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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Game Theory: How Minecraft BROKE YouTube!

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*Fake Accent* Hello, and welcome to the TheoristCast!

Today we're building a Moleteezermaker followed by a portal to the Nether!

Huzza! Hurray! Just let me diggy diggy diggy my hole and-

- Oh wait, what? What is this? *Loses accent* No seriously what is-

*Whisper* Help. Me.

*Fake Accent again* Yaayy! It's a deadly wedly corpsy worpsy!

What another family friendly Minecraft mystery adventure, here on the TheoristCast!

*Game Theory Intro Theme*

Hello Internet! Welcome to Game Theory!

You know fate? It's a funny thing. I'm sure we are all familiar with the butterfly effect.

If you've ever watched any let's plays of Until Dawn, I'm sure you've heard about the butterfly effect

over, and over, and over again

At its most basic, the butterfly effect is the concept that small actions can have large effects,

Rippling down through time to change history as we know it.

The small decision of what you wore to school today dictated, in some small way, how other people treated you.

Had you worn something different, would that cute redhead with pigtails have noticed you in math class?

Or would the bully in the hall have singled you out for a depantsing?

True story, my decision to wear a belt one morning helped keep my pants firmly at hip level *whistle noise* back in middle school.

And the rest of my career at Medina Ohio thanks me for it.

But small things like that can have a huge impact.

Your choice to skip coffee this morning dictated how alert you were by the end of the day,

which in turn affected how effective you were at work.

Which, could be a really bad thing if you are an air traffic controller.

Here's another true story.

Back in tenth grade I had a friend confess to me that he decided not to commit suicide,

simply because I'd had short polite conversations

with him every morning while we waited for choir practice to start.

I had shown him human decency at a time,

unbeknownst to me, when others were harassing him.

And in some way, those little conversations helped to save his life.

A few simple "Hellos" helped him find the strength to keep on living.

And then he went on to touch thousands more lives.

Even this channel is an example.

No one would hire me, so I started this as a side project.

Fast forward six years later, and over 1 billion people have been impacted by these videos in some way,

and our community of theorists is 8 million strong.

"Boom, Butterfly Effect"

The moral is small actions have consequences, consequences that can change history in big ways.

Which leads me to my theory today.

It's my belief that back in 2012,

YouTube made a single change to their systems that went on to create a perfect storm:

a set of conditions, unintentionally primed to not only change the gaming videos that you and I watch,

but in the process produced the single-biggest game of all time.

Creating a phenomenon so big and so out of control, that they then tried to kill it.

Loyal theorists, I present to you today how YouTube created Minecraft,

how Minecraft broke YouTube,

and how YouTube tried to kill Minecraft in return.

Now let me tell you how hard this was to find.

Back in the early days of YouTube, only the hardest of hardcore

cared about subscriber rates or top lists or things like that.

So a lot of that data, has been lost to time.

Also there aren't a lot of web historians out there, tracking the rise and fall of Fred

or end of ze vorld, hokkayy...

and ze vebsites that track the the sort of thing, like VidStatsX

and Tubular Labs,

only have data that backs up to mid-2013.

So, to get all this info, i went search through hundreds.

And I mean, hundreds of old snapshots of YouTube from between the years of 2010 and 2014,

using, the Wayback Machine.

Hooo... boy, that was a weird walk down memory lane...

THAT, coupled with a weekend spend pouring over

a six year old subscribers statistics, from,

help me to piece together exactly what happened.

Now, as I have mentioned in my past videos about YouTube's algorithm, the most radical change in the-

site's history, came back in 2012.

changing from a view based system, to a system that instead favored videos that drive

higher amounts of watch time.

Videos that would keep people watching more videos, for longer amounts of time, would get more promotion

than be watching you explode bananas on your face, for grand total of 30 seconds.

Because, you can bet i ain't watching anymore than 30 seconds of that nightmare fuel!


That part of Youtube is a scary, scary place...

This was all meant to ensure that, good content

stuff that kept people watching got more attention.

And as you can imagine, this prompted huge changes to what got views on the website.

Out with the reply girls, with their clickbait thumbnails,

and came the Vine compilations, with their clickbait thumbnails.

Out with the cat videos, and in came listicles.

Of top 10 cat videos.

But those were just the intended victims of this change.

There were also unexpected casualties, that were caught in the crossfire.

YouTube musicians, and cover artists.

Like Tyler Ward, saw declines in subs per day and

overall viewership. Youtube animators, also took the hit as short one-

or two minute long cartoon, just couldn't compete the system built to support longer videos.

Something that, RubberRoss from the Game Grumps would articulate only a few years later.

RubberRoss: "Does, Independently produced animation have a future on Youtube?"

But while some genres floundered, others came out of nowhere.

And YouTube wasn't ready for the ramifications of what they'd just done.

In one change,

one small flap of their wings,

They had created... a monster.

A monster, known as gaming.

Up until that point, top gaming content on Youtube was mostly sketch based, not gameplay based.

You had Machinima from RoosterTeeth, and...

Well, Machinima shows like Red vs. Blue and Arby 'n' the Chief.

Freddie Wong and CorridorDigital, brought games to real-life with their-

incredible visual effects, creating monumental videos like First Person Mario.

Dubstep Guns, The Last Minecart. - And then there was the third category,

the character-driven, scripted comedy sketches,

like, Reckless Tortuga's "Online Gamer", and James Rolfe's "Angry Video Game Nerd".

Hah! and the irate gamer,

Hahahahaha... ohhh...

He was not as popular, but he was there I watched him unironically for a while.

MAN... I just FEEL the nostalgia pouring over me, as I list off those names.

I feel like a BuzzFeed article.

"Things only an online gamer from 2009 will understand."

But, other than those guys, honestly?

That was it.

Up through most of 2011, only one individual gamer was in the Youtube top hundred channels.

Adam Montoya, better known as "SeaNanners".

And yet, all of that changed,

in a period of 5 months.

From April, until August of 2012 after the algorithm shift.

When the floodgates opened and gaming content surged on to Youtube.

But before we get there, it's important to know that there is something else going on with that same time.

A small indie title named Minecraft, is building fanbase all of its own.

Although, the first Minecraft video with commentary, was uploaded way back, on May 21, 2009

when the game was still a Java applet.

It wasn't until SeaNanners, started his Minecraft series on August 25, 2010.

That Youtube viewers, really started to take notice of this game.

But while Adam may have been the first, it was a different channel.

One that had up to that point, uploaded nearly 500 videos mostly of WarCraft.

That paved the way for this game to become a juggernaut of digital video.

And encouraged a generation of young gamers to open their imaginations.

BlueXephos. - more affectionately known as YogsCast -

Took the open world nature of Minecraft and ran with it,

creating fantastical adventures that inspired millions of viewers to pick up their shovels and diggy holes, along with honeydew and the gang.

Within weeks BlueXephos was the fastest growing channel on Youtube

Minecraft's growth was their growth... and vice versa. But every game has a life cycle.

After a surge resulting from September's adventure update interest in Minecraft, at least on Youtube, was starting to show signs of stagnation.

Google trends data around that time shows that while this update caused a huge uptake in interest the enthusiasm for it didn't maintain.

Even in general web searches growth had slowed... a lot.

Now to be honest I would've loved to analyze sales figures here but sadly no amount of my trolling through the deepest of webs could yield the data that I wanted.

Notch and Steam keep this stuff under SUPER intense lock and key.

Even Steamspy couldn't help. So I was limited to publicly facing data.

Based on the Minecraft site I do know that it had between one and ten million copies sold at this time.

And just over 10 million registered users

Suffice to say the game to have petered out from there Minecraft would certainly been an indie success, but definitely not the gaming legend it is today.

So, what happened?

What propelled Minecraft from an indie success to the second most selling game of all time?

A loophole.

And with that we were turned to Youtube and it's algorithm chain.

You see Youtube switched to a watch time based model yielded affects that no one saw coming.

Most specifically the overpreformance of "Let's Play's" videos.

I mean it was the perfect match

Long videos that could be produced daily and had narratives already built in to the games that were being played.

Stories that kept viewers wanting to binge-watch, like Netflix. To see the next chapter.

There was literally nothing else on Youtube with that same magic formula

and as a result "Let's Play" channels dominated every inch of the website.

Gamer's climbed subscription charts in a matter of days.

The Youtube home page, which had 22 videos at the time, became dominated with anywhere between six and fourteen gaming videos daily.

I mean think about that!

Fifty percent of the Youtube homepage was gaming!

And it was always dominating the top slots.

Suck on that Jimmy Fallon.

And music artists.

And movie trailers.

And branded channels.

And whatever other hot knife, Bee movie, meme challenges, get's shoved on the homepage these days.

But of all the games that thrived during this time period,

Minecraft was the one that added the most 'Notches' to it's belt.

*Booing Noise*

Boo. Boo. Yea. Yea. I deserve that one.

Endless ways to play. The constant flow of new mods.

The ease of producing story driven animated machinama.

The appeal to a younger audience that would sit and watch for longer sessions.

I mean remember these are the days before toy unboxing's

and creepy spiderman videos started brainwashing the youth of the nation.

All of this, all of these reasons made Minecraft the KING of this new Youtube.

Interest in the game shot through the roof

Pushing it to the highest levels it had seen in years.

It was literally the perfect storm.

Youtube had shifted how it was sorting videos at the exact time that minecraft channels had started to develop dedicated viewers.

Watching build tutorials, and jaffafactories, and adventures into the Nether.

Insured that Minecraft and the channels that made those videos were dominating

three to six slots a day on the homepage EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!

Yogscast alone would sometimes have two to three.

A single channel owning two spots on the homepage!

"You maniacs!"

"You blew it up!"

And then it stopped.

Practically overnight gaming disappeared from the homepage.

You can pretty much break it down by month.

After digging through a years worth of screen shots I was able to put together that May was the highpoint.

With upwards of 14 videos on homepage

But slowly month by month it started to slow.

June had an average of seven to nine on the homepage.

July had about five.

By September gaming was GONE!

Day after day, ZERO!

Ocasionally a very rare exception of a launch trailer.

So that begs the question.

What happened?

Had the viewers grown bored? Sick of it?

Had they grown out of Minecraft? No! Absolutely not!

Data from google trends show that the intrest in Minecraft channels was showing no signs of slowing down.

Yogscast was on target to be the second largest channel on Youtube!

Growing just slightly slower than that of a newcomer.

A new gamer on the scene who specialized in horror games.

Maybe you've heard of him? Pewdiepie?

No, viewer behavior hadn't changed.

The cutoff was so abrupt, something else had to have happened.

And this is why I think Youtube started filtering gaming out of the homepage.

It seems far fetched, right?

What motive would Youtube have to prevent gaming channels from hitting the homepage?

If the algorithm was truly built to sustain longer watch sessions,

Wouldn't this be exactly what they wanted?

A bunch of videos that prompt long watch sessions,

being presented to the widest group of people?

Well, yes, and no.

Sure little Johnny tuber fan over there may have been excited to see the next installment of Honeydew making Jaffa cakes,

but "normies" visiting Youtube for the first time

were probably a lot less enthusiastic about seeing a

blocky British Viking fight pixelated green monsters.

And if the top 6 home page slots are all dominated by a mix of

Minecraft, Call of Duty and Happy Wheels,

Well, you're going to leave the site assuming that this isn't a place for you.

Well, I'm confident that the influx of gaming content started to cost YouTube viewers.

And this isn't me just making blind guesses.

Although Google keeps a very tight lip about how YouTube traffic looks,

Google trends data shows that during this period,

where more and more gaming videos were appearing on the homepage,

actual search intrest for the website was going steadily downward.

After five years of nearly constant growth, YouTube was starting to lose momentum.

And all immedietly after this weird algorithm change.

But that's not all the evidence I have!

Remember how I said September started the trend of not having gaming videos at all on the homepage?

Well, September also happens to be the month where search interest in the site started to pick back up.

Coincidence? I THINK NOT!

And that, ladies and gentelmen, is why today Jimmy Fallon, music artist and movie trailers

and whatever hot knives, Bee Movie memes are things that you see appearing on your log-out home page!

Because they're the things that appeal to the most people

So, YouTube literally went into their systems, and nerfed gaming

to appeal to a wider audience and boost their numbers, we just saw it happen

but over the months that had passed before they did,the landscape of viewership habits on youtube had permanently changed

Gaming, specifically let's play had gone from a niche community to a mainstream viewer genre

Before the algorithm shift only four independent gamers

had been anywhere close to the top 100 most subscribed channels.

But in just 5 months, that number had jumped to ten.

Each growing two to three times faster than any non-gaming channel

and with multiple more gaming channels waiting in the wings to brake into that list!

The home page had introduced a generation to the idea of watching other people game,

and transformed funny talented online gamers into overnight celebrities.

A single loop hole in the system, an unintended consequence had made

Gaming, the second biggest thing on the platform behind music.

And with the flood of gaming on the homepage practically made channels overnight

exploding the viewership of gamers like pewdiepie and tobuscus

it just as quickly shut off the subscriber fossas for channels like

Captainsparklez and antvenom

One look at their trend charts shows that the homepage loophole help them grow

and then just as quickly as it was shut, slowed them back down...

But no one felt it as quiet as hard as the yogscast crew

with their daily placement on the homepage, sometimes with multiple videos on the homepage

they were primed to challenge pewds for his number one slot on youtube

Instead, the Minecraft blockade slow its growth, and it became another big channel

just not to the levels that it could have been

and although it's hard

to say where exactly the game would have

ended up without the five months of the homepage push

the algorithmic loophole that

minecraft was fortunate enough to

exploit it certainly helped accelerate

the game spread turning it from an indie

success into the gaming legacy that it is today

so that leaves us with just one

last question why did I spend days

slogging through dusty broken old

websites to lay out this little piece of

history well to me the most important

lesson is that YouTube and online

platforms in general have power over

your tastes offering you just an illusion of choice

one small change to an algorithm helped an indie game transform

gaming as we know it

and touch hundreds of millions of lives

that exact same change on that one website in

a sea of websites online took the idea

of watching other people play video games

and made it into one of the most popular

forms of entertainment today .

Butterfly effect.

A flap of the wings.

Humans watch what's presented to them what's right in front

of our faces we also tend to watch

what's popular ooh

million views that must be a great video

but it's important for us to remember as

viewers that both of those things are

often determined by factors that aren't quality.

Viewer beware.

And also platforms, especially you YouTube because I know you are watching.

I've heard from you guys that you tend

to watch videos like this

take that responsibility seriously it's a big burden to carry...

But hey that's just a theory!

A game theory!

Thanks for watching!

*upbeat music*

The Description of Game Theory: How Minecraft BROKE YouTube!