IP: The Business of PewDiePie

Credit: EurUni

King PewDiePie/Credit: EurUni

Video games often play a huge role in one’s childhood and leisure time. Today, millions of children and teens around the globe spend a significant portion of time glued to their TV screens and consoles, engaging in the newest and finest entertainment, ranging from basketball to war-based games. In 2013, studies reported that gamers aged 13 or older in the U.S. spent 6.3 hours per week playing video games (Aamoth, 2014). Many people wish they could turn their hobby of playing video games into a real career. Well, thanks to the emergence of online video platforms, such as YouTube, and the power of social media in today’s age, that dream has become a reality for one lucky man.

The Man Behind the Screen

In 2010, PewDiePie, aka Felix Kjellberg, created his own YouTube channel, where he posted videos of himself playing various video games. Fast forward to 2015, he has now gained over 37 million subscribers and 9 billion views on his videos, making PewDiePie the biggest YouTube star in the world (Malone Kircher, 2015). The 25-year old web star was born in Sweden, and studied industrial engineering at Chalmers University of Technology. However while enrolled, Felix “far preferred making art and playing video games, and felt he didn’t fit in well” (Dewey, 2015). Two years into producing his own content online, he gained well-established fan base and began dating an Italian fan of his, Marzia Bisognin. Today, the couple lives together in Brighton, England.

With regards to the content itself, Felix’s videos are more than just simply watching gameplay. These YouTube videos not only showcase his superior video game skills on a technical level, but also feature hilarious, edgy commentary. Felix often pokes fun at different features or characters in the games. His dynamic personality has earned him a massive cult-like following online – the “Bro Army” who have formed their own online forum and community on broarmy.net (Lunn, 2014).

A New Beginning

With the rise of YouTube, many entrepreneurs and tech companies saw a major opportunity in producing online video content for mass audiences. In 2009, Maker Studios was formed. The company’s goal is to sign content creators from different genres and “provide resources like studio space, cross promotion, potential deals with brands, and general expertise” (Walker, 2014). In exchange for these services, the web stars hand over a cut of the revenue gained from their channel. Two years ago, the company was expanding quickly and became so influential in the world of online video that media conglomerate Disney bought Maker Studios for $500 million (Walker, 2014). In 2012, the PewDiePie page reached over a million subscribers, catching the attention of Maker, and eventually signed a deal with the company to help take his brand to the next level (Lunn, 2014).

Due to the fact that there is such a broad spectrum of videos available on YouTube, Felix’s main competitors are the other content creators focused on playing and reviewing video games. Most of his competitors, such as “FPSRussia,” a famous YouTube star known for his expert level skills in Call of Duty, are signed to a major multi-channel network called Machinima. The company has an almost identical business model to Maker Studios, however it focuses solely on video gaming. According to Brustein (2013), “Machinima is the most popular outlet for gaming videos,” and has received millions in funding from Google and investors to expand into an established media company.

Show Me the Money

It was reported that the YouTube star earned a jaw dropping $7.4 million from his channel in 2014 (Rosen, 2015). Now, the main question most people have is how in the world did he make that much money? There is more to the process than just simply playing video games on a webcam. In one of his videos, Felix states, “I have nine billion views, that translates to something. There are ads in the videos and I make money out of those” (Solon, 2015).

Here is how the revenue model works: YouTubers earn a percentage of revenue from ads on their videos. Once a content creator gains enough subscribers, they can register to become a “YouTube Partner,” where they agree to split ad revenue with YouTube (Lunn, 2014). The more video views one receives, the more advertisers will pay to feature ads beside a video. The deal is structured as follows: 55% of revenue goes to the channel owner and 45% for YouTube (Lunn, 2014). In the case of Felix however, let’s not forget about his deal with Maker Studios, which takes another piece off his earnings. Overall, this revenue model clearly justifies Felix’s astonishing net worth.

Cashing Out

When he’s not playing games, being interviewed by Rolling Stone, or making cameos in episodes of South Park, the Youtuber has found additional ways to boost his bank account. He has created a successful PewDiePie merchandise line, which sells everything from hats, t-shirts, posters and other accessories. Furthermore, Felix has seen the business opportunity in live events and VIP experiences, as he hosts meet and greet and autograph signings with his fans around the globe. An older man who attended one of Felix’s meets and greets compared the event and the chaos of fans’ screaming to something out of Beatlemania (Parker, 2015).

PewDiePie's devoted fans gather in line outside a meet and greet event Credit: BT Group

PewDiePie’s devoted fans gather in line outside a meet and greet event
Credit: BT Group

The Wrap Up

The most remarkable aspect of the PewDiePie business is that aside from his deal with Maker Studios, Felix has built an online empire while remaining fully independent – no managers, agents, production team, or publicists. He truly is a one-man powerhouse.


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Brustein, J. (2013, June 25). Machinima Wants to Build a Media Empire on Video-Game Videos. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2013-06-25/machinima-wants-to-build-a-media-empire-on-video-game-videos

Dewey, C. (2015, September 9). Who is PewDiePie, the first person to ever hit 10 billion YouTube views? Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2015/09/09/who-is-pewdiepie-the-first-person-to-ever-hit-10-billion-youtube-views/

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Kjellberg, F. (2014, October 25). Funny Montage #3. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxQO53J2_OQ

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Parker, L.A. (2015, December 16). The Cult of PewDiePie: How a Swedish Gamer Became YouTube’s Biggest Star. Retrieved from http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/the-cult-of-pewdiepie-how-a-swedish-gamer-became-youtubes-biggest-star-20151216

PewDiePie Shop. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://pewdiepiestore.myshopify.com/

PewDiePie (2015, July 15). Retrieved from https://www.euruni.edu/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/PewDiePieKing.jpg

PewDiePie Meet&Greet (2015, October 18). Retrieved from http://snappa.static.pressassociation.io/assets/2015/10/18171900/1445185138-232b4e021602ea6271b6a95752dd052f-600×379.jpg

Solon, O. (2015, July 8). PewDiePie: How did the ‘King of Youtube’ make £4.5 million last year? Retrieved from http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/technology-science/technology/pewdiepie-how-king-youtube-make-6026378

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Walker, R. (2014, March 25). What Is Maker Studios? And Why Does Disney Think It’s Worth $500 Million? Retrieved from https://www.yahoo.com/tech/what-is-maker-studios-and-why-does-disney-think-its-80679576701.html



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