Julien Bam, Gronkh, Le Floid and Dagi Bee have two things in common despite their different content: They are among the most successful Youtubers in Germany with millions of subscribers and they are embodied by real people who pose in front of the camera. Kizuna AI, Gawr Gura and Mori Calliope also have millions of subscribers, but are embodied by a virtual avatar. Because the three named are virtual Youtubers, or VTuber for short. The trend, which originated in Japan, has experienced enormous growth since its beginnings in 2016 and has been conquering the western market since late summer 2020. 


Kizuna AI - The first female VTuber in the world

Strictly speaking, Ami Yamamoto is the first VTuber. The Youtuber from London first uploaded a video in 2011 in which she is embodied by a virtual avatar. The American, reminiscent of Pixar animations, appears in short vlogs and skits, which are published at irregular intervals. This differs enormously from other VTubers, which stream live for several hours almost every day.

Thus, Kizuna AI is the first “real” Vtuberin who initiated the trend with the upload of her first video on November 29, 2016. With over four million subscribers in its two channels “AI Channel” and “AI Games”. The Kizuna AI, which is mostly streaming in Japanese, is currently not only the oldest, but also the most far-reaching VTuber. Lets Plays, Q & As, live karaoke and music videos are published on their channels. She is usually embodied by a 2,5D avatar in the anime style. The avatar reacts to the gestures and facial expressions of the person behind Kizuna AI, can move his lips, blink and wink.

Kizuna AI; Source: Youtube AI Channel

Kizuna AI; Source: Youtube “AI Channel”

Kizuna AI is owned by Kizuna AI inc. markets and manages a subsidiary of Activ8, which the VTuberin originally launched. Since its first appearance in November 2016, Kizuna AI has undergone many metamorphoses and changed. In order to open up a larger target group and present more content, Kizuna has developed different personalities. In this regard, the Japanese voice actress quit Kasuga Nozomiwho voted for the original version of Kizuna, their collaboration with Activ8. Thus, Kizuna AI is one of the few VTubers where the real person behind the avatar became known.

Authenticity despite anonymity

The Japanese idol culture has certainly had a decisive influence on the creation of VTubers. Because both cannot deny a certain focus on externals. And also the success of the virtual idol Hazune Miko certainly has a decisive influence on the development of Kizuna AI. Nevertheless, VTubern is less about perfection than about authenticity and artistic diversity. The talents behind the virtual avatars impress with their surprisingly high artistic variance. In the streams of the VTuber there is drawing, singing, rapping and gaming. They appear extremely natural, although they are embodied by a virtual avatar.

The authenticity of Gawr Guru, Mori Calliope, Ninomae Ina'Nis and Co. is caused by various factors. First of all, the viewer gets the feeling that the artists behind the avatars are really pursuing their passion. The streamer Ninomae Ina'Nis is moved to tears after her fans tell that she was inspired to start drawing again because of her “drawing courses”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSOKLRsCzTk

Another factor is the chemistry that many of the VTubers share with one another. This comes into play especially during joint collaborations and leads to funny and emotional moments in which the viewer can easily empathize. Finally, the anonymity provided by the virtual avatar ensures that the real people behind the characters can more easily drop their cover. So it is easier for them to let emotional parts of their personality flow into the role they play. As normal streamers who do not have a protective shield in the form of an avatar between themselves and their viewers.

Millions of revenue in superchats

In addition to authenticity, the VTubers clearly rely on a mix of cuteness and naughtiness. The reason for this can be found in the parallels between the VTubers and the idol and anime culture. Anime and manga in particular often play with the cuteness and external charms of their characters. Because they have been an integral part of Japanese culture and society for decades. Isn't it surprising that the VTubers are so well received in Japan, given that anime fans are given the opportunity to interact with the characters they love. But animes and mangas have also become more and more established in western society in recent years. And the recipe for success behind the VTubers seems to be working, as both subscription numbers and super chat income prove.

Above all, the talent agency Hololive hits the nerve of the fans with its talents. 7 Hololive streamers are among the top 10 VTubers with the widest reach. Hololive is also the first agency to venture into the international market. In April 2020, the first Indonesian VTubers were established by Hololive. Five talents streaming exclusively in English followed in September 2020.

The widest range of VTuber

Vtuber with the greatest reach, source: https://virtual-youtuber.userlocal.jp/

The success of the VTubers is particularly evident during the so-called super chats. According to estimates by the Youtube analytics service Playboard, the top 10 of the income accumulated through superchats since January 2020 are predominantly VTubers. During the superchats, fans can ask the streamers questions. By linking the questions with a donation, they are highlighted, which increases the likelihood of an answer. The most successful VTuber in the international Superchat ranking Kiryu Coco has generated over € 2020 million in this way since January 1,7.

VTuber Superchat revenue

VTuber Superchat revenue, source: https://playboard.co/

First western VTuber

Even if English-speaking VTubers were established with Hololive EN and thus access to the western market was opened. Is there a Japanese company behind the individual talents of different nationalities. This is particularly noticeable due to the atmosphere of the streams. Especially when the English VTubers collaborate with their Japanese colleagues. Because respect and friendliness are very deeply rooted in Japanese culture and the interaction between the individual Tubers is strongly influenced by this. So strong that it can seem strange to western viewers who have no experience of Japanese culture. A consumer from overseas must therefore have a certain affinity for anime or Japanese culture in order to fully engage with the current generation of V tubers.

Individual western VTubers have already recognized the potential and started their own business. The one that has been streaming since 2020 is the most successful CodeMiko. After losing her job during Corona, the American-Korean programmer put everything on one card and bought a $ 30.000 VR suit. On the one hand, this makes it stand out from its Japanese colleagues through its appearance. Because your avatar looks much more realistic and is more reminiscent of characters from current video games. On the other hand, it has a much more aggressive way of streaming. In doing so, she is often at the limit of the Twitch guidelines and has already been banned twice. Nevertheless, the success proves her right and CodeMiko can come up with a respectable commercial success. Combined with Twitch and Youtube, it has around 900.000 subscribers.

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Manageable VTuber scene in Germany

In addition to solo projects, the talent agency VShojo was also founded in the USA. The company, founded in November 2020, has 8 talents in its portfolio, the most successful Project Melody, a former solo artist who initially pushed her subscriber number with the help of Chaturbate. Project Melody has around 900.000 subscribers on YouTube and Twitch and, alongside CodeMiko, is the VTuber with the widest reach outside of a Japanese agency.

In contrast, the VTuber scene in Germany is still in its infancy. Almost all VTubers based in Germany stream in English. The most successful character Mocca Liebeskind has 14.000 subscribers and focuses on English and Japanese-language content. There is also no talent agency in Germany that specializes in VTuber. But since the trend has only just spilled over to us, it will surely only be a matter of time before the first big German VTuber makes a name for itself.