How PewDiePie got his start as a YouTube gamer star.

How YouTube’s Biggest Star Got His Start

How YouTube’s Biggest Star Got His Start

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Oct. 17 2014 10:54 AM

How YouTube’s Biggest Star Got His Start

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Ten years ago, who knew gaming could rake in the big bucks?

Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

This article originally appeared in Inc.

Felix Kjellberg, better known by his online gaming alias "PewDiePie," has one of the fastest-growing channels on YouTube—a sign of some serious entrepreneurial juice. 

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PewDiePie posts videos of himself playing video games, along with humorous commentary for viewers. The gamer hit an impressive 30 million followers in September, making his channel the most subscribed and the most viewed on YouTube for the month. His videos also have caused spikes in sales of games he's featured, such as Slender, Goat Simulator, and Flappy Bird, showing an influence he himself describes as "scary." But how did he get to where he is today?

"I just want to entertain; that is my main objective and what comes before everything else," PewDiePie told Swedish magazine Icon in a May interview.

Kjellberg comes from humble roots: Born in Gothenburg, Sweden, he gave up his pursuit of an industrial economics degree to focus on his YouTube career—something that, until recently, wasn't even considered a career. Yet his channel's revenue, which comes primarily from YouTube ads, ranges between $140,000 and $1.4 million a month, the Atlantic reports. 

PewDiePie's Web personality is remarkably human: He jokes, swears, shrieks, and giggles, all the while referring to his massive fanbase as his "bros" or "bro army." He ends almost every video with an affectionate fist bump (dubbed the "brofist"), encapsulating the entrepreneurial experience by effectively saying: I'm one of you, viewers.

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And he's not afraid to be candid with his audience, either. In September, after reaching the 30-million-follower milestone, he posted a video titled "Goodbye Forever Comments," in which he remarks: "I'm not trying to offend you bros who show a lot of support, but I don't see it as much anymore. … 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 isn't anything."

After announcing that he would disable the comments section forever, he smiled cheekily and ended the video with his trademark fist bump. (On Monday, Oct. 13, however, he brought the comments section back, in a walkthrough of Alien: Isolation.)

Like any true entrepreneur, PewDiePie is devoted primarily to his project and to his consumers (read: bros). "The thing that has made YouTube so successful is that you can relate to the people you're watching to a much higher degree than to the people you see on TV," he tells Icon.

PewDiePie's contract with Maker Studios—the largest network of channels on YouTube—is up in December. In the interview with Icon, PewDiePie announced that he may be starting his own network instead of renewing the contract, though he wouldn't go into further detail.