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YouTube game videos were viewed for 50 billion hours in 2018

YouTube Gaming has become a huge part of internet culture in recent years, and that was visible at The Game Awards this week

Every day, more than 200 million people view gaming content on YouTube. That’s like the entire country of Brazil heading to YouTube every day. And in the past year, more than 50 billion hours of gaming videos were viewed on YouTube. That’s almost twice the total time Americans spend commuting to work in a year.

One of the people responsible for making this happen is Ryan Wyatt, global head of gaming and VR, content and partnerships, at YouTube Gaming. I talked with him this week ahead of The Game Awards event about. I also made it to the after party for the show, sponsored by YouTube.

We all know that celebrities like Ninja are making millions of dollars with their content on YouTube. But I’ve been curious about just how far that will go, with a long tail. How many people are going to make a living on YouTube with game-related content?

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

youtube game videos were viewed for 50 billion hours in 2018 - YouTube game videos were viewed for 50 billion hours in 2018

Above: Ryan Wyatt is global head of gaming and VR, content and partnerships, at YouTube Gaming.

Image Credit: YouTube

GamesBeat: How is YouTube Gaming going overall?

Wyatt: We just had our biggest year yet. We have 200 million logged-in users watching gaming content every day. We’ve been excited with some of the products we’re rolling up. We crossed a big milestone where we hit 50 billion hours of gaming watch time in the last 12 months. We’ve been happy with everything. We’re working on more new products now that we’re excited to roll out. We recently did a fun partnership with Supercell around account linking that was met with high regard in the Clash Royale community.

We’re excited about the platform and the growth and the experience in the gaming community. Creators continue to flourish. All these new games have sprung up over the past year, especially Fortnite. Obviously tonight, with the awards, is a good time to reflect on the past 12 months. Everyone here is proud of what we’ve been doing with gaming at YouTube.

GamesBeat: You’re a pretty big sponsor of the Game Awards.

Ryan Wyatt: Yeah, we are. We’re excited. Geoff’s been doing the awards since 2014, and you know as well that it’s a key moment for the gaming community. We’re excited to be a part of it. It’s a good time for all of us to celebrate the industry.

GamesBeat: How long has YouTube been a sponsor?

Wyatt: This is our first time sponsoring it. We started talking to Geoff a couple of months ago about getting involved. We thought sponsoring the red carpet would be something that would be really exciting. Not just to celebrate game publishers, but also game creators, and just embrace the industry.

GamesBeat: It seems like it has a growing following, a much bigger reach now.

Wyatt: Each year Geoff has done a great job iterating on the show, making sure it reaches a global audience, making sure all the publishers and creators are involved. It truly is the best moment of the year in the industry. I expect this will be the biggest year yet.

GamesBeat: You’ve been doing E3 events with him for a while now.

Wyatt: Since 2015, yeah, we’ve been doing E3 with Geoff. He’s been a wonderful partner to YouTube. Everything he does is excellent, with the highest care in mind for the game industry. It was natural for us to get involved in the Game Awards as well, with all the success we’ve had at E3.

GamesBeat: I saw you had the top YouTube posts. What did you notice about what was popular on the gaming side?

Wyatt: YouTube Rewind is our annual collection of lists where we look at the top trends in videos. We pay tribute to some of the biggest videos on YouTube, as well as embracing our creators. We had the Fallout 76 official teaser trailer. A lot of people were really excited for Pokemon Go and the Let’s Go Pikachu, Let’s Go Eevee trailer. Certainly with the rise of Fortnite we saw great things from Ninja as far as some big videos, like getting 32 kills in a solo. It’s been great.

From my perspective, a big part of it is that all the videos showed such wide diversity. It’s great gameplay. It’s trailers. It’s a bit of both the creator and the publisher community. There’s one where a creator has this trap tunnel race in Fortnite, using the bikes in there, which is pretty comical. My personal favorite, someone got police officers to play Grand Theft Auto V and try to play the game without breaking any laws. It’s hysterical. If you go down the list, you’ll see some that will make you laugh, some that aren’t any surprise. It was a good mix. It speaks to the diversity of content on the platform.

GamesBeat: What’s your view of the gaming zeitgeist right now? Being part of Google, I’m sure you get a good sense of that.

Wyatt: There’s a lot of interesting things happening in the industry right now. We were obviously happy to have our biggest year yet with gaming on YouTube. We’re starting to see mobile games being watched and consumed much more often. That’s been an interesting trend. Just seeing again, the way Fortnite flourished–for a long time the biggest games on YouTube have been Minecraft and GTA and League of Legends. To see Fortnite to come out of nowhere as this blockbuster hit is really exciting. The rise and continued growth of VOD has been exciting alongside the progress we’ve made with live streaming. If I was to pick what’s caught my eye the most, though, it’s how big and how explosive mobile gaming has become on the platform.

GamesBeat: How do you feel about the competition with Twitch?

Wyatt: We see YouTube as unique. We’re a video platform. We focus on all different verticals of content, from VOD to live streaming to mobile video to VR video. We hit 200 million users every day watching gaming. I think our progress speaks for itself. We have a lot of exciting things we’ll be doing in 2019. We’re focused on our creators and continuing to grow our platform. We’re well-positioned in the industry.

GamesBeat: At our GamesBeat conference last year we had a panel about the “leisure economy,” people who are making a living playing games. It seems like YouTube and YouTube Gaming are at the bleeding edge of that sort of thing.

Wyatt: We’ve been fortunate to have YouTube around for 11, 12 years now. Gaming has always been a major part of the platform. Obviously we have a robust ad platform that allows creators to monetize and we’ve been continuing to create opportunities for alternative monetization outside of ads. We focus on creators being able to come to the platform, have a career, and start making money.

We look at that as an important part of what we want to do for gaming creators, and it’ll certainly be a continued focus in 2019, to create more products that allow creators to monetize in different ways. We’re very proud to be the leading platform in that regard. We have a lot of progress we still want to make.

GamesBeat: You’ve had some back and forth with creators over monetization. Do you feel like you’ve addressed that, solved that?

Wyatt: Absolutely. We had to go through a lot in the last year, and we feel like we’ve come out the other end of that. Creators are monetizing better than they ever have on the platform. We’ve released a lot of other products for them to rely on — not just ad monetization, but alternative monetization products. Again, we’re still going to keep improving and introducing new options.

GamesBeat: I’m sure you still have to be quick when it comes to taking down inappropriate content.

Wyatt: We obviously have community guidelines, but we’ve been happy with–look at Nintendo’s announcement, where they’re embracing game creators and allowing them to monetize on the platform. I think we’re making great progress in that regard. We try to be an open platform and allow any content that comes up, but certainly we have community guidelines that people need to adhere to. We try to embrace the freedom of the platform.

GamesBeat: In some ways YouTube can be this force for getting publishers to understand how creators can use their IP to everyone’s benefit.

Wyatt: I think that’s right. Nintendo is making a big step forward by embracing the creator community, and that’s a testament to what the power of creators can do. Creators play a big role in making sure we have a healthy ecosystem of people playing, consuming, and watching gaming. The progress we’re making is tremendous. I’m excited for 2019, with everything that’s happened this year. I do believe YouTube can play a big part in showcasing and highlighting how important the creator community is to the publishers.

GamesBeat: Do you have a road map to share as far as what’s coming for YouTube Gaming?

Wyatt: We’re focused on a couple of things that you can expect. One is figuring out how we can add more meaningful product integration with game publishers. What we most recently launched with Supercell around account linking in Clash Royale was just one part of what we want to do. Another area you can expect–we’ll continue to innovate on alternative monetization products, so that our creators can make more money in more ways. There’s a lot you can expect from us in 2019, but those are two specific areas where we’re going to continue to focus and innovate.

GamesBeat: I’m always curious about how big a long tail there is for making money doing game videos and streaming. If I wanted to make, say, $50,000 a year, how big a community is that on YouTube Gaming? Do you have a sense of what it takes to make a living?

Wyatt: It’s not something we speak to publicly as far as talking about creator economics within the platform. But I do think we have a system in place where anybody can become a creator and start monetizing through advertising and our other products. We do have a very long tail when it comes to creators making money. Some of them are absolutely funding a lifestyle as full-time gaming creators. That’s something we do focus on, making sure that number continues to get bigger. Our hope is to continue to improve how many people can make money playing games on YouTube. That’s an important metric for us, and we’re focused on making monetization tools available to creators. It’s an important part of what we’re doing at YouTube.

GamesBeat: Getting beyond just the celebrities is important for you, then.

Wyatt: Absolutely. We’re thinking about how anybody can get on the platform. If they’re interested in making gaming videos and creating a community, we want to give them the tools to be able to monetize. We put a lot of thought into the products we create as far as monetization for torso and tail creators, alternative monetization products, making sure they can continue to make money on our platform, and will continue to put a lot of thought into innovating new products.

GamesBeat: In the past year, maybe two years, it’s been interesting to see how people use YouTube to gauge sentiment about a game. If something like Battlefield V gets a lot of downvotes and Call of Duty battle royale gets a lot of upvotes, that’s an interesting signal from the market about what gamers are interested in.

Wyatt: Gamers are vocal about their opinions, whatever they may be. I think gaming creators are an important part of market trends in general around game purchases. A lot of viewers look to their favorite game creators for opinions that they very much value around whether they should be buying and participating in a game. There’s no doubt that YouTube gaming creators are an influential part of the industry, and so are the users on the platform. Looking at the breadth of content that’s being created for different games or what games creators are playing, those are definitely indicators of what games will be popular and highly rated by users.

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