For big fans of PewDiePie, Markiplier, JackSepticEye and so on, there seemed to be a brief moment in YouTube history in which everyone went nuts over some buggy game about being a goat. But what you may not have noticed is how crucial that singular game came to be in regards to its position in the gaming industry as a whole.
Over the last couple of years, key indie games have stormed through the trending circuits of YouTube, creating mass hysteria as millions of new fans suddenly rush to buy said game. To put it simply: If PewDiePie plays your game, prepare your bank account for an influx of cash.
Below are some of the most iconic ‘YouTube Bait’* games with details on how people such as Felix and Sean have essentially created a chart-topping success just by interacting with it.
*Definition: A game made with the purposeful intent of being broken/silly/glitched, knowing that it’s hilarity would result in funny reactions and video content. Essentially, games designed for YouTubers.
- Goat Simulator (Coffee Stain Studio’s)
Video Count: ~2,620,000
Here’s a fun titbit for you: Goat Simulator made back it’s entire production cost after only 10 minutes on sale. Impressive right? Well it all started with one simple video on YouTube, in which someone was playing the pre-release alpha version of Goat Simulator. Within 2 days it had gathered over 2 million views, making the developers at Coffee Stain Studio’s invest all their time and money into creating the full game – and it definitely paid off.
At the time of writing, typing ‘Goat Simulator’ into YouTube’s search bar brings up about 2,620,000 results. Now imagine how many viewers would have seen each of these videos and you will be aware of the reason behind it’s financial success; YouTubers as viral marketing. The advertising potential of YouTube creators is still massively untapped against it’s mainstream competitors, both TV spots or browser ads, which makes the success rate of these ‘Bait’ games even more uncontrollable when the right game comes to the right hands.
- Surgeon Simulator (Bossa Studio’s)
Video Count: ~2,550,000
Anyone who has played Surgeon Simulator knows that the controls are sloppy – but deliberately so. But it contains a powerful amount of replayability as well as comedic value that it was an instant success for Lets Players. This in no small part comes own to the fact that you can accidently throw someone’s new heart out the back of a moving ambulance at the click of a button.
So, in a perfect world, who is going to be the best person to demo your game on YouTube? None other than Mr Subscriber himself, PewDiePie. Posted on April 21st 2013, Pewds was officially the first ‘big’ YouTuber to commentate on the Simulator game, with a current viewing count of 12.5 million. And judging that the game was made for free in a Game Jam, this level of exposure was far from a predicted response.
From there, the developers behind the game worked tirelessly to make sure content in the game was kept relevant and close to PewDiePie’s/YouTube’s branding to maintain interest over a longer stretch of time than planned. Back in March 2015, Bossa announced that all their hard work had paid off with an estimated sales reach of over 2 million copies, which is pretty damn good for a game that was made in less than 48 hours.
- Minecraft (Mojang)
Video Count: ~94,600,000
Minecraft is an unstoppable YouTube force that makes millionaires out of people who play this one game only – just look at CaptainSparklez and YogsCast. It’s astonishing just how successful this game has really become, and it’s almost entirely through YouTube exposure. In fact, the game was made by one man on his own, which is pretty darn impressive to begin with.
It seems you can’t go anywhere on YouTube without someone’s channel having at least one ‘Minecraft Lets Play’ video lost in the archives, so it comes at no great surprise that even YouTube itself has acknowledged Minecraft as the ‘Most Watched Game‘ on it’s platform. Just imagine what this title means for the sales figures alone…
- Slender: The Eight Pages (Parsec Productions)
Video Count: ~16,200,000
Ah Slender, my own personal nightmare fuel. As a long time reader of CreepyPasta and the original legends of Slenderman, it was a dream come true when the video game was released. And apparently it was for the developers as their small, indie game was played first by PewDiePie, thus creating one of the largest, most frantic Lets Play crazes of the last couple of years.
Based on the simplicity of it’s gameplay and jump scares designed to scare the absolute bejeezus out of its player, Slender comes together as the PERFECT example of “YouTube Bait” for inspiring video game developers. As a matter of fact, just look through the beginning stages of PewDiePie’s channel and you’ll see that he only played scary games, hence how he became known for his funny reactions and demented screaming. As you’ll see from the next game…
- Amnesia: The Dark Decent (Frictional Games)
Video Count: ~2,230,000
When considering key games that launched PewDiePie’s career, Amnesia is never far from one’s mind – especially when one of Pewds’ most iconic ‘characters’ came from the series. You’ll all know him as Stephano. This game gave Felix the sweetest of opportunities to capitalise on his own nervous fear of the game coupled with the ease to play a title that wasn’t already massively popular somehow created this mega moment in gaming in which a Swedish guy with a low scream threshold become a huge YouTube celebrity.
Since PewDiePie’s time with Amnesia it has gone from strength to strength, particularly as it was only really seen as a game played by people deep into the culture of playing off-the-radar indie games. The exposure from Felix’s initial videos and all the following YouTubers jumping on the trend created this swell of popularity which saw Amnesia sell an estimated 1.4 million copies in 2012. The final question being; is a game still considered an indie what it makes mass-market success?
- Agar.Io (Matheus Valadares)
Video Count: ~24,400,000
The video count on this particular game is CRAZY judging that’s the most recent Lets Play craze to sweep all our YouTube subscription boxes having been released only 8 months ago. A very simple, browser based game (fundamentally meaning its free and accessible to all) sent shockwaves through the web as big gaming names such as JackSepticEye and Markiplier jumped onto the bandwagon.
In some cases YouTube celebrities have tweeted out their server and avatar name, leading fans to flock in their thousands to the game to play with their beloved stars. This could have only gone one way, and boy did it… within minutes servers were crashing left, right and centre and the game slowly lost its appeal as it became dubbed ‘broken’. Agar.io has since tried to crack its way onto the handheld/mobile marketplace, but its moment seems to have passed after hitting a peak of 10 million downloads in its first week.
- Happy Wheels (Jim Bonacci)
Video Count: ~24,500,000
Aside from Minecraft, Happy Wheels is one of the oldest and most recognisable YouTube Bait games with UberHaxorNova kicking off the trend all the way back in November 2011. Even Tobuscus was playing it way way back in the day, and his videos have since dropped in popularity. But what makes it a success? Stupid, graphic violence aimed at innocent transport users getting from A to B. It’s so simple, but so genius.
Want to know some precise figures? PewDiePie has a 76 part series. JackSepticEye has an 84 part series. TobyGames has a 126 part series. Markiplier has an 81 part series. And UberHaxorNova has a 200 part series. Ridiculous right? Now imagine that each of these videos had roughly 5 minutes of viewing mastery – that’s nearly two whole days of footage of a game that consists of 10 seconds blasts of gameplay. Now that’s viral marketing done correctly.
- Five Nights At Freddy’s(Scott Cawthon)
Video Count: ~22,200,000
There was a brief moment in YouTube gaming history in which people were only playing Five Nights At Freddy’s. And if that isn’t totally true then I must have been in a deep fever dream because I’m pretty sure that’s all I ever saw. Again, based on it’s killer ability to make grown men and women crap themselves at the sight of a teddy with terrible dentistry, this game fast became a best seller as normal people like me and you could share the same reactions as Pewds’N’Co.
After 4 highly successful games (that all play off the exact same concept as the last!), there even seems to be rumours of a FN@F’s movie on the table as it’s one and only developer continues to roll about in all his lovely YouTube money. More so than any of the other YouTube Bait games, this one was the fastest success/profit story by miles if we remember it came about about 1 year ago. That’s approximately a new game every 3 months.
- Garry’s Mod (Facepunch Studio’s)
Video Count: ~16,900,000
Garry’s Mod has been a love of gamers across the world for a long time. Built on the video game engine used to make one of the *best* games of all time, HalfLife, Garry’s Mod acts as a way to totally mix up all the environments, people and props for your own sick and hilarious pleasure. This results in moments of gameplay so special and absurd that it was begging to be uploaded to YouTube – or at least be turned into a GIF.
In fact, a lot of PewDiePie’s funniest videos have all been the twisted love children made from Garry’s Mod, from Falcon Lover music videos to the warped Shrek faces we’ve all accustomed to. If you’re still unsure as to what this game is about, you’re more sane than you think, as it literally has no ‘story’ element to it. It’s a sandbox game that allows its players to just freely manipulate everything they possibly want. YouTube gold.
- I Am Bread (Bossa Studios)
Video Count: ~13,300,000
If you told gamers a few years ago that they would all be flocking to buy the ‘best bread simulator in the world’, we’ve have called you mental and thrown multiple things in your direction. But then Bossa, those clever folks behind Surgeon Simulator, decided their next venture would be about the tireless struggles of an individual, sticky piece of bread on a desperate mission to become toasted.
The resulting gameplay was pure chaos with multiple gamers (such as Markiplier, seen above) having on-camera breakdowns over it’s terrible game design and controlling functions – somehow creating even greater reactions to their screams for Slenderman. Who knew how fun it could be to watch grown men fit in frustration over making a slice of bread climb a vertical wall!?
In fact, the UK based developer has gone so far as to say that I Am Bread is a ‘categorically bad game’, but that they knew what they were doing with another ‘so-bad-its-good’ game as it had all the YouTube subscribers laughing their heads of at JackSepticEye pretending to be a piece of flipping toast.
So what do you feel about the term ‘YouTube Bait’? Are video game developers doing the right in by looking at YouTube gamers from a marketing perspective, or is it sheer luck that these games are being singled out as Lets Play material? Let us know below.