According to a study conducted by SuperData Research, Video Game streaming content— such as “Let’s Play’s” in which gameplay is overlaid with player commentary—has accrued a massive viewership that far outperforms other streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Over 600 million viewers worldwide tuned into Video Game content in 2017 compared to the 235 million combined subscribers of more widely known streaming sites like HBO, Netflix, Hulu.
Of course, the more traditional streaming outlets do require a monthly subscription fee for use which can act as a barrier to entry for some users. The main sources of gaming-related videos, such as Youtube and Twitch, are largely ad-supported services that let viewers tune in for free. Still, these kinds of numbers are hard to ignore when you’re considering how viewers now get their entertainment. It’s certainly not just kids tuning in, either. Superdata’s research puts the average age of viewers at around 33 years old. It also states that nearly half of all viewers are women. “Lets Play” videos and other such gaming content has become a massive contender in an already crowded media landscape.
But can it last? Gameplay videos exist in largely untested legal waters at this point, with many unsure of how copyright laws may affect them in the long term. Currently, most would consider this type of content to fall under ‘fair use’ which allows gameplay video creators to monetize and in some cases make a living off of their work. However, some companies, such as Nintendo, have more restrictions on how their games can be used in Lets Play videos and what kind of content creators are allowed to monetize. Many videos uploaded onto youtube in particular can be disrupted my the site’s automatic copyright claim algorithm. No major court cases have been filed about copyright and video game streaming have been filed yet, but with all the growth that the industry has seen in recent years that may change at any time.