Gaming as entertainment has come a long way in recent years with many of the most subscribed channels on YouTube now belonging to games content creators, specializing in anything from "let’s play" videos to series created entirely within a game's engine. We're also witnessing the explosive growth in popularity of eSports competitions, whose broadcasts have turned Twitch into a broadcasting powerhouse. Video game streams and games-based content creation is not only on the uptick, it’s slowly taking over.
A recent whitepaper from Newzoo points out "one of the most important and interesting trends to emerge out of the explosive growth of games market is the increasing level of consumer involvement in games, particularly in the creation, streaming and sharing of gaming video content." With gaming, the consumers of the world are also becoming its hottest content creators. The days of game developers building a game, selling it, and moving on are gone. As the gameplay of its consumers are being captured, broadcast to thousands of viewers, and resulting in boatloads of consumer-generated (video) content, developers and publishers are switching to the service model to better support their games, players, and content creators long-term.
Games are content, Gamers are producers
An immensely popular example of gameplay-as-content is machinima (use of game engines to create cinematic experiences), which has grown tremendously over the last 20 years. No longer a niche movement, it’s become a disruptive force within the industry. Content creators are now regularly harnessing game engines to create original branded stories. Creators like Rooster Teeth and Sky Does Minecraft are some of the most popular channels on YouTube with a combined 20 million subscribers tuning in regularly to watch their machinima videos.
Video game streaming and game-based content creation is indeed a powerful force, and unique in that it is driven forward by the game consumers themselves, acting as content creators. Hardcore fans turn to live streams for the latest coverage of eSports and for real-time advice from pro-gamers. Twitch.tv proved to everyone in 2011 that game streaming could stand on its own and even surpass the popularity of livestreamed vlogs and other content types. Twitch has since grown into a true monster, which is currently averaging more than 100 million unique monthly views on its website — more than doubling the 45 million they averaged in early 2014. Twitch's success has given rise to many competitors looking to fight for their piece of the gaming broadcast pie; sites like Azubu and Hitbox.tv have emerged recently and developed their own communities of loyal broadcasters.
Creators and facilitators are converging
The surge in content creation around games has prompted platform makers and game developers alike to take notice. It is having a monumental impact on the decision making of these industry-shaping facilitators. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 both have built-in streaming capabilities enabling anyone who owns one of these “next gen” consoles to become the next big content creator. The increased frequency and volume of videos has provided publishers with more discovery channels than ever for their games while simultaneously fostering a sustainable market for advertisers and sponsors.
Gaming as content is growing
Newzoo's report indicates that while 41 percent of gamers who stream to Twitch are males between 21-35, females make up at least 30 percent of today’s regular streamers. While the majority of streamers are in fact male, female gamers are on the rise, in widely varying age groups; from 10-20 all the way to 51-65, it’s obvious that women are getting their game on too. The broadcast of games spans all genres, from Minecraft to League of Legends, and takes place on a wide variety of platforms, from PC to iPad. Mobile stream consumption is on the rise as well. Last year, Twitch announced that 30 percent of users watched streams from mobile devices.
It pays to play
Increasingly we are seeing gamers creating content based around the games they love, spreading their gospel of gameplay to an ever-growing number of video consumers. Some creators are rising to fame as a result and able to make a living (and then some) off of the content they produce. PewDiePie is the most subscribed channel on YouTube and brought in an estimated $7.4 million dollars in revenue last year. To put that in perspective, that’s $2 million more than the average NBA player, and over $5 million more than the average NFL player! PewDiePie, although in the upper echelon of content producers, is not as big of an anomaly as you might think. According to the July, 2015 SuperData market brief on games content, the industry is now home to almost half a billion viewers (486 Million) who mean dollars in the form of ad views trickling into the pockets of the content creators they choose to follow. Content creators and platforms also benefit from multiple revenue streams: gaming videos are monetized through traditional advertisements with many content creators also being sponsored by major brands.
Creators also usually receive direct investment by fans through subscriptions and donations with live stream viewers donating an average of $4.64 a month to content creators with single donations to popular broadcasters reaching upwards of $30,000. With the number of viewers set to double within the next two years, it’s no wonder why internet giants like Google and Amazon are directly investing into the expansion of gaming video content.
There is no doubt that in the modern era of video content creation there has been a paradigm shift and gamers are leading the charge. The lines between content creators and consumers have been blurred and are giving birth to new, more entertaining influencers daily. The next PewDiePie or MaximillianDood could very well be the person with the big personality who’s purchasing their Avermedia LGP, and copy of Rocket League today. When we understand that, it becomes obvious why according to influencer marketing platform Tomoson, nearly 60% of marketers planning to boost influencer marketing budgets within the next 12 months.
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