Published on July 2nd, 2013 | by Donnie McLohon0
Game On: Research by Google highlights surprising stats about gamers
The internet is a wild and wonderful place, highly capricious and constantly changing. During its exponential expansion across the globe and our lives, many things have come and gone; however, a few websites have managed to change and adapt along with it. Among the most popular sites on the internet is a little place called YouTube, which recently released an interesting document examining consumption of videos on its site. This document, entitled “Gamers on YouTube: Evolving Video Consumption” looked at gaming-related content in particular, and examined a few trends that have developed over the past two years. This document is not only a portentous indicator of technology’s steadily increasing influence in general, but a strong reminder of gaming and the internet’s ever-strengthening relationship.
Though YouTube solidified its popularity with cat videos and dancing babies, it has since then developed a fairly sophisticated infrastructure; although we still have viral videos and one-off successes, more and more people are finding ways to create and sustain channels—an aptly named system if there ever was one. One could argue that channels on YouTube are becoming every bit as entertaining as something you would find on television: because YouTube has made it so easy to broadcast and entertain a global audience with very few resources, it has in turn become a viable substitute for a cable subscription. Both consumption and production of online videos has soared since YouTube’s creation in 2005, and this latest document shows that gamers are one of its biggest audiences as well as one of its primary content-creators.
“Gamers on YouTube” doesn’t dig up any particularly mind-blowing research, but a few statistics certainly stand out. The research focuses on how gamers view video content, and the data shows that audiences watching on tablets or smartphones increased by almost double from 2011 to 2012. In fact, 1 in 3 views for gaming-related videos were attributed to mobile devices, according to the data.
At E3 this year, a big emphasis was on “second-screen” experiences: how can developers utilize devices that gamers already have (which probably doesn’t include SmartGlass) to create new ways to play games? Whether it be hacking security cameras in Watch_Dogs or issuing orders in Battlefield 4’s Commander mode, the next generation of consoles is hedging its bets on the tablets and phones we carry around with us every day.
Indeed, it’s hard to find a title announced at E3 this year that doesn’t have a companion app of some sort. However, while YouTube’s data assuredly indicates that gamers are comfortable and familiar with using these devices to watch gaming related content, that doesn’t necessarily mean that gamers will want play console games using these devices, despite how ubiquitous they might be. The use of companion apps certainly makes sense, and YouTube’s research definitely suggests that many gamers would be willing to try them, but the degree to which the companion apps will actually affect gameplay — enough to warrant their use, anyway — remains to be seen.
Another important distinction that “Gamers on YouTube” makes is in the classification of content: the data is divided into the categories of “brand-released” material (videos that publishers/developers release) as well as “community-created” videos (YouTubers playing games, creating walkthroughs, guides, and let’s plays). In general, the community-created content received more likes and dislikes, whereas social media sharing and commenting was more prevalent on brand-released videos.
A final way that YouTube’s document examines gaming-related videos is by chronology: specifically, it looks at how viewers watch gaming content in the months preceding and following a game’s release. By and large, brand-related content — trailers, teasers, gameplay footage — is watched heavily pre-release, but post-release the numbers spike in favor of community related content. To be specific, an average of 9 in 10 pre-launch views for a game’s video content was for brand-released material. While this may seem a little obvious, the researchers note that “this is big news for game marketers who could use view data as a leading indicator of their future game sales.” In other words, expect some more gaming-related ads in your future YouTube adventures.
The big takeaway from all this data (for me, anyway) is twofold. One, gamers are using the internet more than ever, and in increasingly sophisticated ways. I personally don’t own a TV; Netflix, YouTube, and various other internet sites satisfy just about all my entertainment needs (which admittedly aren’t much). Despite the fallout surrounding Microsoft’s former always-on and restrictive DRM policies for the Xbox One, this YouTube data illustrates that gamers are certainly well-versed in digital means of content consumption. Ethical and moral issues with Microsoft’s strategy aside, it’s clear that digital methods of accessing gaming content (including games themselves) are going to become the standard before too long.
Secondly, this data raises several questions about how gamers will develop and share their own content in the future, and how the relationship between developers, publishers, and gamers will fare as a result. In May, Nintendo came down on let’s plays that featured its games, placing its own revenue-generating ads on existing videos, but it has apparently loosened its grip recently on Nintendo-related YouTube content. As YouTube’s research makes abundantly clear, community-created content is a huge source of online video consumption, and is essentially free advertising for the games that YouTubers are playing. Companies like Nintendo should realize that they would do well not to alienate such large consumer base.
Furthermore, Sony and Microsoft both announced partnerships with streaming services during their conferences at E3; gamers will be able to upload and share content on the PS4 and Xbox One using Ustream and Twitch, respectively. Will this relationship develop any further? Will we having gaming channels on the next gen consoles, just like on Youtube? Whether it is connected through YouTube or a separate service that exists solely on your PSN or Xbox Live account, the possibilities for more user-created content is exciting (and would be a nice change of pace from the obscene amount of ads and apps that clog console dashboards).
“Gamers on YouTube” is a fairly straightforward glimpse into gaming’s relationship with the internet and online video content. While it is brief, the research in the document is nonetheless a harbinger of things to come: digital consumption of entertainment media is at an all-time high, and gamers especially have proven themselves to be tech savvy individuals—whether it be through our use of tablets and smartphones, our gaming streams and video content, or both. Hopefully the next generation of consoles will make the most of this trend and accommodate our digital proclivities instead of exploiting them.