Video game content on YouTube has gone through a multitude of changes ever since the inception of the website. Youtube and its advertisers have had a long shakey history of trying to balance issues such as video monetization, age-appropriate content, and copyright issues. But after many years of struggle, Youtube now stands as a prime advertiser for gaming companies as well as becoming the #2 website for streaming gameplay content and having 100 billion hours of gaming content being watched in 2020.But why do gaming brands love YouTube? Let’s start by looking at one of the most iconic brands in the gaming sphere, GFuel.
If we look at GFuel’s overall sponsorship history we see that they only really started advertising on Youtube in late 2013, steadily growing into the gaming powerhouse that they are today. GFuel today is crushing it with nearly 200x as many thought leaders as they do mentions.
At first, most of their sponsorships were affiliate advertising, leaving coupon codes for “10% off your first purchase of GFuel,” in the description boxes of popular YouTube creators. Today, they are still doing a ton of affiliate marketing (still with the same 10% off discount), maintaining relationships with creators that date back over 8 years ago!
Eventually, GFuel shifted into sponsored YouTube integrations, having creators feature the product on-screen and adding personalization to each of their integrations. By early 2016 they were dominating YouTube gaming channels with affiliate and integrated campaigns.
GFuel’s success came with other gaming brands hopping on the YouTube train such as Scuf Gaming Controllers (starting to sponsor on a large scale in 2013) and Turtle Beach (started sponsoring in on a large scale in 2014). These brands were sponsoring some of the first gaming channels, laying the groundwork for future brands and other advertisers interested in Youtube marketing. Additionally, an interest in capturing gameplay began to emerge as more and more YouTube creators wanted to upload video game content onto the platform, companies such as Elgato and NVIDIA began to pop into creators’ description boxes.
With so many gaming products joining the fray, large gaming companies also began to advertise on Youtube. Whether it be giving early releases of the game to creators to beta test or by paying YouTube creators to say nice things about their games; video game companies were finding YouTube to be the ideal advertising platform.
Let’s take a look at the top-mentioned gaming brands of 2015 and compare them to the top-mentioned gaming brands of 2020.
As you can see, many of the top-mentioned gaming brands are still being spoken about five years later, with a few slight changes. It is no coincidence that these names are the most spoken about as they have embraced YouTube gaming creators aiding them with affiliate sponsorships, integrated marketing campaigns, or other platforms to help them grow their audience and their bank accounts.
Taking a closer look at this comparison we see that TwitchTV has reigned king for the past five years. Although Twitch doesn’t directly sponsor creators to speak about its platform, they don’t discourage their creators from re-uploading Twitch streamed content onto Youtube. This is ideal for Twitch because they get tons of organic mentions without having to spend any money. Although Youtube made live-streaming available for its creators in 2018, many still prefer TwitchTV to be their main place to stream video game content. The chart below shows Twitch’s impact over all of 2020, they are mostly being mentioned on Youtube with around 2000 thought leaders a month mentioning the brand.
But not all gaming companies were excited about publishers featuring their content, in 2015 Nintendo began to flag channels that featured Nintendo games in their content. With many creators confused and frustrated, Nintendo created the “Nintendo Creators Program,” which was meant to help creators with what would be appropriate content to upload and what would not be appropriate. Yet many publishers were disappointed with this approach, especially because a lot of their content was being taken down and there was nothing they could do about it. YouTube creators began to focus on non-Nintendo games, too afraid to upload content and receive copyright strikes to their Youtube account. By the end of 2018, Nintendo gave up efforts of trying to coral Nintendo content creators into following their guidelines and ended the Creators Program.
YouTube also became a hub for newly released games looking for exposure, games like PubG, Fortnite, and Apex Legends began to gain popularity among some of YouTube’s most prolific gaming creators. These gaming studios understood the power of Youtube, and games like Fortnite were already sponsoring YouTube videos before the game’s release.
With an increase in popularity, many new gaming channels began to pop up all over YouTube. Gaming content began to expand reaching audiences of all ages and demographics; and games originally geared towards younger demographics such as, Minecraft and RoBlox, were now popular among more adult audiences. Let’s use one of the platform’s biggest creators, Pewdiepie, to demonstrate this example.
Pewdiepie has an average of 5 million views per video and his top eight brands that he has mentioned almost all refer to gaming. We can see that in the past 10 years Pewdiepie has spoken about Minecraft over 300x with the rest of his top mentions related to computer hardware or traditional gamer sponsorships such as NordVPN and GFuel. Pewdiepie has had his fair share of controversies yet much of his content features games with “family-friendly” content such as The Sims, Roblox, and Best Fiends.
For more context here are the top 10 creators in the gaming category:
YouTube is expansive, with almost 5 billion videos watched a day anyone from any community will likely find the content they are looking for. And with that, comes tight-knit niche gaming communities, such as speed-running, Let’s Play’s, and many others.
YouTube became a place to showcase talents on a grand scale, gaming competitions which used to be only an event that local players could attend, now expanded on a global network. Channels such as VG Bootcamp would accrue hundreds of thousands of views just by featuring two players playing Super Smash Bros. Many other channels jumped on the train helping build out what would one day become a competitive e-sports network of many different types of games. Eventually, the games themselves would have their own YouTube channels featuring native content and new updates (League of Legends, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, ect).
With such a high volume of content uploaded and watched every day, gaming channels make incredible platforms for sponsorships. History has shown that gamers are a lucrative audience and that gaming audiences will purchase products from trusted publishers.
Gaming brands love YouTube not only because they can use the site to showcase their products and find new potential customers, but because they know and understand that gaming creators have special relationships with their audience. They know that if someone is going to sit and watch you play video games for hours on end, then there must be something extraordinary about that relationship.