Why PewDiePie is YouTube’s Most Popular Channel

Source: PewDiePie via YouTube

Source: PewDiePie via YouTube

If you’re older than 30, you might not know who PewDiePie is, but to say he’s popular would be a dramatic understatement. With over 33 million subscribers at the time of this writing, he operates the most popular channel on all of YouTube.

Who is he and what does he do?

PewDiePie is the nickname of Felix Kjellberg, a 25-year-old Swede who started his YouTube channel in 2010. He’s known for his Let’s Play videos, which consist of nothing more than him playing video games and commenting on the action as he plays.

So everyone loves him?

Far from it. PewDiePie is not universally adored, and you don’t have to look hard to find people complaining about him. The great divide in opinion on PewDiePie seems to be largely generational. Older people are less likely to subscribe to YouTube channels, or to pay much credence to YouTube personalities in general. Many younger viewers, on the other hand, see him as endlessly entertaining and relatable.

What are his videos like?

PewDiePie’s videos are energetic, with him doing an off-the-cuff running commentary that’s characterized by goofy jokes, profanity, and loud outbursts. Here’s a montage he put together. Here’s him playing a goofy browser game that’s hard to control. He comes off as wholly unfiltered.

Some of his videos are edited in a way that keeps the action moving, never sticking on any one part for too long. The editing, his sense of humor, his vocal outbursts — these are all things that many people find abrasive about PewDiePie. But they’re also the things that his fans love the most.

Is he ridiculous all the time?

No. For as goofy as he can be — or obnoxious, if you prefer — PewDiePie can also be bracingly honest. Just watch him play the end of The Last of Us (spoilers, obviously). It’s a powerful game, with a great story and a gut punch of an ending. PewDiePie is his usual wild self until he gets to the final cut scene, which leaves him largely speechless. Then he wrestles with the game’s complicated, divisive ending in a very real, honest way.

Source: PewDiePie via YouTube

Source: PewDiePie via YouTube

Is his success just a fluke?

I don’t think so. In interviews, PewDiePie doesn’t come off like the immature gamer you might expect. He’s much more thoughtful and self-aware than he seems in many of his videos.

For instance, he has good insights into why he’s so incredibly popular. “Unlike many professionally produced shows,” he told the Wall Street Journal, “I think I’ve established a much closer contact with my viewers, breaking the wall between the viewer and what’s behind the screen. What I and other YouTubers do is a very different thing, it’s almost like hanging around and watching your pal play games. My fans care in a different way about what they are watching.”

He’s also something of a control freak. With his millions in income, PewDiePie could easily hire people to communicate with game makers and edit his videos. Instead, he does it all himself. His channel is a one-man machine.

“My fans don’t really care about professional high-end production videos either,” he told Icon Magazine. “The fact that people know that it’s just me making the videos – with no crew – has proved to be a winning concept. The thing that has made YouTube so successful is that you can relate to the people you’re watching to a much higher degree than to the people you see on TV. And that’s why I keep doing it all myself, though it would save me a lot of work if I didn’t.”

Should I subscribe to his channel?

Obviously you don’t have to follow PewDiePie if you don’t want to, but whether you like it or not, he’s not going anywhere. His popularity has only increased during the four years he’s been at it. Kids love him, and more YouTubers are trying to do what he does. Ignore him if you want, but PewDiePie and other people like him are a fast-growing part of the video game industry. You’d do well to pay attention.

Follow Chris on Twitter @_chrislreed

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