PewDiePie at PAX 2015
|Born||Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg
24 October 1989
|Residence||Brighton, England, UK|
|Pseudonym||PewDiePie, Pewds, and Pewdie|
|Genre||Let's Play, comedy, vlog|
|Total views||14+ billion|
|Network||None (formerly Machinima, and later Maker Studios)|
Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (// SHEL-burg, Swedish: [ˈfeːlɪks ˈɕɛlˈbærj]; born on 24 October 1989), better known by his online pseudonym PewDiePie (// PEW-dee-py), is a Swedish web-based comedian and video producer. He is known for his Let's Play commentaries and vlogs on YouTube.
Born in Gothenburg, Sweden, PewDiePie originally pursued a degree in industrial economics and technology management at Chalmers University of Technology. In 2010, during his time at the university, he registered a YouTube account under the name PewDiePie. The following year, he dropped out of Chalmers after growing bored with his degree field, much to the dismay of his parents. After failing to earn an apprenticeship with an advertising agency in Scandinavia, he then decided to focus on creating content for his YouTube channel. In order to fund his videos, PewDiePie began selling prints of his Photoshop art projects and working at a hot dog stand. PewDiePie soon gathered a rapidly increasing online following, and in July 2012, his channel surpassed one million subscribers.
Early on, PewDiePie was signed under the multi-channel network Machinima. After dissatisfaction with the network, he signed with Maker Studios, having his channel under Maker's sub-networks Polaris, and later, Revelmode. Throughout his time on YouTube, PewDiePie has produced content that has been praised as genuine and unfiltered, but also been received as abrasive, and in some cases, met with controversy. As a result of an early 2017 controversy regarding allegations of anti-Semitism in several of PewDiePie's videos, the Disney-operated Maker Studios ended their partnership with him, dropping him from their network. While he criticised the coverage of the situation and defended his content as jokes that were taken out of context, he conceded its offensiveness.
Since 15 August 2013, PewDiePie has been the most subscribed user on YouTube, being surpassed briefly in November and December 2013 by YouTube's Spotlight channel. Holding the position since 22 December 2013, the channel has over 54 million subscribers as of March 2017. From 29 December 2014 to 14 February 2017, PewDiePie's channel held the distinction of being the most viewed of all time, and as of March 2017, the channel has received over 14 billion video views.
PewDiePie refers to his fanbase as the "Bro Army", and individual fans as "bros". Through his Bro Army fanbase, PewDiePie has raised money for charities. Due to his popularity, PewDiePie's coverage of indie games has created an Oprah effect, boosting sales for titles he plays. In 2016, Time named him one of "The World's 100 Most Influential People." PewDiePie lives in Brighton with his girlfriend, Italian YouTube personality Marzia Bisognin,
- 1 Early life
- 2 YouTube career
- 2.1 Channel format
- 2.2 History
- 2.3 Relationship with YouTube networks and programs
- 3 Public image and influence
- 4 Other ventures
- 5 Personal life
- 6 Filmography
- 7 Gameography
- 8 Awards
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 External links
PewDiePie was born and raised in Gothenburg, Sweden. He was born to Lotta Kristine Johanna (born 7 May 1958) and Ulf Christian Kjellberg (born 8 January 1957), and grew up with his sister Fanny. His mother, a former KappAhl CIO, was named the 2010 CIO of the Year in Sweden. His father is also a Chief Executive of another company.
During his early schooling life, he was interested in art, and has noted that he would draw popular video game characters such as Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog. During high school, he would skip classes to play video games at an Internet cafe with friends; on this topic, PewDiePie has commented, "Sweden has a great culture around gaming." In 2008, he graduated from Göteborgs Högre Samskola. He then went on to pursue a degree in industrial economics and technology management at Chalmers University of Technology, but left the university in 2011. While his reason for leaving Chalmers has often been reported as a want to focus on his YouTube career, in 2017, PewDiePie clarified, "Why does everyone get this story wrong? [...] I dropped out of university because I didn't like it. To drop out of university to pursue YouTube, that'd just be fucking stupid." He added that "industrial management and economics [was] boring as hell [...] [and] I couldn't relate to fucking anyone." On his decision, PewDiePie has stated, "Thinking about it now, it was utterly absurd. To get into Chalmers for industrial economics you need straight A's, but somehow I was happier selling hot dogs and making my own gaming-videos."
PewDiePie has also shared that he "loved Photoshop", wanting to work on photo manipulation art using Adobe Photoshop rather than be in school. Relating to this passion, he entered Photoshop contests and almost earned an apprenticeship at "one of the best advertising agencies in Scandinavia." He was also interested in creating content on YouTube, and after not earning the apprenticeship, he sold limited edition prints of his Photoshopped images in order to purchase a computer to work on YouTube videos.
The main focus of PewDiePie's videos is his commentary and reactions to various games as he plays through them. Due to this, his videos fall under the Let's Play umbrella. Unlike conventional walkthroughs, his Let's Play videos are devoted to "sharing gaming moments on YouTube with my bros". Variety details that "PewDiePie acts like he’s spending time with a friend. He begins each video introducing himself in a high-pitched, goofy voice, drawing out the vowels of his YouTube moniker, then delves into the videos."
In his early years as a YouTube personality, PewDiePie was known for playing horror and action video games, most notably Amnesia: The Dark Descent and its related mods. PewDiePie also began posting weekly vlogs starting from 2 September 2011. These vlogs are uploaded under the title of Fridays with PewDiePie. He typically performs a "Brofist" at the end of each of his videos. As his channel grew, he began to branch out in terms of his video content, uploading live-action and animated comedy shorts. In 2014, he began to more actively play games that interested him, regardless if they were of the horror genre or not. In addition, he is also known to support video games from indie developers.
PewDiePie has also been noted for his frequent upload output, something he scaled down in 2014. By early 2017, he had uploaded almost 3,500 videos to his channel, around 400 of which have been made private. As of January 2017, his videos currently have over 150,000 years of watchtime.
During the early portion of his YouTube career, PewDiePie refused to hire any editor or outside assistance to help with his video output; stating, "I want YouTube to be YouTube." In October 2014, however, while speaking to Rhett and Link on their Ear Biscuits podcast, PewDiePie expressed that he would seek an editor in 2015. In February 2017, PewDiePie stated in his My Response video, "I'm just a guy. It's literally just me. There's not a producer out there [...] there's no writer, there's no camera guy."
Style of content
The nature of PewDiePie's video content has been described by various outlets as goofy, energetic, obnoxious, and filled with profanity. However, many of the same outlets concede that PewDiePie's content is genuine and unfiltered. Sarah Begley of Time said his clips contained "charismatic narration". Chris Reed of The Wall St. Cheat Sheet said it contained "off-the-cuff running commentary that's characterised by goofy jokes, profanity, and loud outbursts." Another reporter noted PewDiePie's "chosen mode of sharing his critique happens to be ribald entertainment, an unmediated stream of blurted jokes, startled yelps, goofy voices, politically incorrect comments, and pretty much nonstop profanity." Reed adds that these aspects of PewDiePie's videos are what critics find most abrasive, but what fans love the most. PewDiePie resorts occasionally to gameplay, resulting in silent or emotional commentary; his playthrough of The Last of Us, it was noted, left the usually vocal gamer speechless at the ending.
In 2016, he examined his older videos and while noting the stylistic changes he had undergone, he expressed specific regret for his casual use of words like gay or retarded in a derogatory sense. In December 2016, Kotaku's Patricia Hernandez wrote about his stylistic changes, explaining that "over the last year, the PewDiePie channel has also had an underlying friction, as Kjellberg slowly distances himself from many of the things that made him famous. He's doing fewer Let's Plays of horror games like Amnesia," and adding, "the PewDiePie of 2016 can still be immature, sure, but [...] a defining aspect of recent PewDiePie videos is existential angst, as he describes the bleak reality of making content for a machine he cannot fully control or understand." On the technical aspect of his videos, PewDiePie spoke about how his early videos would feature raw footage, although he later began to dedicate time to edit his videos.
Early years (2010–2012)
PewDiePie originally registered a YouTube account under the name "Pewdie"; he explains that "pew" represents the sound of lasers and "die" means death. After forgetting the password to this account, he then registered the "PewDiePie" YouTube channel on 29 April 2010. After he dropped out of Chalmers, his parents refused to support him, and as a result he funded his early videos by selling prints of his Photoshop art, as well as working at a hot dog stand. On having to work at the stand, PewDiePie stated, "the fact that I could make videos was so much more important to me than [that] I had to spend a few hours a day doing a job that wasn’t that prestigious." Five years later, PewDiePie recalled, "I knew people were big at other types of videos, but there was no one big in gaming, and I didn’t know you could make money out of it. It was never like a career that I could just quit college to pursue. It was just something I loved to do. And here we are five years later and it’s exploded." By December 2011, PewDiePie's channel had around 60,000 subscribers. Around the time his channel earned 700,000 subscribers, PewDiePie spoke at Nonick Conference 2012. On 11 July 2012, the channel reached 1 million subscribers, and it reached 2 million subscribers in September. In October, OpenSlate ranked the PewDiePie channel as the #1 YouTube channel. That December, PewDiePie signed with Maker Studios.
Early in his YouTube career, PewDiePie used rape jokes in his videos. Criticism of these jokes stirred controversy, and in October 2012, he addressed the issue through a Tumblr post, writing, "I just wanted to make clear that I'm no longer making rape jokes, as I mentioned before I'm not looking to hurt anyone and I apologise if it ever did." The Globe and Mail stated "unlike many young gamers, he listened when fans and critics alike pointed out their harmful nature, and resolved to stop making rape jokes."
Becoming the most subscribed user (2013)
On 18 February 2013, the PewDiePie channel reached 5 million subscribers, and in April, PewDiePie earned coverage on The New York Times after surpassing 6 million subscribers. In May, at the inaugural Starcount Social Stars Awards in Singapore PewDiePie won the award for Swedish Social Star. Competing against Jenna Marbles, Smosh and Toby Turner, PewDiePie also won the award for Most Popular Social Show. In July 2013, he overtook Jenna Marbles to become the second most subscribed YouTube user, and reached 10 million subscribers.
PewDiePie's subscriber count surpassed that of the leading channel, Smosh, on 15 August 2013. On becoming the most subscribed YouTube user, PewDiePie commented, "When I started my YouTube channel in 2010, I never imagined that one day it would be the most subscribed channel in the world and that I would be a part of such a great community." After becoming the most subscribed user, Ben Donovan of Maker Studios stated that PewDiePie "is a great example of how a YouTube content creator can amass a worldwide following due to passion and creativity, and his large subscriber base showcases the loyalty and strong connection he has to his 'bros.'" On 1 November, PewDiePie became the first channel to reach 15 million subscribers; the following day, the channel was surpassed by YouTube's Spotlight account at the top of the site's subscriber rankings. In the same month, PewDiePie proclaimed his dislike of YouTube's new comment system. In December, PewDiePie overtook the YouTube Spotlight channel to once again become the most subscribed user on YouTube.
Throughout 2012 and 2013, PewDiePie's channel was one of the fastest growing on YouTube, in terms of subscribers gained. In 2013, the PewDiePie channel went from 3.5 million to just under 19 million subscribers, and by the end of 2013, it was gaining a new subscriber every 1.037 seconds. Billboard reported that the PewDiePie channel gained more subscribers than any other channel in 2013. Additionally, in the second half of 2013, the PewDiePie channel earned just under 1.3 billion video views.
Continued growth (2014–2015)
In March 2014, PewDiePie updated his video production output, announcing he would be scaling down the frequency of uploads. In August 2014, Maker Studios released an official PewDiePie app for the iPhone, allowing audiences to view his videos, create custom favourite video feeds and share videos with others. Later in the month, PewDiePie uploaded a video, announcing he would permanently disable comments on his YouTube videos. On his decision, PewDiePie stated "I go to the comments and it's mainly spam, it's people self advertising, it's people trying to provoke... just all this stuff that to me, it doesn't mean anything. I don't care about it, I don't want to see it." After disabling comments, PewDiePie continued interacting with his audience through Twitter and Reddit. In mid-September, PewDiePie uploaded a follow-up video, sticking by his decision, and announcing the launch of broarmy.net, an online forum, in which he will actively connect with his viewers, designed to replace the YouTube comment section.
In September 2014, PewDiePie began streaming videos of his co-hosted series, BroKen, onto MLG.tv. PewDiePie co-hosted the series with Kenneth Morrison, better known as CinnamonToastKen, also an online game commentator. On 13 October, PewDiePie decided to allow comments on his videos once more, albeit only after approval. However, PewDiePie has tweeted, "I have them set as approved so I can redirect people to comment on my website instead." In a later video, PewDiePie claimed that disabling comments helped him become happier. In 2014 alone, PewDiePie's account amassed nearly 14 million new subscribers and over 4.1 billion video views; both figures were higher than any other user. According to Social Blade, a website which tracks YouTube channel statistics, on 29 December 2014, the PewDiePie channel surpassed emimusic's video view count, at around 7.2 billion views, to become the most viewed channel on the website. During July 2015, PewDiePie's videos were documented to receive over 300 million views per month. On 6 September, PewDiePie's YouTube account became the first to eclipse 10 billion video views. Later in the month, PewDiePie teased about having a role in a series, and that he was on location in Los Angeles for the show's shooting. Although not many details were revealed at the time, in October, it was announced that the series would be titled Scare PewDiePie.
YouTube Red and style change (2016–2017)
The Scare PewDiePie series was debuted on PewDiePie's channel in January 2016 through YouTube's paid subscription service, YouTube Red. Throughout 2016, PewDiePie's video style change became more apparent than the tweaks he had implemented in the past (see above for more). As aforementioned, PewDiePie addressed his use of words such as gay as a pejorative, retrospectively expressing, "I still make kinda stupid jokes that I shouldn't make. But I feel like back then I didn't understand. I was so immature and I just thought things were funny just because they were offensive [...] I'm not proud of it. I'm really not. But I'm also glad that I've grown past it." While continuing to produce fewer Let's Play videos about horror games, his style of humour also changed; PewDiePie commented in a December 2016 video, "I think the thing is that I have a lot of younger audience [members], and I think my humour got drier, and they don't get it."
On 20 October, PewDiePie jokingly launched a second channel, under the name Jack septiceye2. He launched this channel as a way of getting a new Golden Play Button after his PewDiePie one was sent broken. The name is derived from his friend and fellow YouTube video game commentator, Jacksepticeye. A few days later, he announced on YouTube that he would be going back to Los Angeles to record another season of Scare PewDiePie, and that he would be daily vlogging while he was away. By December, Kotaku reported the Jack septiceye2 channel had garnered 1.4 million subscribers, despite having only one upload available to watch.
Throughout late November and early December 2016, PewDiePie jokingly expressed his desires to delete his YouTube channel at 50 million subscribers. On 2 December, he uploaded a video in which he discussed his frustration with the issue of YouTube accounts experiencing an unexplained loss of subscribers and views. PewDiePie expressed, "I find that a lot of people that work with YouTube, almost anyone, have no idea what it's like to work as a content creator, as someone who's built this for years and really cared about it." On this issue, a Google representative provided a comment to Ars Technica, detailing, "Some creators have expressed concerns around a drop in their subscriber numbers. We've done an extensive review and found there have been no decreases in creators subscriber numbers beyond what normally happens when viewers either unsubscribe from a creator's channel or when YouTube removes spammed subscribers."
On 8 December, PewDiePie's channel reached 50 million subscribers, becoming the first YouTube channel to do so. After reaching the milestone, PewDiePie tweeted "will delete tomorrow 5pm gmt," in reference to his channel, before later uploading a celebratory video featuring fireworks. Ultimately, he did not delete his PewDiePie channel, and instead shut down the joke Jack septiceye2 channel, stating "You know when you make a joke and it just blows up way bigger than you'd imagined?" PewDiePie's stunt received negative reception from Fortune. The publication's Mathew Ingram opined, "this is just a temper tantrum by a man-baby who makes millions of dollars playing video games," adding, "at first glance, the video in which he threatens to delete his channel seems like the whining of a rich, entitled celebrity who has noticed that his videos aren’t getting as many views as they used to, and blames the platform for not supporting him as much as he thinks they should." On 18 December 2016, he received a Ruby Play Button from YouTube as a reward for hitting 50 million subscribers.
On 10 December, PewDiePie released a video, titled "Can this video hit 1 million likes?" In the video, after watching various YouTubers ask to get a certain amount of likes on their videos, he jokingly begged viewers to help the video reach 1 million likes. The video currently has over 3.2 million likes, which ranks it as the 70th-most-liked video on YouTube, as well as the most liked non-music video on YouTube. On 24 December, he released a follow-up video, titled "Can this video get 1 million dislikes?" The content is almost the same as the one asking for likes, except that in this video, he asks the viewers to dislike the video instead. The video currently has over 2.8 million dislikes, placing it as the 3rd-most-disliked video on YouTube, and the most-disliked video that is neither a music video nor a trailer. On 28 January 2017, he uploaded another similarly-themed video, titled "Can this video get 1 million comments?" Within 15 hours of being released, it became the most commented video on YouTube, and currently has over 5 million comments.
Controversial videos and network drop (2017–present)
In January 2017, PewDiePie began to receive criticism for his non-gaming videos. In one, he seemingly uses the word nigga, which caused #PewdiepieIsOverParty to trend worldwide on Twitter. A few days later, PewDiePie created further controversy, when he uploaded a video featuring him reviewing the website Fiverr, which allows people to sell a service for $5 USD. In the video, PewDiePie shows his reaction to a duo he had paid to display the message "DEATH TO ALL JEWS" on a sign, as a joke and attempt to highlight the ridiculous things which can be provided as a paid service on the Internet. He immediately apologised within the same video stating, "I am sorry. I didn't think they would actually do it. I feel partially responsible," adding "I'm not anti-Semitic, [...] so don't get the wrong idea. It was a funny meme, and I didn't think it would work, okay." PewDiePie received criticism from some users in the video's comment section, as well as from some media outlets. As a result of this video, both PewDiePie and the duo were banned from the website, prompting them to upload an apology video stating that they did not understand the meaning of the sign, and that they were sorry to all Jews.
A few weeks later, The Wall Street Journal reported on the incident, while also adding that since August 2016, PewDiePie has included anti-Semitic jokes or Nazi imagery in nine separate videos. The publication noted he removed three of the videos, including the January 2017 Fiverr one. In a 12 February Tumblr post, PewDiePie expressed: "I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes, [...] I think of the content that I create as entertainment, and not a place for any serious political commentary," and conceded, "though this was not my intention, I understand that these jokes were ultimately offensive." In his post, he also reiterated he does not support anti-Semitic groups. PewDiePie's motivation for his Tumblr post was partially driven by the fact that neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups and publications, such as The Daily Stormer, were referencing and praising PewDiePie for his jokes.
On 13 February, the Disney-owned Maker Studios multi-channel network cut its ties with PewDiePie because of the aforementioned controversy and the additional videos containing allegedly anti-Semitic jokes. Maker stated that "although [he had] created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate." Google also took action, dropping him from the Google Preferred advertising program, as well as cancelling the Scare PewDiePie YouTube Red series. Various media journalists and outlets joined the Wall Street Journal in criticising PewDiePie. Kirsty Major of The Independent, Arwa Mahdawi of The Guardian, and Ben Kuchera of Polygon, were all critical of PewDiePie's defence of his content as jokes taken out of context, opining that his content helps normalise ideologies such as fascism, neo-Nazism, and white supremacy. Ironically, the WSJ reporter Ben Fritz who wrote about PewDiePie himself has made several anti-Semitic and Nazi jokes on Twitter, which were picked up by PewDiePie fans who accused him of hypocrisy and began attacking him.
Many in the YouTube community, including Ethan Klein of h3h3Productions, a Jewish YouTube sketch comedian, who is also friends with PewDiePie, as well as YouTube news commentator Philip DeFranco, and popular gamers Markiplier and Jacksepticeye, as well as many others, defended PewDiePie and heavily criticised the way media handled the incident. On 16 February, PewDiePie himself responded in a video entitled My Response, in which he apologised to those who were offended by his previous videos and which he also criticised the reporting by the media. He also states The Wall Street Journal framed his jokes as "posts" and took them out of context. One of the examples PewDiePie gives of this includes one of his vlogs, in which he expresses frustration at people creating swastikas in his Tuber Simulator video game. In the My Response video, he also touched upon the aforementioned stylistic changes that his video content began undergoing, detailing his desire to be more honest and open about his opinions.
Relationship with YouTube networks and programs
As a result of Maker Studios dropping PewDiePie from their network over the aforementioned anti-Semitic controversy, PewDiePie is not signed to any multi-channel network (MCN). He was previously signed to Machinima prior to his partnership with Maker. PewDiePie expressed feeling neglected by the network, which operates as a rival to Maker. Feeling frustrated with how Machinima treated him, PewDiePie hired a lawyer to free him from his contract with the network.
In October 2014, PewDiePie began hinting at the possibility that he might not renew his contract with Maker Studios upon its expiration in December 2014. Reports that covered this information also added that PewDiePie expressed his frustrations with the studio's parent company, Disney; PewDiePie was quoted saying, "The fact that Disney bought Maker Studios doesn't really change anything for me. If I ask for help, they reply, but that's all the contact we have. We'll see what happens." Rather than re-sign with Maker, PewDiePie has mulled the option of launching his own network, although he has declined to provide in-depth details on the subject. However, in light of news outlets reporting his disinterest with Maker, PewDiePie tweeted, "I feel like I was misquoted in the WSJ and I'm really happy with the work that Maker has been doing for me." PewDiePie ultimately continued creating videos under Maker; his relationship with the network has seen Maker establish an official PewDiePie website, app, and online store to sell Bro Army merchandise, while PewDiePie promotes Maker's media interests and gives the network a share of his YouTube ad revenue.
In early 2015, Nintendo launched its Creator Program, in order to share revenue with YouTube video creators who feature gameplay of their products in videos. PewDiePie joined various gamers in criticising the programme. PewDiePie called the program a "slap in the face to the YouTube channels that [do] focus on Nintendo game[s] exclusively", adding, "The people who have helped and showed passion for Nintendo's community are the ones left in the dirt the most." Despite criticisms from PewDiePie and other gamers alike, Nintendo experienced more requests from YouTube creators than expected, causing an extension on the 72-hour wait time for video approval through the program. Additionally, PewDiePie, stated, "I'll still play Nintendo games that I want to play on my channel as usual. I'm lucky to be in a situation where losing ad revenue on a few videos won't matter. However, many people on YouTube are not in that situation." Ultimately, the focal point of criticism is toward the approval of a video which Nintendo has to administer, and may be motivated by biased intentions.
In January 2016, PewDiePie announced a partnership with Maker Studios to produce Revelmode, a sub-network of Maker, that would showcase PewDiePie and his friends on YouTube in original series. After the deal, the head of Maker Studios, Courtney Holt, stated, "we're thrilled to be doubling down with Felix." Along with PewDiePie, eight other YouTubers signed to the network upon its creation: CinnamonToastKen, Marzia, Dodger, Emma Blackery, Jacksepticeye, Jelly, Kwebbelkop, and Markiplier. Since the network's launch, YouTubers Cryaotic, KickThePJ and Slogoman have also joined the group.
Public image and influence
Responses to PewDiePie's content are mixed; Anthony Taormina of Game Rant writes "It's no secret that as his popularity continues to grow, PewDiePie has become an increasingly divisive figure. While some love the YouTuber for the entertainment he provides, others see PewDiePie as the singular representation of our gameplay commentary obsessed culture." Chris Reed of The Wall St. Cheat Sheet commented on the divisive opinions about PewDiePie, stating, "PewDiePie is not universally adored [...] the great divide in opinion on PewDiePie seems to be largely generational. Older people are less likely to subscribe to YouTube channels, or to pay much credence to YouTube personalities in general. Many younger viewers, on the other hand, see him as endlessly entertaining and relatable."
His channel appeals strongly to younger viewers, a group Google refers to as Generation C for their habits of "creation, curation, connection and community". According to a 2014 survey commissioned by Variety, PewDiePie along with a few other YouTube personalities have been reported to be more influential and popular than mainstream celebrities, such as Jennifer Lawrence, among US teenagers aged 13 through 18. His rise to fame has been used as "a great example of how the emerging society gives extensive opportunities to individuals with great ideas, courage, and, of course, a significant portion of luck as opposed to the old society." Studies of the gaming community on YouTube have shown that 95% of gamers engage in watching online videos related to gaming and has been noted as an important reason for PewDiePie's popularity. In 2015, PewDiePie was included on Time's list of the 30 most influential people on the Internet, cementing his influence as an internet personality. Later in 2015, PewDiePie was featured on the cover of Variety's "Famechangers" issue, with the magazine ranking him as the "#1 Famechanger", or "those whose influence stands head and shoulders above the rest". The following year, Time included him on their Time 100 list, with South Park co-creator Trey Parker writing in his entry, "I know it might seem weird, especially to those of us from an older generation, that people would spend so much time watching someone else play video games [...] But I choose to see it as the birth of a new art form. And I don't think anyone should underestimate its most powerful artist."
Swedish columnist Lars Lindstrom commented positively about PewDiePie, stating, "that Felix Kjellberg has a comic talent is indisputable. It is both amazingly awful and amazingly funny when a father bikes around with his son in the game Happy Wheels and both get crushed and bloody again and again and PewDiePie improvises absurd comments as the game continues. The secret is that he really loves to play these games and that he has fun doing it." PewDiePie has also been received negatively by the media on some occasions, often being reported as an "inexplicable phenomenon." Andrew Wallenstein of Variety heavily criticised PewDiePie, following his channel becoming the most subscribed channel on YouTube, describing his videos as "aggressive stupidity" and "psycho babble."
In September 2014, Rob Walker of Yahoo! called PewDiePie's popularity "insane", writing, that it "strikes me as considerably more curious — I mean, you know who Rihanna is, but would you recognise this kid if he were standing in line behind you at the bank?" Walker, among other reporters and some casual gamers, have questioned the reasons for his popularity, while other reporters have criticised his rise in notability. Walker noted PewDiePie's interaction with his audience, writing, "While he can be raucous and crude, it always comes across as genuine. He constantly addresses his audience as a bunch of peer-like friends, as opposed to distant, genuflecting fans. He's certainly more than willing to make fun of himself in the process." In 2015, The Verge wrote, "Love it or hate it, his success — like so many other YouTube personalities — isn't just in playing games but actually connecting and talking directly to an audience. No agent, press release, or any other intermediary. He just hit record." He refers to his fan base as the "Bro Army" and addresses his audience as "bros". On this, Walker wrote, "Profanity aside, it's a bummer that his persona includes constant references to his viewers as "bros," and that he's loose with words like "bitch" when his gaming adventures lead him into contact with female villain characters. Given how smart this guy clearly is when he speaks directly, I suspect he could modify his demeanor in a way that remained engaging to a young fan base but somehow contributed to improving gamer-land’s sometimes disturbingly bro-centric attitude." However, both Walker and Reed have commented on PewDiePie's intelligence, with Reed opining, "He's much more thoughtful and self-aware than he seems in many of his videos."
Relating to his responsibility as a celebrity, PewDiePie has stated "many people see me as a friend they can chill with for 15 minutes a day", adding, "The loneliness in front of the computer screens brings us together. But I never set out to be a role model; I just want to invite them to come over to my place." Correlating with this note, his audience has been reported to provide positive remarks about him; some of his viewers created and contributed to a thread expressing that he has made them happier and feel better about themselves. Conversely, during an informal Twitter poll conducted by one Kotaku reporter, respondents described him as "annoying" and an "obnoxious waste of time." Additionally, Rolling Stone has documented the existence of several Reddit threads dedicated to sharing disparaging views of PewDiePie.
PewDiePie has himself claimed that he dislikes being called "famous", and has been reported to live a "shy and retiring life". In a Rolling Stone article, PewDiePie admitted to being shocked by his fame; PewDiePie recalled a gaming event near his hometown, stating "I remember there were five security guards yelling at a crowd to back up — it was out of control. It was shocking to find myself in that situation, where I was that celebrity person." At the 2013 Social Star Awards, PewDiePie greeted his fans personally despite security warning him against doing so. PewDiePie also mentioned this event to Rolling Stone, stating, "I didn't even understand they were screaming for me at first."
Influence on video games
PewDiePie's commentaries have had a positive effect on sales of indie games. For instance the developers of McPixel stated, "The largest force driving attention to McPixel at that time were 'Let's Play' videos. Mostly by Jesse Cox and PewDiePie." PewDiePie has also been confirmed to have positively influenced the sales of Slender: The Eight Pages and Goat Simulator. Although games being featured on PewDiePie's channel have reportedly contributed to their commercial success, he has stated, "I just want to play the games, not influence sales."
PewDiePie, along with characters from Amnesia: The Dark Descent, which PewDiePie renamed and made characters within his own commentaries were referenced to by a McPixel level designed in his honour. Additionally, in the video game Surgeon Simulator 2013, the Alien Surgery stage features an organ called "Pewdsball" in honour of PewDiePie. PewDiePie agreed to allow the developers of Surgeon Simulator 2013 to use his likeness in GOTY IDST, a showering simulation video game. PewDiePie was also included as a NPC in the indie game, Party Hard.
In June 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported that PewDiePie earned $4 million in 2013; PewDiePie confirmed on Reddit that the figures were roughly around what he actually earned. In July 2015, the Swedish newspaper Expressen reported that PewDiePie's production company, PewDie Productions AB, reported earnings of 63.7 million kr ($7.5 million) in 2014. The Guardian commented that the reason the media was so captivated by PewDiePie's earnings is that the topic "offers a rare insight into the money being made at the top end of YouTube stardom", adding "it’s very rare for any YouTube creator to talk about their earnings publicly, not least because YouTube itself does not encourage it". Although outlets agreed that PewDiePie's income was sizeable, and even "remarkable", PewDiePie appeared at the top of Forbes' October 2015 list of the richest YouTube stars with a reported $12 million earned in 2015. Relating to the earnings, Michael Thomsen of Forbes opined that "$7 million may well seem like an astronomical figure to a 25 year-old who just wants to make friends and play videogames, but it's a wildly insubstantial figure for the size of his audience and influence."
On the topic of his earnings, PewDiePie stated that he is "extremely tired of talking about how much I make. In the very few interviews I've made, it doesn't matter how long we've talked to each other, the headline is still just about my paycheck." After extensive media coverage of his earnings, PewDiePie posted a video, expressing his frustration at the extensive media coverage over his income. In the video he claimed, "We did raise a million dollars for charity, and very few articles picked up on that, but here it is everywhere how much money I make", adding, "It seems like the whole world cares more about how much money I make than I do myself." Relating to his source of his income, PewDiePie stated: "I think that's what's cool about YouTube: That anyone could technically do it, right? Surely if I didn't exist, there would be someone to fill my place."
In December 2016, Forbes named PewDiePie as the highest-earning YouTuber with his annual income reaching $15 million. This is up 20% from 2015, largely due to his YouTube Red series Scare PewDiePie and his book This Book Loves You, which sold over 112,000 copies according to Nielsen Bookscan.
Beginning in April 2014 and spanning into August, PewDiePie, along with his girlfriend Marzia Bisognin, began a marketing campaign for the Legendary Pictures film As Above, So Below. PewDiePie's videos for the marketing campaign included a miniseries featuring him participating in the "Catacombs Challenge". The challenge involved PewDiePie searching for three keys in the catacombs to open a container holding "the Philosopher's stone". The couple's videos were able to earn nearly 20 million views. Maker Studios, which both PewDiePie and Bisognin are represented by, brokered the ad deal between the two and Legendary Pictures. In January 2015, Mountain Dew partnered with PewDiePie to launch a fan fiction contest, in which winning fan fictions will be animated into video formats and then uploaded onto his channel. In the same month, a quote from him was used by Techland on Dying Light posters. The quote, which read, "I love this game. It's sooo awesome!", spread controversy as it came from a seemingly advertorial video, featuring him playing Dying Light. In response to the issue, PewDiePie tweeted, "I love this game. It's soooo awesome! - IGN." When another Twitter user mentioned the issue, tagging PewDiePie in their tweet, he responded, "I dont even remember saying this."
Despite these partnerships, PewDiePie maintains that he conducts very few promotions and works with few brands. Additionally, PewDiePie posted on Reddit, "I make more than I need from YouTube", adding, "with that freedom, but also to respect my fans for making that possible, I don't end up doing many endorsements." On this topic, PewDiePie has claimed that it is disappointing when a large chunk of people misinterpret a component of his character; he states, "if I mention on Twitter that I find this or that Kickstarter project cool, people immediately start to ask what economical interests I might have in it. Things like that can bring me down. But it's not personal; some people just prefer to believe the worst about others at any given time."
PewDiePie's popularity has allowed him to stir support for fundraising drives. In February 2012, PewDiePie ran for King of the Web, an online contest. He lost the overall title; however, he still became the "Gaming King of the Web" for the 1–15 February 2012 voting period. During the following voting period, PewDiePie won and donated his cash winnings to the World Wildlife Fund. He has raised money for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
PewDiePie also began a "Water Campaign" charity, where his fans could donate money to Charity: Water, in celebration of reaching ten million subscribers. PewDiePie also contributed one dollar to the charity for every 500 views the video announcing the campaign accumulates, up to a maximum of $10,000. PewDiePie had the stated goal of raising US$250,000, at the end of the drive, the amount raised was $446,462. In June 2014, PewDiePie, announced that a fourth charity drive for "Save the Children" raised over $630,000, surpassing a $250,000 goal. In an interview with the Swedish magazine Icon, he has expressed desire to continue these drives as time goes on, and also credited John and Hank Green as two individuals who gave him the idea of making unique videos for charity. These videos are purchased by game manufacturers and advertisers, for prices ranging up to $50,000.
In December 2016, he hosted "Cringemas", a livestream held across two days (9 and 10 December, both at around 6PM–10PM GMT), with other Revelmode creators. During the livestream, they helped raise money for RED, a charity committed to helping eliminate HIV/AIDS in Africa. After the first day, the fundraiser raised over $200,000, after YouTube doubled their goal of $100,000, and at the end of the livestream, they had raised a total of over $1.3 million with help from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Appearances in other media
Aside from his own YouTube channel, PewDiePie has made appearances in the videos of other YouTube creators and series. In April 2013, he made a cameo in an episode of Epic Rap Battles of History, portraying Mikhail Baryshnikov. In July 2013, PewDiePie starred alongside Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox of Smosh, as well as Jenna Marbles, as guest judges on the second season of Internet Icon. PewDiePie has also appeared in YouTube's annual year-end Rewind series in each year since 2013.
In June 2014, Sveriges Radio let PewDiePie host an episode of the radio show Sommar i P1. The episode was recorded in both Swedish and English; the Swedish version was broadcast 9 August 2014 in Sveriges Radio P1, and the English version was published online, on a dedicated server with extra capacity to avoid crashing the Sveriges Radio server. The link to the Swedish version of the broadcast was shared over 3,500 times, and the link to the English version was shared about 49,000 times. In October, he appeared as a guest on Good Mythical Morning, where he talked about Swedish stereotypes.
In December 2014, PewDiePie guest starred in two episodes of the 18th season of South Park, one of his favourite series. The two episodes served as a two-part season finale. The first part, titled "#REHASH" aired on 3 December, while the second part, titled "#HappyHolograms", aired on 10 December. In the episodes, he parodied himself and other Let's Play commentators, who added commentary over Call of Duty gameplay in an overly expressive way. In "#REHASH", the character Kyle wonders why his brother and his brother's friends favour watching others comment on events over experiencing events themselves.
In July 2015, PewDiePie was announced as a voice actor in the Vimeo fantasy series, Oscar's Hotel for Fantastical Creatures. In October, PewDiePie appeared as a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert; PewDiePie's charm was well received by online media outlets.
On 24 September 2015, PewDiePie released his own video game PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist on iOS and Android. The game is developed by Canadian game developer Outerminds in collaboration with PewDiePie himself. On 29 September 2016, he released another game developed by Outerminds, titled PewDiePie's Tuber Simulator. It was released as a free app on iOS and Android devices. The game focuses on getting enough subscribers to dethrone PewDiePie as the king of YouTube. The game reached the number one spot on the App Store within a few days of its release, while also experiencing its servers crashing due to its popularity.
Kjellberg is originally from Sweden, but moved to Italy to live with his girlfriend, Marzia Bisognin. She is also a YouTube personality, formerly known on the website as CutiePieMarzia, but now known as simply Marzia. The two were introduced to each other through a friend of Bisognin's in 2011, and after establishing an online friendship, Kjellberg flew to Italy to meet her.
The two shuffled between Sweden and Italy, before settling in Brighton, Sussex, England. Kjellberg moved to the UK in July 2013 for better Internet connectivity. Kjellberg admits that he enjoys living in Brighton, as he is able to live in general anonymity, adding that one of the reasons he has not moved to Los Angeles is, "Anytime I'm there, people are constantly patting you on the back, telling you how great you are. It fucks with your brain. I started YouTube because I was bored, not to become famous." In June 2016, Kjellberg announced he had been evicted from his recording studio after his landlord confronted him for being too loud. On 30 December 2016, he announced that he had been evicted once again, and that he had moved into Club Penguin's old UK office. The couple owns two pugs, Maya and Edgar.
|Year(s)||Series or Show||Role||# of episodes||Ref(s)|
|2012||Sveriges Television (Interview)||Himself||2||[c]|
|2013||Epic Rap Battles of History||Misha||1|||
|2013, 2015||Smosh Babies||Baby Pewds||2||[d]|
|2014||Good Mythical Morning||Himself||1|||
|2014||asdfmovie||Lonely Guy / Magician||1|||
|2015||Oscar's Hotel for Fantastical Creatures||Brock||6|||
|2015||The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (Interview)||Himself||1|||
|2015||PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist||iOS, Android, Microsoft Windows, OS X|||
|2016||PewDiePie's Tuber Simulator||iOS, Android|||
|2013||Starcount Social Star Awards||Most Popular Social Show||Won|||
|Sweden Social Star Award||Won|||
|5th Shorty Awards||#Gaming||Won|||
|2014||Teen Choice Awards||Web Star: Gaming||Won|||
|4th Streamy Awards||Best Gaming Channel, Show, or Series||Nominated|||
|Golden Joystick Awards||Gaming Personality||Won|||
|2015||Teen Choice Awards||Choice Web Star: Male||Nominated|||
|5th Streamy Awards||Best First-Person Channel, Show, or Series||Nominated|||
|Best Gaming Channel, Show, or Series||Won|||
|Golden Joystick Awards||Gaming Personality||Won|||
|2016||8th Shorty Awards||YouTuber of The Year||Nominated|||
|2017||43rd People's Choice Awards||Favorite YouTube Star||Nominated|||
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