YouTube,Machinima and the Content Creation Revolution

I’ve been following this trend for a while now and have decided it’s finally time to bash out a post – it’s about the amazing popularity of gamers posting videos about gaming. In some cases it’s a video about their own gameplay (solo or multiplayer) and in other instances it’s round-ups of other peoples play.

Take a look at the iPad screenshots below taken from the YouTube app (UK-centric). The first screenshot shows the Most Viewed videos this week. Take a look at the Minecraft videos. 1.1m and 831k views. I bet you didn’t realise the nuclear-powered diamond factories could be so popular. Battlefield 3 is a FPS (first person shooter) not actually released until later this month. It has 1.6m combined views. Rage is another FPS and has 858k views.



The second screenshot shows the Top Rated videos this week. Minecraft features again as does Battlefield 3. Call of Duty: Black Ops makes an entrance into the top rates videos as well.

You could classify these types of videos as machinima in some cases (Minecraft being the best example) and some others are examples of UGC – user generated content.

First off, ‘how’ is this happening?

To their credit, game developers are allowing users to ‘output’ their gameplay in video format straight into YouTube, thus giving their players a direct channel to publish UGC. Additonally, in some cases users are recording their gamplay using third-party software (a harder techqnique than the first option).

Next, ‘why’.

Virtual worlds, MMOs and online games (as we all know) are simply getting more and more popular. And, better integrated into SocNets. But popularity and access doesn’t tell the whole story. The full explanation of why can be split into three different categories – two of which are subtly related.

Category One: ‘Give the people what they want’

Placing demos and exclusive footage from video games and the like is a key tool in the marketing arsenal to promote upcoming and new titles. If there’s a large audience wanting to consume this media then obviously people will watch it.

On a less ‘promotional’ basis, providing walkthroughs, hints and guides is also very popular. For an example of this from the virtual worlds sector, try searching for ‘Club Penguin’ with the Google auto search complete and see what the third word suggested is (the third word is ‘cheats’). This holds true for all popular virtual worlds.

Category Two:’Proud and Loud’

The second category drills directly into the popularity of UGC within virtual worlds, MMOs etc. Worlds with the ability for users to create content typically have much more engaged users than those that do not, certainly in the older age ranges because it takes time and dedication to create assets. UGC is not typically a feature within younger virtual worlds due to a reluctance to moderate content and/or technical constraints of 2.5D environments.

Perhaps it’s time this changed and more companies realised the benefits of allowing younger users to create. This was identified in 2007 in a report written by Jackie Marsh for the Journal of Early Childhood Research. The article, titled ‘Young Children’s Play in Online Virtual Worlds’ concluded that:

Unlike virtual worlds for young people and adults which include the opportunity to utilize programming skills in order to create in-world objects and artefacts and customize avatars (as is the case in Second Life, for example), the virtual worlds aimed at younger children do not foster such creativity. Given the extent to which children and young people are engaged in developing user-generated content in out-of-school contexts (Lankshear and Knobel, 2006), indeed becoming ‘producers’ (Bruns, 2006), this appears to be a short-sighted approach.

The massive popularity of Minecraft has demonstrated that

  1. People will spend long lengths of time creating complex content in virtual worlds.
  2. These people then want to ‘show off’ their creations. They’re proud of what they made and want to broadcast it.
  3. There’s a large audience wanting to consume the video content.

On a related note, when we deployed our branded virtual goods campaign for L’Oreal Paris in Second Life, an unexpected (but warmly received) output from residents who purchased the virtual goods was imagery of users wearing the skins. They wanted to creative their own L’Oreal styled content.

There’s even a sub-genre of users re-creating popular music videos inside virtual worlds. And as for movies….

Category Three: ‘Eat This’

This category is also related to ‘showing off’ but on a slightly different basis. Rather than content creators wanting to showcase their creativity, instead this group consists of gamers (mainly from FPS’s) ‘larging it’ with killcams and uploading 200 yard sniper kills or impossible blind knife throws over buildings. Think that’s futile? Check out the views below.

To conclude, user generated content, be it on a simplistic basis videos of game-play, a more advanced basis machinima and at the high-end complex, interactive in-world asset creations generates massive views on YouTube and along the way builds engaged and loyal user bases.

Companies targeting younger target markets with virtual world and MMO properties need to think about how to integrate these mechanics into their offerings. A good place to start would be taking a look at Minecraft and Roblox.

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