Video Games Are the Dominant Trend on YouTube

/ Dec 16, 2014


This article is syndicated from the Zefr blog with permission from the writers.

By Erik Weber

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 eight 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 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.

Erik Weber is a content marketing manager at Zefr, a technology startup that seeks to empower brands to discover and target their most important influencers, fans, and topics in video. With more data than any other YouTube partner, Zefr’s BrandID platform provides a lens into culture and the tools to turn insights into more impactful media for brands.

Header image by Pawel Kadysz, via Zefr

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