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With 100 billion hours watched on YouTube for gaming, the site prepares for global growth

(The Washington Post illustration; YouTube)
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More people watched gaming content on YouTube in 2020 than ever before, and part of that expansion is thanks to YouTube’s global outreach, said the company’s head of gaming, Ryan Wyatt.

About 100 billion hours of content were watched in 2020, twice the number of 2018′s viewed hours. This stems from YouTube’s outreach in Southeast Asia and Latin America, as well as the rise of prominent esports contests now being streamed on YouTube as well as Twitch. Moreover, as YouTube scoured the globe they found a huge market for mobile game streaming.

“When we asked ourselves what gaming would look like in the next five years, and where we’re going to see growth from, it became apparent just off trends and insights that we were going to see mobile games rise,” Wyatt tells The Washington Post. “Really, they’re no longer these inherently casual games. And then we start to think about, OK, what do they need on the product side?”

This explosion in mobile is reflected in YouTube’s end-of-the-year statistics, which they published Tuesday. Mobile game “Garena Free Fire” was the third most-watched game on the platform with 72 billion views, above giants like “Grand Theft Auto V” and “Fortnite.”

Wyatt said that in some countries, creators can’t just rely on ad revenue, which is why YouTube added channel subscriptions and allowed creators to set their own prices. YouTube has also become more serious about streaming events, partnering with the biggest esports companies like Riot Games to host tournaments on the platform. And the site’s biggest streamers were all international stars, like NOBRU from Brazil with 11.5 million subscribers, or SOUL Regaltos in India with a million.

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YouTube is also boasting how many smaller creators have seen larger success in the past year. More than 80,000 creators hit 100,000 subscribers, no small feat for any channel on YouTube. On the other end of the spectrum, more than 350 creators have more than 10 million subscribers.

Gaming’s biggest videos on YouTube also had a global reach. Some of these videos amassed hundreds of millions of views, like Taiwan-based channel Yes Ranger’s “Minecraft POV” video, which accrued 197 million views.

When asked what differentiates YouTube from other services, besides its massive audience, Wyatt said it’s the tools Google and YouTube have created and placed over the years.

“Some of our content tools aren’t unique, things like shorts or stories or live streaming, which many other platforms are doing,” Wyatt said. “But we’re unique as the destination where you can do all of these things on the biggest gaming platform in the world, so you have all these content creation tools at your disposal.”

Wyatt also said that YouTube has been ahead of the music rights issue currently plaguing Twitch. YouTube’s “content ID” mechanism was put in place after a settled 2014 lawsuit. While that system has had its own share of issues over the years, DMCA strikes on YouTube are largely a settled concern.

“There has been no change or interruption in DMCA issues, and I think that’s a testament to the wonderful team that’s been working on it,” Wyatt said. “We recognize that music is a part of the games industry and has been for quite a long time, so we need to be thoughtful in our approach.”

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Wyatt said he expects live streaming to grow, and that the next step in games content consumption may be the blurring of lines between the viewing and interactive experience. Already, a game on Facebook called “Rival Peak” has done this, becoming an interactive reality show with direct audience impact on its story. But he said it’ll probably be a slower burn than many expect.

“When you look at the whole pie of gaming watch time, live streaming is only 20 percent,” Wyatt said. “You’re not necessarily doing it because of hyper growth, and I think that’s where the narrative sometimes lands. It’s not a hyper-growth space, it’s a really important form of content creation where only some content can be told in the lens of live streaming. And you could do a lot more with interactivity on live streaming and blurring those lines, and we need to be ready from a YouTube perspective to do the product integrations and work with different platforms.”

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