Gaming content on Youtube is in an odd place at the moment. With the ContentID crisis still hanging over the heads of many, while multi-channel networks grow more powerful and corporate, are we leaving the golden age of Youtube and entering into an era where the smaller channel is doomed to failure without network backing?

As someone who has been running a Youtube channel with friends for over 3 years and enjoyed mild success, the nature of the website has dramatically shifted in the past 12 months. Whereas there used to be only 2 or 3 big gaming networks like Machinima and TGS, there are now multiple networks vying for the top spot and really holding the power to make Youtubers popular and keep them on top. Look at the front page of Youtube on most days, the gaming section is dominated by network-sponsered channels with subscriber counts in the millions, with only about 1 in 10 of these featured videos being from rising channels. This would be fine if the top percentage of Youtubers were actually producing innovative content but for the most part, the content that is produced is yet another Let’s Play of a new game that’s come out or yet another collaboration with the same group of people in the top ranks.

Gaming content on Youtube is fast approaching the state of light entertainment on British TV at the moment. It is the same group of 15-20 people collaborating and producing the same shows which were initially interesting but now have become incredibly stale. There is very little room for new talent to come up without it coming through a major network like Polaris, as they control the major audience share and control what is trending on Youtube. Take Flappy Bird for example. That game was not very popular until one day in January where the Google search rankings for it flew through the roof. How did this happen you ask? Pewdiepie did a Let’s Play of it, causing millions of viewers to search for it, which caused a domino effect leading to everyone and their mum knowing about and playing Flappy Bird. That is the major problem with the state of gaming Youtube content, is the fact that one person can pretty much set the content schedule for the next 2 weeks, as everyone races to copy what they are doing, but the results still end with the top percentage getting the most views.

flappy bird

The meteoric rise of Flappy Bird is a great example of the power Youtubers have in impacting the games market.

Also, another problem which I foresee (and has actually happened already) is the influence of game developers and publishers in fiddling with the content that major networks put out in order to boost sales and influence the massive audience these Youtubers had. Take the huge backlash to a supposed deal between Microsoft and Machinima which paid Youtubers extra cash for positively promoting the Xbox One. I imagine as gaming networks become more corporate, I reckon that more and more of these dodgy dealings may come out, as Youtubers are discovered to be making deals with companies to positively promote games for extra cash. I hope this doesn’t happen but the links between companies and networks grow, I suspect that this behaviour may increase.

For me, the best place to look on Youtube for quality content is between the 10,000 to 200,000 mark as that is where people are getting to grips with the audience and how to make good videos but are still willing to take risks and try new things. Rather than putting out the same type of Let’s Play over and over again just to please their legions of fans, they are willing to try new things and experiment.

Check out people like Errant Signal, Satchbag’s Goods and Matthewmatosis for great gaming analyses and reviews, while channels like Retsupurae and snipars do a good job in either ripping apart bad Let’s Players or creating utterly surreal montage parodies. Also, I imagine more and more content creators will result to sites like Patreon to fund their content ethically without the risk of mystery money from the man behind the curtain and to create a better link between audience and creator.

twitch logo

Twitch definitely holds the livestreaming crown, but could it ever topple Youtube for gaming content?

I imagine there will a greater influx of people to sites like blip and Twitch, for instant gaming content where creators can really interact with fans in the moment. Fan created sites like Normal Boots are also opening up, to allow greater creative freedom and collaboration without the threat of being hit with the ContentID hammer, which could draw people away from Youtube. Hopefully, more and more sites will pop up to force greater competition and innovation among the big guys but as of yet, no-one is close to stealing Youtube’s crown.

Youtube is in a weird state of flux for gaming content creators at the moment, with the system in a position to slide into a state very similar to television, where only a small amount of incredibly powerful people control the state of media. Hopefully it won’t happen but be prepared to maybe switch to another video streaming site if things keep going the way they are going.