That’s according to a chart produced by research firms Newzoo and Octoly, which have been tracking views of YouTube game videos.
Minecraft was well ahead of second-placed Grand Theft Auto, which spawned videos watched nearly 1.4bn times in March.
Mobile game Five Nights at Freddy’s took third place with 1.3bn views that month, beating high-profile console franchises Call of Duty (851m views) and FIFA (770m views).
Newzoo and Octoly’s chart tracks the 20 biggest games franchises on YouTube, which between them generated 12.3bn video views in March – meaning that Minecraft accounted for 32% of the total views.
The companies noted that 97.6% of these views were “fan-created videos” uploaded by people other than the games’ developers and publishers. However, a significant chunk of those views are likely to have come from fans who are also professional YouTubers.
Five Nights at Freddy’s, for example, is a firm favourite of online video creators from PewDiePie to The Fine Brothers. The series, which sees animatronic characters running amok in a creepy restaurant, is being turned into a horror movie.
Minecraft’s position at the top of the NewZoo / Octoly chart – and the popularity of games on YouTube more generally – should come as no surprise.
Another chart of the top 100 YouTube channels by views in February, produced by analytics firm OpenSlate for industry site Tubefilter, showed games channels continuing to be among the most popular on YouTube.
PewDiePie (299.1m views in February), The Diamond Minecart (249.5m), Popular MMOs (233.7m) and Stampy (222.9m) were all among the top 15 channels on YouTube that month.
The same companies’ separate rankings for the top 100 most-viewed games channels in February showed that cumulatively they generated 5.7bn views that month.
Mojang has always encouraged fans and pro YouTubers alike to use Minecraft for their videos on YouTube, without filing copyright takedowns or demanding a share of their advertising revenues on the service.
“That doesn’t take anything away from us, and I would say it actually adds value to Minecraft, to have people who are extremely talented and creative doing things,” Mojang’s chief operating officer Vu Bui told the Guardian in October 2014.
“We’ve essentially outsourced YouTube videos to a community of millions of people, and what they come up with is more creative than anything we could make ourselves... There’s no damage to us from YouTube.”
Nintendo is the most prominent company to have taken a different approach, originally using YouTube’s Content ID copyright system to “claim” videos featuring its games and thus the advertising revenues from them.
Earlier in 2015, Nintendo launched a “Creators Program” to get YouTubers to register to receive a share of ad revenues – 60% or 70% depending on whether they registered individual videos or entire channels respectively – from videos of its games. PewDiePie was among the creators criticising the initiative at the time.
Interestingly, Nintendo’s Super Mario was a new entry in Newzoo and Octoly’s chart of top YouTube game franchises for March, although the companies stressed that this was driven by fan-created videos of an unlicensed version of Super Mario 64 created to play in web browsers, which has since been taken down.
This article was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 22nd April 2015 12.46 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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