- Half of the 10 highest earning YouTubers recently listed by Forbes play video games for an audience of millions.
- YouTube’s most popular gamers earn more than $10 million a year from a combination of advertisements, sponsorships, and public appearances.
- Video games have become an important cultural touchstone for the online age, and a common denominator for online communities that include people from around the world.
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Video games are big business on YouTube, drawing in millions of viewers who are eager to watch their favorite games and participate in YouTube’s active creator communities.
The reach of YouTube’s top gamers is unquestionable — Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg recently became the first solo creator to reach 100 million subscribers and the vast majority of his videos are focused on gaming. Other YouTubers like Mark “Markiplier” Fischbach and Daniel “DanTDM” Middleton are making over $10 million a year and boast more than 20 million subscribers. According to Forbes, five of the top 10 highest earning YouTubers create videos focused on gaming.
Video games have become essential touchstones in an increasingly online culture, bringing huge communities together through shared interactive experiences. Creators use popular games like “Minecraft” and “Grand Theft Auto” as a stage for entertainment, injecting their own personality and sense of humor into a familiar setting that resonates with the millions of people around the world.
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Popular games draw in million of views on YouTube, but successful creators make themselves the stars of the show.
These successful YouTubers don’t simply walk their audience through a game, they’re the most important part of the show. The irreverent jokes and silly antics adopted by gaming YouTubers create a fun, social atmosphere that keeps an otherwise fragmented audience watching.
The most watched games on YouTube rarely include the latest best-seller or new releases. YouTubers often choose to play open sandbox-style games that make it easier for them to customize their playtime and find new ways to surprise their viewers.
Gamers made up the bottom 5 of the list of 10 highest earning influencers.
Here’s who made the cut from the gaming world (the top earning influencer was 8-year-old Ryan Kaji of Ryan’s world, by the way).
1 — (ranked 6 on Forbes list): Preston (real name Preston Arsement), $14 million earnings
2 — (tie, ranked 7 on Forbes list): PewDiePie (real name Felix Kjellberg), $13 million earnings
2 — (tie, ranked 7 on Forbes list): Markiplier (real name Mark Fischbauch), $13 million earnings
4 — (ranked 9 on Forbes list): DanTDM (real name Daniel Middleton), $12 million earnings
5 — (ranked 10 on Forbes list): VanossGaming (real name Evan Fong), $11.5 million earnings
Building a large following can lead to lucrative sponsorships, but the push to constantly create new videos can lead to burn out.
Once they command a large enough following these YouTubers can pursue lucrative sponsorships and merchandising deals that help them capitalize on their online stardom. YouTube pays creators to advertise on their videos, but direct business partnerships are where YouTubers can earn the most. Markiplier has his own clothing brand, Cloak, while DanTDM sells out live fan events on regular basis.
YouTube also rolled out channel membership options earlier this year that give subscribers access to exclusive videos and other content for $5 per month. Paying for an exclusive membership is the most direct way for viewers to support the creators they like, and puts them in an even more intimate fan community.
However, the push to constantly produce new videos for an all-consuming audience can lead to burnout — a common problem for all types of YouTube creators. Gamers who become known for a specific game often see their viewership decline if they try something new, and supportive subscribers can eventually become toxic if they’re no longer being fed the sort of videos they like.
Maintaining a successful brand on YouTube is hard work, but gamers have built an influential online community that can’t be ignored.
PewDiePie recently announced that he would take a break from YouTube in a video criticizing the platform’s newly introduced harassment policy. It’s not the first time the popular video game creator has stepped away from the platform, and in a previous interview he talked to Insider about how maintaining an online brand can led to exhaustion.
“As a online content creator your presence needs to be constantly moving forward and since your job depends on it, it can be hard to hit the brakes,” he said. “When you’re blessed with many opportunities it’s hard to say no and you can easily find yourself with too many obligations to keep up.”
Building a multi-million dollar brand through YouTube isn’t easy, whether it’s focused on video games, beauty products or plain video diaries. But YouTube has provided gamers with a way to turn their hobby into a massive social platform that has influenced pop culture in an increasingly online world.