pastime and as a means to connect online with family and friends during times of social distancing. 

We’ve even turned tides on adaptations. It used to be that publishers would turn popular movies like Pirates of the Caribbean into video games to bring in more fans. Nowadays, the hype surrounding adaptations from video games to the big screen is huge. HBO Max’s adaptation of The Last of Us and Netflix’s Arcane are just two examples of series that did extremely well thanks to a preestablished fanbase.

The global video game market size was estimated at $196 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach US$221 billion in 2023. By comparison, the movie and video production industry is estimated at $26.7 billion revenue in 2023.

Naturally, with more people now invested in the gaming industry than Hollywood, awards events are also going to be more popular. In 2022, the Oscars pulled in a record low audience of 16.6 million viewers. By comparison, 103 million people tuned in to watch the Game Awards. 

This leads many to proudly proclaim that video games are more popular than the movie industry. Are revenue and popularity the metrics for success that matter? From a business point of view, the video game industry is outearning the movie industry. But from a social point of view, video games are still a niche industry.

Media outlets still try to associate video games with violence and crime, despite numerous studies proving there’s no clear relationship between the two. People worldwide still associate video games with laziness, senselessness, and unproductivity as opposed to a leisurely pastime activity. 

Gamers online often battle the stereotype of being overweight, not adhering to societal beauty standards, and having unpleasant body odor. Video game household names like Hideo Kojima, Todd Howard, or Jennifer Hale don’t make headlines or seep into the public consciousness.

Movies rarely have such negative connotations associated with them. People of all ages have heard of famous actors like Leonardo di Caprio and directors like Steven Spielberg. You might even reference Ghostbusters at a family dinner, and not get blank stares. The word “oscar” is common enough to be used in jokes, memes, and cultural references. 

@zelaena_ tweeting Honestly I deserve an oscar for how happy I act at work
“Oscar” is sometimes used interchangeably with “award” online

Video games have evolved into a marvel of story-telling, animation, and lore. This attracts people with different backgrounds and interests. Gamers are also more likely to invest in merchandise which will further finance the publishers and producers. 

It’s possible we’re heading into a future where video games will overtake the movie industry. We already see the younger generation is less judgemental towards gaming, and even incorporating game-related slang into daily conversations. Still, at this point we can’t really say video games are more popular than movies.

Academy Awards vs Game Awards – All A Matter of Preference?

Academy Awards viewership keeps going down amidst the emergence of streaming services and widespread criticism over the lack of diversity. At the same time, the Game of the Year Awards is increasingly popular, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic boosted video game sales. 

It didn’t take long for people to start comparing the two, mostly based on view count alone. That said, many people don’t account for the different audience, fanbase, streaming platforms, and entertainment value. It’s not the best idea to pin the two events against each other, in an effort to prop up the Game Awards to mainstream popularity. 

Video games are still regarded as a niche area, despite a growing fanbase and artistic value. We might have a long way to go to change societal expectations of games and gamers, before we can actually compare the Game Awards to the Oscars’ elitist and highly-influential club. 

For now, it’s safe to say it’s a matter of preference. Hollywood aficionados might tune in for the Academy Awards, while gamers hop on Twitch for theGame Awards live stream. If you’re on vacation or living in a place with a restricted Wi-Fi network like a student dorm, you might not be able to catch up with either.

Public Wi-Fi networks limit bandwidth to prevent congestion and overcrowding. This means you won’t have much luck streaming or even accessing live streams. Use CyberGhost VPN to see the awards unfold. 

We have high-speed VPN servers in 91 countries and use 256-bit AES encryption to secure your traffic from prying eyes. Network administrators won’t see what you do online, and won’t be able to prevent you from streaming award events. Don’t miss out on the ceremonies with CyberGhost VPN!


How many viewers did the Game Awards get?

In 2022, over 9.5 million unique viewers tuned in for The Game Awards live stream through Steam alone. People tuned in on Twitch and other platforms as well, which brings the total viewership count up to 103 million people worldwide. The first Game Awards edition in 2014 had 1.9 million viewers which clearly highlights how popular the Game Awards became. 

Is the Game Awards bigger than the Oscars?

The Game Awards doesn’t seem to have the same cultural impact the Oscars do. At least, not yet. In 2022, the Game Awards had 103 million people worldwide tuning in to watch the ceremony, with a peak of 1.9 million concurrent viewers on Twitch. Popular actors like Al Pacino and Daniel Craig were invited as presenters. 
If you factor in the Academy Awards’ 16.6 million viewers, it seems like the Game Awards is bigger and more popular. Unfortunately, the Game Awards isn’t as talked about in the media, and are less relevant to those outside the gaming fandom. 

What is the best Game of the Year award?

The Game of the Year award is the most prestigious award given to a video game. Over 100 video game media outlets and critics work together to name 5 games as nominees (or 6 in case of a tie). Afterwards the winner is chosen by the jury whose vote weighs 90% alongside public voting at 10%.
You can stream The Game of the Year Awards on multiple platforms, including YouTube, Twitch, and Steam. If you’re on a public Wi-Fi network that restricts access to these platforms, use CyberGhost VPN to stream the Game Awards on any network.

Which games have won the Game Awards so far?

Starting its inception in 2014, the Game of the Year Award has gone to Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Overwatch, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, God of War, Sekiro: Die Twice, The Last of Us Part II, It Takes Two, and Elden Ring

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