Virtual Girls, Real Money: What is a VTuber?

The latest global craze on YouTube isn’t slime or a charity challenge, but animated girls playing video games for big bucks: what is a VTuber, exactly? The idea of virtual YouTubers was pioneered in 2011 by vlogger Ami Yamato, who used a cartoon version of herself to blog about her life in London. However, the phenomenon as it is widely recognized today got its start in the mid 2010s, after a Japanese YouTube channel called ‘Kizuna AI’ was established and began streaming. The host of the channel was a cheerful young anime character who hosted discussions, Q&As, and played video games. Since then, thousands of virtual YouTubers, more commonly called VTubers, have been uploading videos and getting millions of subscribers.

Why Are VTubers Rising in Popularity?

What is the appeal of VTuber content? In an age with millions of content creators, why are VTubers topping the charts of most tipped performers? There are manym reasons.

  • Virtual talent offers something that cannot be found elsewhere: the ability to interact in real time with a live streaming necromancer, or catgirl, or yakuza dragon lady. Many of these virtual avatars have exotic backstories to complement their unusual appearances. 
  • Real world events have influenced the growing popularity of VTubers, as globally people are spending more time at home and not able to socialize in traditional ways due to the coronavirus pandemic. VTubers can present an option for community and interaction that’s very appealing to individuals who are now deprived of other opportunities.
  • VTubers rise dovetails with the swelling popularity of subscription-based fanbases for adult content such as OnlyFans. While not all VTubers are involved in 18+ material, there is enough crossover for it to be a contributing factor.

Top VTubers

There are a number of big name VTubers out there on social media pulling in big money every month. Kizuna AI may be the most prominent, as she was selected to be a brand ambassador for the Japan National Tourism Organization. She has over 2.9 million YouTube subscribers. Gawr Gura, a simple-minded but positive ‘shark girl’, is an English-speaking VTuber. She has more than 2.1 million subs. Kaguya Luna was formerly the second largest VTuber on YouTube, and now has 980k subs. She collaborates frequently with Kizuna AI and draws attention with her energetic yet irreverent persona. Luna is also involved with Mirai Akari’s channel. Mirai Akari is an amnesiac girl known for exuberant body language, with over 700k subs on YouTube. There are also male VTubers, such as Kanae, who is popular for his gentle appearance and personality, as well as his gaming. He has approximately 560k subs on YouTube.

VTubers and Genies

As a leading avatar technology company, Genies is very interested in the growing trend of VTubers. Our digital avatars are making it easier for everyone, not just successful streamers and digital media companies, to cultivate colorful online personas. We are rapidly building partnerships with established companies so that we can develop our avatar technology with the goal of helping to establish the Metaverse. There everyone, not just VTubers, will use a virtual persona to interact online. You can learn more about our service and how to make your own personalized Genie for use on social media and other apps on our website.