PewDiePie, CaptainSparklez and eSports: The rise of the video game economy
He’s just bought himself a $4.5 million pad in the Hollywood Hills and, while the three-storey mansion is certainly impressive, what’s most interesting about Mr Maron is how he made his money.
The video games enthusiast turned the camera on himself as he played, and now millions of people tune into watch.
He has 8.8 million subscribers and more than 1.8 billion views on his YouTube channel.
While the majority of his views come from him playing games, his two most popular videos are actually parodies of Coldplay’s Vida la Vida and Psy’s Gangnam Style using clips from the Minecraft video game.
His original YouTube channel, called ProsDONTtalkSH*T, was focused on the game Call of Duty, but Mr Maron began to see the potential in the now global phenomenon Minecraft and moved to a new channel to focus on the game. It became so successful that he dropped out of a chemical-engineering degree at college to stream games on YouTube and the gaming-focused video site Twitch.
“I realised that maybe video games could be a viable career, which I hadn’t thought about beforehand,” Mr Maron told Venture Beat.
“YouTube was going pretty well for me, so I decided to take the leap. It’s been a good choice so far.”
At the moment, Mr Maron makes his money through two avenues, but both are Minecraft videos. On Twitch, he will stream himself playing the game, where up to 1.2 million of his subscribers tune in to watch. Because of his high profile on the service, his ad revenue is at a much higher rate so Twitch can keep him exclusively streaming on their service. It’s almost like traditional TV, where a particular service bids for exclusive rights.
While Twitch has the exclusive live streaming rights, YouTube has the licence for his prerecorded clips, such as tutorials and his parody clips.
But Mr Maron isn’t even the biggest star on YouTube.
Twenty-five-year-old Swedish man Felix Kjellberg, or PewDiePie, dominates YouTube with nearly 40 million subscribers and 10 billion clip views. He makes nearly $10 million a year in ad revenue from his videos. Like Mr Maron, Mr Kjellberg focuses on video games, but expands out of the Minecraft universe.
His videos mainly are of him yelling at video games as he plays them, with viewers enjoying the often obscure indie titles he chooses to play. Rather than reviewing games, he shows viewers the experience of playing them, which has certainly been successful.
He signed to a studio in 2012 to help produce and market his videos. That studio, Maker Studios, sold itself last year to Disney for about $1 billion, proving how big the business of amateur online video has become.
In fact, PewDiePie’s influence is so big that his video entitled “Flappy Bird — don’t play this game”almost single-handedly propelled the Vietnamese-developed game to the top of the App Store worldwide. The game’s creator reportedly made $30,000 a day thanks to it.
Video game clips have become a major business, with Google’s YouTube looking to invest big money into a competing with Twitch to capitalise on the booming market. Even hardware makers have acknowledged the significance, with Sony last year touting its live streaming feature as one of its key selling points over Microsoft’s Xbox.
Video game streaming services such as Twitch are creating huge monetary opportunities outside of single gamers in front of webcams, too. It has made eSports, or competitive gaming, a worldwide phenomenon. The International Dota 2 championship awards winners with nearly $20 million in prizemoney, while being broadcast live across the world on channels such as ESPN.
So, whoever tells you that you’re wasting your life away playing video games obviously had no idea how big video streaming and eSports was going to get.
From virtual reality gaming, to new safety for cars, nanotechnology is about to change our lives.