YouTube’s biggest brand right now is video games, while music, fashion, cooking and other genres have their audience, gaming has spearheaded its way to the top of the charts. Sitting on the throne is PewDiePie, a Swedish Let’s Player who currently has 27 million subscribers.
Felix Kjellberg (PewDiePie) started his channel three years ago and despite an low-growth early on, the pace started to pick up after a few months. The growth pushed him from 10 million to 27 million in one year, pushing other viral stars like Smosh and NigaHiga off the top spot.
The channel mainly shows indie horror games and the core audience comes to watch PewDiePie scream and swear, to the anger of some older viewers. Despite the bridge between audiences, PewDiePie has managed to keep growing and has even set trends for game developers and other Let’s Play channels.
PewDiePie wasn’t the first to play indie horrors, but his Let’s Plays like Slender and Amnesia have the most views. The channel also has highly rated games like The Walking Dead and The Last of Us, alongside mobile and Web games like Happy Wheels and Flappy Bird.
In the past three years we have seen more horror games than any other time, games like Outlast, The Forest and Amnesia have all found a larger audience thanks to PewDiePie, who shows off the game in a Lets Play series. Even small indie games like IB, Cooked Man and Misao have all gained more sales thanks to the channel.
It is interesting that the Lets Play community can have such a powerful effect on game trends and game genres. The Yogscast, a British Let’s Play company, feel responsible for a lot of Minecraft’s early growth as a video game, becoming one of the most popular games of all time.
Lets Play’s are still a media that is questionable, while it does expose the game for free to viewers, it also gives the game a huge amount of exposure, potentially leading viewers to buy the game themselves. This ROI rate is yet to be disclosed on most channels, simply because YouTube doesn’t know anything about the viewers Steam, Xbox or PS payments.
Right now, PewDiePie is the top dog and we doubt any video game company (apart from Nintendo) would ever refuse letting him Lets Play their game, even if he trashes it all day. We see games that are completely broken on PewDiePie’s channel that still have success on Steam a few days after.
PewDiePie could make over $4 million this year alone through ad revenue on his channel, almost all profit. Maker Studios take a slice of this profit in return for being partnered with the network. This does not account for any other money PewdiePie makes through product deals.
Maker Studios are in control of most of the big personalities on YouTube, PewDiePie is their crowning star in terms of revenue, but they also have Toby Turner, Jesse Cox and a whole list of channels connected. They even have their own channel, where personalities will come together to play video games.
Walt Disney recently acquired Maker Studios for $500 million, showing the interest in video games and YouTube content. PewDiePie’s content might not be fit for the TV screen, considering the swearing and more informal editing style, but on YouTube it has become the most watched video content on the Internet.