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Why VTubers might be key influencers for marketing your next game

New data from research firm Gamesight shows that VTubers are becoming a main staple of the livestreaming ecosystem.

Bryant Francis, Senior Editor

August 10, 2023

5 Min Read
An image of a woman sitting at a desk in front of a streaming setup, looking at the camera.

Gamesight CEO Adam Lieb has faced a strange challenge for the last few years while preparing marketing plans for clients: explaining why partnering with a VTuber might be one of the best ways to market their game on Twitch and other livestreaming services.

The task is strange for two reasons. First, it's always a bit surreal to have to explain to the people who control the purse strings why setting up a business arrangement with what is effectively a semi-fictional animated character is worth the money.

But what's more strange is this: since VTubing (the practice of livestreaming while wearing the face of a motion-captured 3D model) took off, personalities like Ironmouse, Kuzuha, and Kobo Kanaeru have rapidly built huge audiences that many marketers would want to target—but large game publishers still aren't quick to partner with the streamers, even if they're huge fans of their games.

Lieb told Game Developer that he's had to make this argument so many times that he and his team finally went out in search of hard data that could make their case for them. What they found was this: Despite making up just .4 percent of the content available on YouTube Live Gaming and Twitch, they accounted for 5.7 percent of all views across the two game-focused platforms.

That's a fascinating discrepancy—one of several datapoints that indicates such streamers are potent marketing partners for developers and publishers. What's driving that interest? According to Lieb, Gamesight data analyst Niko Racelis-Russell and creative solutions coordinator Yane An, it's a combination of two factors: a high up-front investment from streamers, and a high amount of organic interest in seeing these personalities play games together.

Becoming a VTuber requires a high up-front investment

High-profile streamers from all backgrounds are likely to have expensive, near-studio-quality setups. But regular human streamers can build up to that level of popularity on the back of their personalities and a modest amount of equipment. VTubers are investing in that studio equipment and the animated 3D rigs at the beginning of their endeavor.

Lieb argued that such investment is one of the key factors driving the disproportionate audience interest across YouTube and Twitch. "They're typically more consistent with content creation and they typically do a better job," he said.

Racelis-Russell had some additional data that backed up this theory. According to Gamesight, 48 percent of Non-VTuber audiences will watch a stream for over 20 minutes (which the company defines as an 'engaged' audience), but 52 percent of VTuber audiences will stick around past the 20 minute mark.

A four percent difference between the two stats rides the edge of a typical margin of error, but Racelis-Russell said he spotted some more definitive differences. "People who are engaged with VTuber streams are watching [them] about 10 percent longer than anyone else," he said.

VTubers, like everyone else, play games together

There's nothing really revelatory about streamers playing games together—you can see case studies in streamers picking up social games like Among Us as examples of how playing together can boost a game's profile. But something about the VTubing community has driven creators towards cooperative experiences—where they can work together (or troll each other) in a multiplayer environment.

"A lot of VTubers pride themselves on being 'variety streamers,' An explained. Though VTubing first took off among Japanese streamers (which explains the anime-inspired aesthetic many of them employ), their audiences aren't only looking for games with a similar aesthetic. According to Gamesight, the top games played by VTubers vary across platforms.

On Twitch, the most common category they use is "Just Chatting," and their top-played games include VRChat, Valorant, and League of Legends. Hogwarts Legacy was the only single-player game to crack the top 10 list. On YouTube, multiplayer games like Minecraft and Apex Legends topped the VTubing charts, but single-player games such as games from the Pokémon and Legend of Zelda series were the games that attracted the most attention.

An pointed to events like the annual VTuber Most Cooperative Tournament as one of the events reflecting how popular Apex Legends has become in Japan.

Should you partner with VTubers for your next game launch?

Gamesight was able to provide some metrics to help developers compare how a VTuber on Twitch might help boost their game during launch week. The case study they provided was a partnership with VTuber Lord Aethelstan during the launch of Atlus' mobile game Persona 3 Portable. The VTuber streamed the game with his partner (a fellow VTuber named Nyanners), and was credited with driving over 160k viewer hours on stream by a total of 93.4k viewers.

Lord Aethelstan plays Persona 3 Portable. A character looking at the camera says

Those are impressive numbers, though it should be noted those are across Twitch, not just on Lord Aethelstan's channel. The marketing firm declined to give specific numbers on Persona 3 Portable's financial performance, but said that the experience led publisher Sega of America to some interest in future VTuber partnerships.

The most compelling case to partner with VTubers might just be how organically the group has risen as a popular type of streamer—something Racelis-Russell said surfaced in his data analysis before the company began close attention to it. While doing regular data pulls of audience engagement metrics from Gamesight's internal database, Racelis-Russell said he "couldn't ignore the fact" that every time he pulled data for clients, there would be 2-5 VTubers on that list.

"They're always appearing, I've got to say something about this," he recalled himself thinking.

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About the Author(s)

Bryant Francis

Senior Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Bryant Francis is a writer, journalist, and narrative designer based in Boston, MA. He currently writes for Game Developer, a leading B2B publication for the video game industry. His credits include Proxy Studios' upcoming 4X strategy game Zephon and Amplitude Studio's 2017 game Endless Space 2.

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