Cultural Trends

4 ways brands can take advantage of the intersection of video streaming and gaming

To talk about the convergence of video streaming and gaming as the catalyst for a new culture of creation would seem like a bit like a no-brainer to many. After all, both encourage similar content consumption behaviors and drive an almost fanatical level of engagement. However, what kind of magic happens when the two collide?

That’s precisely what we set out to explore. And it should come as no surprise that the combination of the two are a marketer’s match-made-in-heaven, opening up a wealth of new opportunities for brands to reach, engage, and communicate with gaming enthusiasts in ways that could not be achieved independently through each channel alone. Through content targeting, marketers can now reach and engage the coveted gaming audience like never before. This is a pretty big deal, if we’d say so ourselves!

What Exactly Are Gamers Doing on YouTube?

YouTube Gaming and Twitch are the two online video platforms leading the pack around building gaming-oriented communities. In 2017, Zefr decided to take a deep dive into this somewhat uncharted territory, monitoring the trend of watching gaming video content on YouTube. This has not only helped us understand the different kinds of conversations and communities forming around this kind of content, but it’s also helped uncover the unique types of content, formats, and trends emerging in real-time around the gaming space. In our analysis, we’ve found that this content resides across 24K channels, representing 189K video uploads and a whopping 94B views!

We also wanted to understand what makes a platform like YouTube so unique and important in the creation of gaming communities, so we sifted through YouTube’s data to wrap our heads around the content consumption patterns most prevalent within the gaming community. To our surprise (and delight), the data didn’t just skew in the direction of millennial men. Both men and women consider watching gaming content on YouTube an “active sport.” Here are some of the most interesting stats we stumbled upon:

  • 74 percent of YouTube gamers said they enjoy watching others play games on YouTube.
  • 66 percent of women go to YouTube to hear from other gamers they can “relate to”
  • 56 percent go to YouTube to connect with their gaming community

And while this is only scratching the surface, the data is proof that YouTube has become a go-to hub for community-building around gaming that many marketers may not have ever realized.

But our analysis didn’t stop there. We dove head-first into the content itself to see what drives community and sparks engagement among one of the most passionate and diverse audiences ever. So, what gaming content is most popular on YouTube, you ask? Among total video views – you know, that big 94 billion number mentioned above – the top 3 most-viewed content types are: Live or Recorded Gameplay (52 percent), Comedic Narratives by Gaming Enthusiasts (15.7 percent), and Compilations and/or Gaming Highlights (9.6 percent).

How Brands Can Engage Gamers

Reviewing the gaming ecosystem in this way on YouTube has helped us identify a few unique “whitespaces” for brands to more deeply engage with gaming communities. 


This whitespace integrates seamlessly into the massive community of people watching other people play games. This type of content is generated by both professional (46 percent) and casual (54 percent) gamers – and because there is a low barrier of entry, we are seeing more and more of these kinds of videos emerging that cater to a specific niche or community.

The two most popular video formats in this whitespace are: One Shot (one particular feature of a game in a single video) and Series (the entirety of a game over a series of videos). The top three genres among these formats are Builder Games (i.e. Minecraft and Roblox) – by a 43 percent longshot –followed Open World Games (i.e. Monster Hunter World) and Battle Royale Games (i.e. Fortnite) at 14 percent and 12 percent, respectively.


This whitespace is characterized by gaming-oriented content layered with a unique sense of humor or an engaging point of view. The gaming audience loves to be entertained. Whether or not a specific game is humorous by nature, this kind of video content shines a spotlight on the personalities of gamers and reviewers. The most engaging content tends to have a slightly comedic undertone. This comes as no surprise as humor helps to break up the stress, anxiety, and emotions that results from intense game play.

The most popular video formats are: Animated Comedies (mini “soap operas” that use characters from popular games to create new narratives); CosPlay Comedies (creative interpretations or scenes from popular games, via live action or 3D modeling); and Real World Comedies (memes that blur the lines between real life and video games, turning everyday scenarios into a more game-like experience with digital overlays and other gaming features). Whether produced by YouTube creators or niche production companies, the content tends to be high quality and, as a result, highly engaging.


This whitespace leverages the community-building zeitgeist fueled by popular or trending video game titles. In other words, it’s an opportunity for brands to create content or engage in conversations around the games that players are talking about most, which currently revolves around top Battle Royale Games (i.e. Fortnite, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds) and Open World Genre Games (i.e. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Marvel’s Spiderman).


This whitespace explores the communities forming around real-time e-Sports coverage – and is a sub-category of the YouTube Gaming ecosystem all onto its own. With 52K channels, 242K videos, 2.9B views, 45.5M engagements, YouTube has challenged the once dominant position of rivals Twitch and Smashcast (formely, Azubu) in the e-Sports domain – with League of Legends commanding more than half (56 percent to be exact) of all e-Sports viewership.

Of the 2.9 billion e-Sports views on YouTube, Live Competition Coverage (46 percent), Highlights (15 percent), Semi-Pro (13 percent), and Opinions (12 percent) capture the most attention of gamers all around the world.

Content Targeting is the Answer

At Zefr, we know just how important it is for brands to harness the mindshare and loyalty of truly engaged communities – like the gaming community. Now, you can target this incredibly tuned-in community via the content they are watching daily. To make this easy for you, we’ve built a unique Gaming Package, comprised of 3M videos and 487K channels across e-Sports, PC, and mobile as well as across the brands generating the bulk of this gaming content (i.e. X-Box, PlayStation, Nintendo). Through content targeting, we provide a new – and better – way for brands to tap into gaming communities in more relevant, authentic, and impactful ways.

Learn more about how Zefr can help you align your brand’s message with the right content on YouTube through content targeting.

Cultural Trends

This is the first in a series that spotlights culturally significant and popular topics on YouTube, curated monthly by ZEFR Insights. The videos below are just a glimpse of what these topics look like. Be sure to subscribe right here to get future posts (and only future posts) delivered by email.

Super Bowl XLIX Interception

The New England Patriots ended the Seattle Seahawks’ brief reign as Super Bowl champions with a last-minute interception. With a mere 26 seconds remaining, Russell Wilson’s pass was intercepted by Patriots rookie, Malcolm Butler. This game-saving grab won the game for the Patriots, crowning them the new Super Bowl champions, and igniting passionate fan reactions on YouTube:

Continue reading “YouTube in February: What’s Being Watched”

Video Games on YouTube_Unsplash_byPawelKadysz
Cultural Trends

photo above by Pawel Kadysz

ZEFR continually tracks the top trending topics across all of YouTube, yet sometimes even we are surprised by what our data reveals. When we looked closely at the top 20 trending topics every day for the month of November 2014, we found that video games were far and away the most popular of any vertical. When ranked by the number of top 20 appearances for any topic, video game-related content accounted for 8 of the top 10 most recurring trends. In other words, ZEFR data reveals that “video games” on YouTube consistently sees the most growth in views than any other trending topic on the platform:


6 Video Game Video Trends to Know

“Let’s Plays”

“Let’s play” videos are key to understanding why video games have thrived on YouTube. Essentially, it all comes down to the fact that people don’t have to actually play video games to find them entertaining. Simply watching others play video games has turned into a brand new professional spectator sport with a huge audience.

In “let’s play” videos, the person behind the controls becomes the star, adding commentary as they navigate through a game. As evidence of the massive popularity of this trend, you only have to look at the numbers for the “let’s play” video king, PewDiePie, the most popular YouTuber ever. (South Park recently parodied PewDiePie and the “let’s play” concept.)


While very similar in style to a “let’s play” video, “walkthroughs” are a bit more formal and organized, with the primary intention to educate and explain aspects of a game, as opposed the pure entertainment of just watching a game in action. Gamers will turn to “walkthroughs” whenever they find themselves stuck on a challenging level, or if they are looking for a secret edge to improve their own gaming skills.


Not to be confused with the video-game MCN of the same name, the “machinima” video style uses the video-game universe to create films. A combination of the words “machine” and “cinema,” these videos are a unique form of digital puppeteering. One of the most popular series on YouTube is called “Red vs. Blue,” which used the video game Halo as its universe.


As a video-game trend, reviews are about as straightforward as it sounds, yet it’s a big trend. YouTube continues to reveal just how important it has become for reviews of every kind – products, services, music, film… you name it. Video games are no exception, as fans look to top influencers when trying to decide on which games they should to spend their hard-earned money/free time.

Speed Runs

As mentioned above in “let’s plays,” video games have essentially become a professional spectator sport thanks to platforms like YouTube and Twitch, which is known for its live streams of people playing popular games. And, just like any other professional sport, YouTube serves as an archive for some of the greatest highlights and achievements. One of the best examples of this kind of trend are “Speed Runs,” which capture the fastest completion times for certain levels or races in a video game.


Glitch videos remind the world that no one is perfect. These videos shine a light on those moments where video-game programmers overlooked a glitch in the matrix, so to speak, often with hilarious results. Most importantly, these serve as quality feedback for programmers to keep alert.

Takeaway: Fans Drive Culture

More than anything, the dominance of video games on YouTube should remind all of us just how essential the fans truly are for the world’s biggest video platform. Without the fans, the platform is just a traditional, one-way form of communication with few surprises. Factor in the fans, the amount of content, and the creativity behind it, YouTube has no ceiling. This sense of endless possibility is what makes YouTube so special, and it’s what drives the top trends week after week.

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