The way people share their love of video games is changing, and has been for some time. Sites like YouTube and Twitch have allowed players and entertainers to record and live stream their gaming experiences. These Let’s Play channels have grown massively in popularity, and have influenced the decisions of major players in the video game industry — even the new generation of consoles is pushing footage-sharing functionality.
The popularity of YouTube stars is not just limited to the world of video games, however. Video celebrities come in all shapes and sizes, from Let’s Play-ers to vloggers, comedy acts and review shows. As it turns out, the popularity and influence of these personalities is even starting to dwarf those of the traditional media.
According to a recent survey commissioned by Variety, American teenagers find YouTube celebrities more appealing than their non-internet counterparts. The survey polled 1500 US teens aged 13-18, and asked them to rate twenty personalities in terms of their authenticity, approachability, and general influence. Ten of those personalities were the English-speaking YouTube channels with the most subscribers and video views.
The results were surprising. All five of the top spots were YouTube celebrities, including comedy acts such as Smosh and Fine Bros. The YouTube personality coming in third, beating the likes of Jennifer Lawrence and Seth Rogan, will be a familiar face for many gamers — Let’s Play sensation Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie.
Kjellberg made the news earlier in the year, when it was revealed that he earned $4 million from his YouTube gameplay videos last year. The PewDiePie channel now has over 29 million subscribers, and that makes the 24-year old millions in ad revenue. Kjellberg has become so popular that he has even signed to Maker Studios, an online content producer owned by Disney.
So what makes these online celebrities so popular with the teen demographic? Jeetendr Sehdev, the brand strategist who carried out the survey, may have found an answer. According to Sehdev, the survey showed that teenagers find the YouTube personalities more engaging and relatable, providing more of an intimate experience.
Sehdev also warned these YouTube stars against aping their traditional media counterparts. “if YouTube stars are swallowed by Hollywood, they are in danger of becoming less authentic versions of themselves,” said Sehdev. “That could take away the one thing that makes YouTube stars so appealing.”
It seems as though the power of the YouTube gamer cannot be underestimated, and the industry itself is taking notice. Alongside the positive reinforcement of in-console streaming, Nintendo’s video affiliate system and YouTube’s announcement of upcoming Fan Funding for creators, there have also been attempts to slow the growth of the phenomenon. Fez mastermind Phil Fish has called for a “huge portion” of YouTube ad revenue to go to developers, whilst YouTube themselves had a massive copyright crackdown at the end of last year.
Amidst the serious discussion of the significance of gaming channels, at least the channels themselves can still have a sense of humor. After the “success” of Twitch Plays PokÃ©mon, a follow up has been made — replacing the audience themselves with a live fish. Who knows, maybe that fish will make the most influential YouTuber list next year.