Anyone who works in the gaming industry or has a passion for games in general, has in no doubt been witness to the rapid rise of gaming on YouTube over the past few years. Although gaming videos on YouTube were being published almost as soon as the platform went live in 2005, only recently has the work of game content creators received the exposure and respect it deserves by both gamers as well as major game publishers alike.
Gaming: What's Hot on YouTube Right Now
So why now? What makes gameplay videos, or 'Let's Plays' as they're known so popular? Well to put it in numbers, 15% of all video content on YouTube right now relates to video games. Up until December 2014, there were 364 billion views of video game content. Those numbers have obviously grown considerably since then which makes video game content on YouTube extremely important for game studios. Games is in fact the 2nd most popular video category on YouTube, with views by fan made videos out-numbering brand created videos 19 to 1.
By the end of 2015, gaming videos are expected to bring in $3.8 billion, and the audience for video game content will grow to 790 million by 2017. Track the growing trend of YouTube gaming and it's easy to understand why game video content will be crucial for any serious games PR strategy in 2016. According to Statista.com video game commentator Felix Kjellberg, who produces videos under the name PewDiePie, was ranked first with more than 9.54 billion channel views as of July 2015. That's more viewers than most of the major national television networks.
But Pewds isn't alone when it comes to bringing gameplay videos to the masses. The Smosh Brothers also boast an impressive 4.5 billion channel views as well as StampyLongHead with an honorable 3.8 billion views (41 million alone for the video below!). If those numbers aren't enough to make your head spin, wrap your mind around this. The top 5 YouTube gamers have more subscribers than the population of Peru (which is just over 30 million people).
Gaming on YouTube: Who to Watch
By now, a select few YouTube gamers have built up such a massive reach that they've become household names. Just try attending a gaming event without hearing the name PewDiePie mentioned at least once in every talk. But there are dozens of other creators who are also making a name for themselves in the world of game exposure. Caddy AKA Caddicarus for example boasts over 450,000 subscribers with videos reaching the upwards of 200,000 views. Another top creator who's making a dent in YouTube gaming is Lonnie, who mostly plays iOS game titles while bringing his unique spin and quick-witted humor to the videos he uploads almost on a daily basis. Yet another colorful gamer to keep your eyes on is Phonecatts with over 97,000 subscribers on YouTube as well as 23,000 followers on Twitch.
Where Gamers Go to Discover Video Games
If you're wondering where YouTuber gamers go to discover new games, interact with other content creators and collaborate with others, you'll probably be surprised to know it's actually not on most of the mainstream gaming blogs. In fact, a lot of their time is spent on sub-reddits such as /r/YouTubeGamers and /r/Gaming. Game content creators are also engaging with their fans on Facebook groups such as the private YouTube Gamers groups which boasts over 13,000 members and YouTube Gamers United with close to 2,000 members.
When Phonecatts was asked about where he discovers games to review for his channel, he answered; "My fans always tell me about hot new games. I check them out while live streaming and decide if they're worth playing based on screenshots and iTunes reviews." Another game discovery source that shouldn't be neglected are Podcasts, such as the Giant Bombcast, RebelFM, Gagcast, and one of my always funny Kinda Funny Gamecast
Next Generation Gaming
Right now it's safe to say that YouTube is in its prime when it comes to game related content, but it if history has taught us anything about online user trends it's that content consumers will go where content is targeted to them. In other words, we can expect to see gaming specific channels and services taking off over the months ahead.
The hype is definitely centered on gaming on YouTube and its strong community of gamers, but don't underestimate the rapid growth of Twitch, as recent data shows that 100 million monthly unique viewers tuned in to Twitch by the end of 2014. More recently, Hitbox a competing videogame livestreaming platform announced that they closed a $4 million growth round of investment to expand its North American operations and worldwide reach. Hitbox will also be the first to begin broadcasting Esports events in 4K at 60FPS. With the rapid growth of competitive gaming on the rise, it's safe to say that the live video game content promises to be even more lucrative business for anyone in the games industry in the months ahead.