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The Impact of ‘Lets Plays” on the Development of Video Games

Shout out to my friend Jim Freiburger for the topic idea this week!

lllllllllllets play!
The most popular person on YouTube
‘Lets Plays’ have taken over YouTube. Go ahead, look at what the top channels are that focus on Lets Plays. PewDiePie has close to 36 million subscribers, and his channel is solely centered around him doing commentary over himself playing video games. There are more people subscribed to PewDiePie, a Swedish guy playing video games and talking, than there are people in Canada. In fact, littered in the top 100 subscribed channels are YouTubers’ focused solely on playing video games (see here). People (including myself) love to have interesting personalities commentate over playing games. It’s relaxing, it’s funny, it’s nice to have in the background while you’re doing something else, and, perhaps the most interesting, it gives the viewers a sense of if they should buy the game or not. Let’s explore that last bit some more…
The game phenomenon that was “Flappy Bird” only became popular after PewDiePie played the game on his channel. This is well documented, and rather than reciting it here I will link articles here, here, and here. In summary, the game became wildly popular and the creator began making daily revenues of over $50,000 from the app store. Profits began to soar after PewDiePie played it on his channel, and his massive following spread the word from there.
This game is VERY bad, yet made millions

Similarly so, Five Nights at Freddy’s 1-3 might not be as popular and successful without the coverage and exposure of Lets Plays done by Markiplier, a very popular YouTuber.

Same with StarCraft 2, with MLG style coverage being done on channels like HuskyStarCraft.

It appears that this free advertising and marketing that Lets Plays provide an opportunity for the consumer to potentially enjoy the game before they even buy it. This allows for a unique opportunity for consumers to buy games, both good and bad by critic standards, when the opportunity would not interest the consumer before. What does this mean for the industry? For game development?

Well, put yourself in the shoes of a game developer. Now, not only must your game be fun to play, but it also must be fun to watch and be accessible to play for these Lets Plays. It must also be a game that peaks the interest of the internet community, and one that fans of these popular YouTubers will demand their channel’s face to play.Is there a certain criteria for these kinds of games? I would say no. These games can range anywhere from Goat Simulator to NBA 2K15, to Halo, to Civilization V, to anything. Even a game as bad as Flappy Bird found success this way…

Let’s talk about game development. Now, game developers have to consider how their games’ legacy will continue to thrive through these mediums. Not only must a game have enough flexibility and freedom to have a different experience every time, but it also must be engaging enough but not overly complicated to entice a viewer who will decide if they will want to watch a video within the first 5 or 10 seconds of watching it.
Games like Five Nights at Freddy’s are great for this, as the game itself is not overly complicated, but it has enough flexibility and freedom to allow different avenues of success, and the game will emit a different reaction from everyone who plays it.
A game that would not be as good for this would be a game like Portal. Bear with me, I know this game is well-loved, but in itself the game is a puzzle game with the same solution to every puzzle being well-documented and well-known by most of the community who plays it. Of course, there are some different ways of completing puzzles, but for the most part it is expected. And that does not allow for much of the above criteria.
That is all I have to say about this subject for now – Expect future posts to be on Halo 5 speculation and E3 speculation. Also, I will be streaming my gameplay via Twitch occasionally. I encourage everyone to follow me on Twitch at “xcalibrr” and to follow me on Twitter @GruntledGamer for updates on news and stuff.

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