Born Name: Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg
Date of Birth: 24 October 1989
Place of Birth: Gothenburg, Sweden
Residence: Brighton, United Kingdom
Height: 1.81 m
Spouse(s): Marzia Bisognin (m. 2019)
Also known as: Pewds
Genre: Let's Play,vlog,comedy
Subscribers: 104 million (April 2020)
Total views: 25 billion
Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (born 24 October 1989), better known as PewDiePie is a Swedish YouTuber, known primarily for his Let's Play videos and comedic formatted shows. Kjellberg's channel was the most-subscribed channel on YouTube for more than five years from 2013 to 2019.
After registering his eponymous YouTube channel in 2010, Kjellberg primarily posted Let's Play videos of horror and action video games. His channel experienced substantial growth in popularity over the next two years and he reached 1 million subscribers in July 2012. Over time, his style of content diversified to include vlogs, comedy shorts, formatted shows, and music videos.
Kjellberg became the most-subscribed YouTuber on 15 August 2013 (being briefly surpassed in late 2013 by YouTube Spotlight) and held the title until early 2019 when he publicly vied for it with Indian record label T-Series, until the latter established a significant lead in April that year. For two years (from 29 December 2014 to 14 February 2017), Kjellberg had the most-viewed channel on YouTube. As of January 2020, his channel has received over 103 million subscribers and 24 billion views, ranking as the second-most-subscribed and thirteenth-most-viewed channel on the platform, and the most-subscribed and most-viewed channel operated by an individual.
Kjellberg's popularity on YouTube has caused him to become one of the most noted online personalities. Due to this popularity, his 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.
Early life and education
Kjellberg was born and raised in Gothenburg, Sweden. He was born to Lotta Kristine Johanna (née Hellstrand, born 7 May 1958) and Ulf Christian Kjellberg (born 8 January 1957), and grew up with his older sister Fanny. His mother, a former CIO, was named the 2010 CIO of the Year in Sweden. His father is also a corporate executive.
During his childhood, Kjellberg was interested in art, and has detailed that he would draw popular video game characters such as Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog, as well as play video games on his Super Nintendo Entertainment System. During high school, he would skip classes to play video games at an Internet café with friends. 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 it has been reported that he left Chalmers to focus on his YouTube career, in 2017, Kjellberg clarified that he left because of his lack of interest in his course of study. He expressed that, in general, leaving university to pursue a YouTube career would be "fucking stupid".
Kjellberg has also discussed an enjoyment of Adobe Photoshop, wanting to work on photo manipulation art using the program rather than be in school. Following this passion after his departure from Chalmers, he entered Photoshop contests and almost earned an apprenticeship at a prominent Scandinavian advertising agency. He was also interested in creating content on YouTube; after not earning the apprenticeship, he sold limited edition prints of his photoshopped images to purchase a computer to work on YouTube videos.
Early years (2010–2012)
Kjellberg originally registered a YouTube account under the name "Pewdie" in 2006; he explained that "pew" represents the sound of lasers and "die" refers to death. After forgetting the password to this account, he registered the "PewDiePie" YouTube channel on 29 April 2010. Following his exit from Chalmers, his parents refused to financially 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. Kjellberg stated that the ability to make videos was more important to him than a prestigious career. Five years later, Kjellberg 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."
In his early years as a YouTube creator, Kjellberg focused on video game commentaries, most notably of horror and action video games. Some of his earliest videos featured commentaries of mainstream video games including Minecraft and Call of Duty, although he was particularly noted for his Let's Plays of Amnesia: The Dark Descent and its related mods. Starting on 2 September 2011, Kjellberg also began posting weekly vlogs under the title of Fridays with PewDiePie.
By December 2011, Kjellberg's channel had around 60,000 subscribers, and on 9 May 2012, it reached 500,000 subscribers. Around the time his channel earned 700,000 subscribers, Kjellberg spoke at Nonick Conference 2012. July 2012 saw his channel reaching 1 million subscribers, and it reached 2 million subscribers in September. In October, OpenSlate ranked Kjellberg's channel as the No. 1 YouTube channel. Kjellberg signed with Maker Studios in December, a multi-channel network (MCN) that drives the growth of the channels under it. Prior to his partnership with Maker, he was signed to Machinima, which operates as a rival to Maker. Kjellberg expressed feeling neglected by Machinima, and frustrated with their treatment, Kjellberg hired a lawyer to free him from his contract with the network.
Early in his YouTube career, Kjellberg used rape jokes in his videos. A satirical video mocking Kjellberg's content highlighted his usage of such jokes. Shortly after, Kjellberg attracted criticism and controversy for the jokes, 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 Kjellberg’s channel reached 5 million subscribers, and in April, he was covered in The New York Times after surpassing 6 million subscribers. In May, at the inaugural Starcount Social Stars Awards in Singapore, Kjellberg won the award for "Swedish Social Star". Competing against Jenna Marbles, Smosh and Toby Turner, Kjellberg 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 on 9 July 2013. In August, Kjellberg signed with Maker's gaming sub-network, Polaris. Polaris functioned as a relaunching of The Game Station, Maker's gaming network.
Kjellberg's subscriber count surpassed that of the leading channel, Smosh, on 15 August 2013. Kjellberg received a certificate from Guinness World Records for becoming the most subscribed YouTuber. On 1 November, Kjellberg's channel became the first to reach 15 million subscribers; the following day, the channel was surpassed by YouTube's Spotlight account in subscribers. In the same month, Kjellberg proclaimed his dislike of YouTube's new comment system and disabled the comment section on all of his videos. On 22 December 2013, Kjellberg overtook the YouTube Spotlight channel to once again become the most-subscribed on YouTube.
Throughout 2012 and 2013, Kjellberg's channel was one of the fastest growing on YouTube, in terms of subscribers gained. In 2013, the channel grew 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, it earned just under 1.3 billion video views.
Continued growth (2014–2015)
In 2014, Kjellberg’s commentaries, originally best known for featuring horror video games, began to feature games that interested him, regardless of genre. In March, Kjellberg 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, Kjellberg uploaded a video, announcing he would permanently disable comments on his YouTube videos. On his decision, Kjellberg stated most comments consisted of spam and self-advertising, and was not what he wanted to see. After disabling comments, Kjellberg continued interacting with his audience through Twitter and Reddit. On 13 October, Kjellberg decided to allow comments on his videos once more, albeit only after approval. However, he expressed that he toggled his comment settings this way so that he could redirect viewers to instead comment on the forums of his Broarmy.net website. Kjellberg stated in a later video that disabling comments had helped him become happier. In the same year, Kjellberg began streaming videos of his co-hosted series, BroKen, onto MLG.tv. Kjellberg co-hosted the series with Kenneth Morrison, better known as CinnamonToastKen, who is also a video game commentator.
In October 2014, Kjellberg hinted at the possibility that he would not renew his contract with Maker Studios upon its expiration in December 2014. Kjellberg had expressed his frustrations with the studio's parent company, Disney. Kjellberg mulled the option of launching his own network, however, in light of news outlets reporting his disinterest with Maker, Kjellberg 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." Kjellberg would ultimately continue creating videos under Maker. His relationship with Maker caused the establishment of an official PewDiePie website, app, and online store to sell merchandise, while Kjellberg promoted Maker's media interests and gave the network a share of his YouTube ad revenue.
In 2014 alone, Kjellberg'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, on 29 December 2014, Kjellberg's channel amassed over 7 billion views, to become the most-viewed channel on the website. During July 2015, Kjellberg's videos were documented to receive over 300 million views per month. On 6 September, Kjellberg's YouTube account became the first to eclipse 10 billion video views.
YouTube Red, Revelmode, and style change (2015–2017)
During September 2015, Kjellberg teased about having a role in a web television series, stating that he was in Los Angeles for the show's shooting. Although not many details were revealed at the time, it was later announced that the series would be an original YouTube Red series titled Scare PewDiePie. The series premiered the following February.
In January 2016, he announced a partnership with Maker Studios to produce Revelmode, a sub-network of Maker, that would showcase Kjellberg 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 Kjellberg, eight other YouTubers signed to the network upon its creation: CinnamonToastKen, Marzia, Dodger, Emma Blackery, Jacksepticeye, Jelly, Kwebbelkop, and Markiplier. Three YouTubers – Cryaotic, KickThePJ and Slogoman – would later join the sub-network after its launch.
Throughout 2016, Kjellberg's video style change became more apparent. While producing fewer Let's Play videos about horror games, his style of humour changed; he commented that he had shifted to drier humour, which was often not understood by younger viewers. 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. Kjellberg expressed many people working with YouTube "have no idea of the struggles that came with being a content creator." On this issue, a Google representative provided a comment to Ars Technica, stating "Some creators have expressed concerns around a drop in their subscriber numbers. We've [...] 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 20 October, Kjellberg launched a second channel, under the name "Jack septiceye2". The name is derived from his friend and fellow YouTube video game commentator, Jacksepticeye. By December, Kotaku reported the Jack septiceye2 channel had garnered 1.4 million subscribers, despite having only one upload available to watch.
On 8 December, Kjellberg's channel reached 50 million subscribers, becoming the first YouTube channel to do so. On 18 December 2016, he received a custom Play Button from YouTube as a reward for reaching this milestone. In February the next year, his channel's total video view count was surpassed by Indian record label T-Series at the top of YouTube's view rankings, according to Social Blade.
Media controversies, streaming, and formatted shows (2017−2018)
–PewDiePie, My Response video (February 2017)
In January 2017, Kjellberg uploaded a video which appeared to show him using a racial slur. The video garnered criticism and widespread attention on Twitter. In another video, Kjellberg featured two paid individuals on Fiverr, asked to hold a sign that read "Death to All Jews". He alleged his intent was not against Jews, but to "showcase how crazy the website was". The video received negative attention and caused a media backlash, with various publications writing critically of Kjellberg's defense of his content as jokes taken out of context, and opining that his content helps normalise ideologies such as fascism, neo-Nazism and white supremacy. The Wall Street Journal alleged that this was not the first time Kjellberg had used anti-Semitic language and imagery in his videos. Kjellberg and the two individuals later apologised, but the event led Maker Studios to cut their ties with Kjellberg and Google to drop him from the Google Preferred advertising program and cancel the upcoming second season of the Scare PewDiePie YouTube Red series.
In April, while still continuing to upload new content onto YouTube, Kjellberg created Netglow, a crowdsourced channel on the livestreaming service Twitch. On Netglow, he started streaming Best Club, a weekly live stream show. Best Club premiered on 9 April, with its first episode featuring Brad Smith alongside Kjellberg. Kjellberg commented that his decision to create Netglow was in the works prior to the aforementioned allegations of anti-Semitic themes in his videos. Business Insider detailed that Kjellberg's first stream amassed around 60,000 viewers, and that Netglow had accumulated 93,000 subscribers to that point.
In September 2017, Kjellberg drew criticism again when he used the racial slur "nigger" during an outburst at another player while live-streaming PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. As a response to the incident, Campo Santo co-founder Sean Vanaman referred to Kjellberg as "worse than a closeted racist", announced that Campo Santo would file copyright strikes against Kjellberg's videos featuring the studio's game Firewatch, and encouraged other game developers to do the same. Kjellberg later uploaded a short video apologising for the language he used during the live-stream, expressing "I'm disappointed in myself because it seems like I've learned nothing from all these past controversies, [using the slur] was not okay. I'm really sorry if I offended, hurt or disappointed anyone with all of this. Being in the position that I am, I should know better."
In 2018, Paul MacInnes of The Guardian wrote about Kjellberg's YouTube content; he noted that each week Kjellberg posted videos featuring one of three series formats, comparing this uploading pattern to television programming. The three series listed were You Laugh You Lose, which features Kjellberg watching humorous video clips while trying to not laugh; Last Week I Asked You, having begun as a parody and homage to Jack Douglass' Yesterday I Asked You, where he challenges his audience to create content and reviews the output; and Meme Review, in which he reviews popular Internet memes. Furthermore, Kjellberg began a book club-styled series, with his own enjoyment with the series also being noted. Kjellberg also began Pew News, a satirical series that has Kjellberg present and discuss recent news stories while in character, often as his own fictional characters that are mostly the ones named after CNN hosts, such as Gloria Borger, Poppy Harlow, or Mary Katharine Ham and sometimes, an amalgamation of these names. Pew News parodies both mainstream news channels, such as CNN, and YouTube news channels, such as DramaAlert.
In May, Kjellberg attracted controversy for using the term "Twitch thots" in one of his videos which featured him watching a compilation of female Twitch streamers. The compilation featured Alinity, a broadcaster on Twitch. Alinity responded by making a copyright claim against his video which was later removed by CollabDRM. Alinity stated that her reaction was caused by "the rampant sexism in online communities", arguing that Kjellberg’s comments degraded women. Alinity refused to accept Kjellberg's apology. In July, Kjellberg posted a meme with singer Demi Lovato's face; the meme jokingly referenced Lovato's struggles with addiction. The meme was posted around the same time Lovato was hospitalized after suffering an opioid overdose. As a result, he received criticism from online users, including fans of Lovato and others struggling with addiction. Kjellberg later apologised for the incident.
In a video uploaded in early December, Kjellberg gave a shoutout to several small content creators on YouTube, recommending his viewers to subscribe to them. Among those creators was "E;R", who Kjellberg highlighted for a video essay on Netflix's Death Note. Shortly thereafter, The Verge's Julia Alexander noted that the video in question used imagery of the Charlottesville car attack, and that the channel made frequent use of racial and homophobic slurs. Kjellberg addressed the issue, stating he was largely unaware of E;R's content contained outside of the Death Note video essay, and revoked his recommendation of E;R.
Subscriber competition with T-Series (2018–2019)
On 5 October 2018, Kjellberg uploaded a diss track against Indian record label T-Series titled "TSERIES DISS TRACK" (later renamed to "Bitch Lasagna") in response to their YouTube channel being projected to surpass PewDiePie in subscribers. The diss track included some lines addressing the Indian background of T-Series, which have been described as racist in media publications, as well as in a court ruling from the High Court of Delhi. Kjellberg also made allegations against T-Series using subscribing bots. On the prospect of being surpassed by T-Series in terms of subscriber count, Kjellberg stated he was not concerned about T-Series, but feared the consequences a corporate channel surpassing him would have for YouTube as a video-sharing platform. Online campaigns to subscribe to PewDiePie greatly assisted Kjellberg's subscriber growth; his channel gained 6.62 million subscribers in December 2018 alone, compared to the 7 million subscribers gained in all of 2017.
On 12 March, Kjellberg uploaded an episode of his show Pew News in which he mentioned the 2019 Pulwama terrorist attack, where 40 Indian paramilitary troops were killed by a member of a Pakistan-based jihadist group. Following the attack, T-Series removed several songs by Pakistani artists on its YouTube channel after being pressurised by political party MNS to isolate Pakistani artists, a course of action that Kjellberg disagreed with. Kjellberg made light of Pakistani users who subscribed to his channel over T-Series in response to T-Series' removals. The outlet Zee News reported that Kjellberg "faced strong criticism for his comments on the heightened tension between Pakistan and India in [the] March 12 issue of Pew News". Kjellberg also issued a clarification on Twitter, expressing that he was not attempting to speak on the broader India–Pakistan relations, but rather on the more specific context of T-Series removing artists' songs from its YouTube channel.
On 15 March, the perpetrator of the live-streamed Christchurch mosque shootings said "remember lads, subscribe to PewDiePie" before carrying out the attacks. In response, Kjellberg tweeted his disgust after having his name associated with the attack, and offered condolences to the those affected by the tragedy. Various journalists covering the shooting reported that Kjellberg was not complicit with the shootings. The New York Times suggested that Kjellberg's mention in the shootings was a ploy for the news media to attribute blame to PewDiePie and to otherwise inflame political tensions.
After briefly gaining the title several times in early 2019, on 27 March, T-Series surpassed Kjellberg in subscribers to become the most-subscribed channel on YouTube. On 31 March, Kjellberg posted another diss track music video, titled "Congratulations", ironically congratulating T-Series for obtaining the title. Much of the song's lyrics were sarcasm towards T-Series. In the music video, Kjellberg mocked T-Series and its actions, alleging T-Series was founded to sell pirated songs and mocking them for sending Kjellberg a cease and desist letter after "Bitch Lasagna", alleging that his actions and words in that first diss track were defamatory. He also mentioned the CEO of T-Series' tax evasion scandal and #MeToo allegations. The day after the video's upload, Kjellberg temporarily regained his lead over T-Series as the most subscribed channel.
On 11 April, T-Series started to seek court orders to remove PewDiePie's "diss tracks" from YouTube. According to entertainment and law website IPRMENTLAW, T-Series sought out a court order from the High Court of Dehli to remove PewDiePie's "Bitch Lasagna" and "Congratulations" from YouTube. The alleged court order was ruled in favor of T-Series. It was allegedly stated that the complaint against Kjellberg claimed that his songs were "defamatory, disparaging, insulting, and offensive," and noted that comments on the videos were "abusive, vulgar, and also racist in nature." Access to the music videos on YouTube was later blocked in India. The two parties were reported to have come to a settlement later that July, although Kjellberg's videos remained blocked in India.
Finally, on 28 April, Kjellberg uploaded a video entitled "Ending the Subscribe to Pewdiepie Meme" in which he asked his followers to refrain from using the phrase "Subscribe to PewDiePie" due to incidents such as the phrase being graffitied on a war memorial and its mention by the Christchurch mosque shooter. The following day, during a live stream showing a plane fly over New York City with a banner attached saying "Subscribe to PewDiePie". Kjellberg stated that the event was "a nice little wrap up" to the Subscribe to PewDiePie meme.
Minecraft series and hiatus (2019–2020)
On 21 June 2019, Kjellberg launched Gaming Week, during which he would focus on uploading Let's Play videos every day for the first time in several years. Among the games played were Minecraft, which he surprised himself by enjoying. Kjellberg largely centered his videos around Minecraft in the following months, with the content featured in his series Meme Review and LWIAY also becoming focused on the game. Although Kjellberg had played Minecraft earlier in his YouTube career, he had very rarely played it in the following years due to his reluctance to join the trend of Minecraft YouTubers, whom he felt only played the game because of its popularity rather than for their enjoyment. This transition was largely successful for Kjellberg who received a large increase in views, achieving over 570 million views during the month of July (the most views received by the channel in a month since at least October 2016), and his daily number of new subscribers grew from 25,000 to 45,000 during that month. Despite this success, Kjellberg insisted that he played the game for his enjoyment and did not want to become solely a "Minecraft YouTuber", stating "If Minecraft gets boring, I can just move on to other things."
On 25 August, Kjellberg became the first individual YouTuber to surpass 100 million subscribers; his channel was the second overall to reach the milestone after T-Series, who passed the mark earlier in the year. YouTube tweeted a congratulatory post to note the occurrence, and awarded him a Red Diamond Play Button. In October, Kjellberg stated in a video that his YouTube content, as well as content related to him on other websites such as Reddit, had been blocked in China. He explained that this was due to his comments about the 2019 Hong Kong protests and an image of Chinese president Xi Jinping being compared to Winnie-the-Pooh shown in a previous video. In December, Kjellberg was acknowledged as the most-viewed creator of the year, with more than 4 billion views in 2019.
In December 2019, Kjellberg announced that he would take a break from YouTube the following year, and deleted his Twitter account because of his dissatisfaction with the site. Kjellberg began his hiatus on 15 January 2020, and returned on 21 February.
YouTube content format
Early in his career, Kjellberg's content mainly consisted of videos under the Let's Play umbrella. His commentaries of horror games made up his best known content during this early stage, although he eventually expanded into other genres. Unlike conventional walkthroughs, Kjellberg devoted his Let's Play videos to communicating more personally with his audience." 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." ESPN noted that Kjellberg typically performed a "Brofist" gesture at the end of his videos, and often referred to his fan base as the "Bro Army", addressing his audience as "bros". Later on in his YouTube career, Kjellberg stopped using the term "Bro Army", and began to refer to his audience as "Squad Fam", "9 year olds”, and later "19 year olds”, in his videos.
With his channel’s growth, Kjellberg’s content has become more diverse; in addition to traditional Let’s Play videos, he has uploaded content including vlogs, comedy shorts and formatted shows. Kjellberg has also uploaded music onto his channel, often accompanied by animation, fan art, or live footage. Kjellberg has collaborated with The Gregory Brothers (also known as Schmoyoho), Boyinaband, Roomie, Dylan Locke and Party in Backyard for his music.
Production and output
During the early portion of his YouTube career, Kjellberg did not hire any editor or outside assistance to help with his video output, stating he wanted "YouTube to be YouTube." While his early videos would simply feature raw footage, he later began to dedicate time to edit his videos. Swedish magazine Icon noted his use of the Adobe Premiere Pro editing software. In October 2014, while speaking to Rhett and Link on their Ear Biscuits podcast, Kjellberg expressed that he would seek an editor in 2015. In 2016, Kjellberg thanked two other content creators for "helping [him] out with videos", but in a 2017 video stated "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." The following month, Kjellberg expressed he was looking for a U.K.-based production assistant. In July, Kjellberg commented that a couple months prior, he had an office and a limited number of employees assisting him with his content creation. Fellow YouTuber Brad Smith, known for his work on the World of Orange channel, was noted to have been an editor on Kjellberg's videos for nearly five years; Smith moved on to his own projects away from the channel in July 2019.
Kjellberg has been noted by both himself and media outlets to put out videos with a high frequency. By early 2017, he had uploaded almost 3,500 videos to his channel, around 400 of which have been made private. Kjellberg has made videos and statements expressing his feelings of burnout from frequently creating content for the platform, and its effect on his mental health. In March 2017, Kjellberg commented that his channel was running on a daily output, stating, "[there's] a lot of challenges in doing daily content, [...] but I still really, really love the daily challenge—the daily grind—of just being like, 'hey, I'm gonna make a video today, no matter what.' And sometimes it really works, and sometimes it doesn't."
The nature of Kjellberg'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 Kjellberg's content is genuine and unfiltered. 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." Walker wrote Kjellberg'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 Kjellberg's videos are what critics find most abrasive, but what fans love the most. Kjellberg resorts occasionally to gameplay, resulting in silent or emotional commentary; his playthrough of The Last of Us, it was detailed, 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." In August 2017, Kjellberg described himself as "just a guy making jokes on the Internet”, and in September, Justin Charity of The Ringer stated, "PewDiePie isn't a comedian in any conventional sense," but described his "hosting style [as] loopy and irreverent in the extreme: He's a little bit stand-up, a little bit shock jock, a little bit 4chan bottom-feeder."
Public image and influence
Since breaking through on YouTube with his Let's Play-styled videos, Kjellberg has emerged as one of the most noted and influential online personalities. In September 2014, Rob Walker of Yahoo! called Kjellberg's popularity "insane", writing, that it "strikes me as considerably more curious – I mean, you know who Rihanna is, but would you recognize this kid if he was standing in line behind you at the bank?" Walker, among other reporters, have questioned and analysed reasons for his popularity. Walker commented on Kjellberg'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, Ross Miller of 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."
In response to his 2017 controversies, The Ringer's Justin Charity commented, "PewDiePie's occasional, reactionary irreverence has become a core component of his appeal. Likewise, for critics and fans who value inclusivity—and among outside observers who view PewDiePie's conduct as inexplicably frequent in the news—PewDiePie represents all that is wrong and alienating about games culture." In 2018, Paul MacInnes of The Guardian wrote, "Given the scale of his audience and his influence, not much is written about PewDiePie. Tech sites like The Verge and Polygon report on him and often critique him severely. But in the mainstream media, his name has broken through only either as a result of novelty or scandal," and noted that his content was rarely written about.
In 2015, Kjellberg was included on Time's list of the 30 most influential people on the Internet, with the publication writing that his channel "broadcasts some of the most-watched programs in pop culture." Later in 2015, Kjellberg 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." Forbes wrote that "[Kjellberg's] overall brand suffered earlier this year when he included anti-Semitic content in nine of his videos," when citing their reason for not ranking him as the top gaming influence. Forbes still included Kjellberg in the gaming category of their June 2017 "Top Influencers" list.
Kjellberg has himself stated that he dislikes being called "famous", and has been referred to as "shy and quiet", and "much more reserved in real life," by a colleague who worked with him on Scare PewDiePie. In a Rolling Stone article, Kjellberg admitted to being shocked by his fame; he 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, Kjellberg greeted his fans personally despite security warning him against doing so. Kjellberg also mentioned this event to Rolling Stone, stating, "I didn't even understand they were screaming for me at first."
Channel demographics and fan base
Kjellberg's channel appeals strongly to younger viewers, a group Google refers to as "Generation C" for their habits of "creation, curation, connection and community". This demographic is more commonly known as Generation Z elsewhere. According to a 2014 survey commissioned by Variety, Kjellberg, along with several 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 video game players engage in watching online videos related to gaming, which has been linked to being an important reason for Kjellberg's popularity. In a 2017 video, Kjellberg shared a screenshot of data provided by YouTube regarding his channel statistics, which suggested his largest demographic was among the 18–24 age group, followed by the 25–34 age group.
As aforementioned, the "Bro Army" was a name often used to refer to Kjellberg's fan base by both himself and media outlets. In the late 2010s, Kjellberg used the term "army of 9-year-olds" to refer to his fan base. The fan base has been the target of criticism; in July 2018, Wired published an article, referring to Kjellberg's fan base as "toxic", stating that "it's not just that they've stuck with the Swedish gamer/alleged comedian as he peppered his videos with racial slurs, rape jokes, anti-Semitism, and homophobia for nearly a decade (though that's bad enough). It's also that they insist that PewDiePie somehow isn't being hateful at all."
Relating to his responsibility to his audience, Kjellberg 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 Kjellberg.
Responses to Kjellberg's content are mixed; Anthony Taormina of Game Rant wrote, "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 retarded culture." Chris Reed of The Wall St. Cheat Sheet commented on the divisive opinions about Kjellberg, 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."
When critiquing Kjellberg's early video game commentary content, Swedish columnist Lars Lindstrom commented positively, stating that “Felix Kjellberg [having] 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." Kjellberg has also been received negatively by the media, often being reported as an "inexplicable phenomenon." Andrew Wallenstein of Variety heavily criticised Kjellberg, following his channel becoming the most-subscribed on YouTube, describing his videos as "aggressive stupidity" and "psychobabble." Conversely, both Walker and Reed have commented positively on Kjellberg's intelligence. Walker stated Kjellberg is "clearly" smart based on when he speaks directly to his audience, and Reed opined "He's much more thoughtful and self-aware than he seems in many of his videos."
Following the controversy regarding alleged anti-Semitic content in his videos, many media publications both in and outside of the gaming and tech industries severely criticised Kjellberg's content. These outlets suggested that Kjellberg's content contained and promoted fascist, white supremacist, and alt-right ideologies. A Wired article covering the controversy referred to him as a "poster boy for white supremacists". Writing for The New York Times, John Herman commented "[Kjellberg] bemoaned [YouTube's] structure and the way it had changed; he balked at its limits and took joy in causing offense and flouting rules. Over time, he grew into an unlikely, disorienting and insistently unserious political identity: He became YouTube's very own populist reactionary." Over a year after the controversy, Paul MacInnes of The Guardian opined that Kjellberg "is funny, intelligent, innovative and highly charismatic [...] to call him an alt-right agitator would perhaps be unfair as he has never publicly identified with the proto-fascist movement. But he shares much of their culture and amplifies it across the world. People should pay PewDiePie more attention."
Influence on video games
Kjellberg has been noted to support video games from indie developers, often having played through them in his videos. His commentaries have had a positive effect on sales of indie games, with The Washington Post writing that "gamemakers have observed a kind of Oprah effect." The developers of indie game McPixel stated, "The largest force driving attention to McPixel at that time were 'Let's Play' videos. Mostly by Jesse Cox and PewDiePie." Kjellberg has also been confirmed to have positively influenced the sales of Slender: The Eight Pages and Goat Simulator. Although games being featured on Kjellberg's channel have reportedly contributed to their commercial success, he has stated, "I just want to play the games, not influence sales."
In 2019, Kjellberg's Minecraft videos led a surge of interest towards the game, which saw an increase in players. It also registered the largest-trending score on YouTube since January 2017 and surpassed Fortnite as the most-searched game on YouTube, with the searches for Minecraft on Google almost doubling since previous months. Video game media outlets, such as Polygon and The Verge, largely credited this newfound success to Kjellberg, with The Verge suggesting that the surge "proves that the 'PewDiePie Effect' is still real" (in reference to the Oprah effect-like success enjoyed by games played by Kjellberg). Several other popular YouTubers followed suit by focusing on Minecraft content. Polygon even noted that in the wake of Kjellberg's focus on Minecraft, Fortnite-focused YouTubers were starting to shift towards making Minecraft videos instead.
Kjellberg, along with characters from Amnesia: The Dark Descent, were referred 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 Kjellberg. Kjellberg agreed to allow the developers of Surgeon Simulator 2013 to use his likeness in GOTY IDST, a showering simulation video game. Kjellberg was also included as an NPC in the indie game, Party Hard, and had a voice acting role in Pinstripe, a puzzle adventure game.
In March 2014, Kjellberg made an estimated $140,000–$1.4 million from YouTube revenue, according to Social Blade. In June 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported that Kjellberg earned $4 million in 2013; Kjellberg confirmed on Reddit that the figures were somewhat close to what he actually earned. In July 2015, the Swedish newspaper Expressen reported that Kjellberg's production company, PewDie Productions AB, reported earnings of 63.7 million SEK ($7.5 million) in 2014. The Guardian commented that the reason the media was so captivated by Kjellberg'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". In 2015, outlets described Kjellberg's income as sizeable, and even "remarkable"; Kjellberg appeared at the top of Forbes' October 2015 list of the richest YouTube stars with a reported $12 million earned in 2015.
In December 2016, Forbes named Kjellberg as the highest-earning YouTuber with his annual income reaching $15 million. This was 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. According to Forbes, Kjellberg's income dropped to $12 million in 2017, which made him the sixth highest-paid YouTuber during that year. Forbes commented that Kjellberg's income would have been higher had he avoided the pushback from advertisers resulting from the controversies surrounding his videos in 2017.
Extensive media coverage on his earnings has been met with frustration by Kjellberg, who has stated that he is "tired of talking about how much [he makes]," and suggested that media outlets should rather report on the money he raised for charity.
Relationships with brands and sponsors
Beginning in April 2014 and spanning into August, Kjellberg, along with his girlfriend Marzia, began a marketing campaign for the Legendary Pictures film As Above, So Below. Kjellberg's videos for the marketing campaign included a miniseries featuring him participating in the "Catacombs Challenge". The challenge involved Kjellberg 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 Kjellberg and Marzia are represented by, brokered the ad deal between the two and Legendary Pictures. In January 2015, Mountain Dew partnered with Kjellberg to launch a fan fiction contest, in which winning fan fictions will be animated into video formats and then uploaded onto his channel.
While he entered partnerships early in his YouTube career, Kjellberg maintained that he worked with few brands and conducted few promotions. He stated he felt he made enough money from YouTube, and found endorsing too many brands to be disrespectful to his fans. On this topic, Kjellberg has expressed disappointment when a sizable portion of people misinterpret his intentions; he stated, "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."
Eventually, Kjellberg began to work with more brands, stating that he wanted to have genuine relationship with brands, and added he was lucky to not be dependent on working with them to support his career. In January 2019, Kjellberg announced a partnership with energy drink company G Fuel. On 9 April 2019, PewDiePie announced that he would live-stream exclusively on streaming service DLive as part of a deal with the company.
Appearances in other media
Aside from his own YouTube channel, Kjellberg has made appearances in the videos of other YouTube creators. In April 2013, he made a cameo in an episode of Epic Rap Battles of History, portraying Mikhail Baryshnikov. In July 2013, he starred alongside Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox of Smosh, as well as Jenna Marbles, as guest judges on the second season of Internet Icon. Kjellberg also appeared in YouTube's annual year-end Rewind series each year from 2013 to 2016; he once again appeared in YouTube Rewind in 2019.
On 3 June 2014, Sveriges Radio announced that Kjellberg was chosen to host his own episode of the Swedish radio show Sommar i P1. Due to his international popularity, the episode was recorded in both Swedish and English. The Swedish version was broadcast on 9 August 2014 in Sveriges Radio P1, and when the broadcast started the English version was published online. 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 December 2014, Kjellberg guest starred in two episodes of the 18th season of South Park. 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, providing commentary over Call of Duty gameplay in an overly expressive way.
In July 2015, Kjellberg was announced as a voice actor in the Vimeo fantasy series, Oscar's Hotel for Fantastical Creatures. In October of the same year, he appeared as a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and in February 2016, on Conan, playing Far Cry Primal as part of the show's Clueless Gamer segment.
Kjellberg's popularity has allowed him to stir support for fundraising drives. In February 2012, Kjellberg ran for King of the Web, an online contest. He lost the overall title, but still became the "Gaming King of the Web" for the 1–15 February 2012 voting period. During the following voting period, Kjellberg won and donated his cash winnings to the World Wildlife Fund. He has raised money for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and began a "Water Campaign" charity, where his fans could donate money to Charity: Water, in celebration of reaching ten million subscribers. Kjellberg contributed one dollar to the charity for every 500 views the video announcing the campaign accumulated, up to a maximum of $10,000. Kjellberg had the stated goal of raising US$250,000, but at the end of the drive, the amount raised was $446,612. Kjellberg organized another charity drive for Charity: Water in February 2016. The drive raised $152,239, surpassing a $100,000 goal.
In celebration of reaching 25 million subscribers in June 2014, Kjellberg announced another charity drive for Save the Children. It 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 6 pm–10 pm 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.
On 3 December 2018, Kjellberg announced that he had started a fundraiser on GoFundMe for Child Rights and You (CRY) in order to help Indian children, partially in response to racist comments left on his videos directed toward Indians. Kjellberg also hosted a livestream on 4 December, donating all of its proceeds to CRY. He raised over $200,000. On 21 July 2019, Kjellberg started a fundraiser on GoFundMe with American actor Jack Black for National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), in the wake of the suicide of the internet personality Etika in June 2019. Kjellberg and Jack Black streamed themselves playing Minecraft together to raise money for their fundraiser. Kjellberg donated $10,000 to his fundraiser and managed to raise over $30,000 for NAMI.
In celebration of receiving his 100 million subscribers Play Button in September 2019, Kjellberg announced in a video that he was donating $50,000 to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an international Jewish non-governmental organisation. Part of Kjellberg's fanbase criticized his decision, citing controversial actions and stances of the ADL. Kotaku and Vice praised Kjellberg's donation and were critical of the portion of Kjellberg's fanbase who opposed the donation. Two days after his initial announcement, Kjellberg announced in another video that he had decided to withdraw his donation. He expressed that he was advised to donate to the ADL, and did not hand-pick an organization that he was passionate about, as he had done with previous donations. Additionally, he confirmed that he would still make a $50,000 donation to an organization at some point in the future, but after undergoing his usual process to select a suitable one.
On October 31, 2019, PewDiePie donated $69,420 to Team Trees, a fundraising drive taking action against deforestation by pledging to plant one tree for every dollar donated. The donation number is a comedic in-joke combining numbers from internet culture: 69 and 420.
On 24 September 2015, Kjellberg released his own video game, PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist, on iOS and Android. The game was developed by Canadian game developer Outerminds in collaboration with Kjellberg. On 29 September 2016, he released another game developed by Outerminds, PewDiePie's Tuber Simulator. It was released as a free app on iOS and Android devices, and reached the number one spot on the App Store within a few days of its release. On 31 October 2017, former Goat Simulator developer and lead designer Armin Ibrisagic announced his partnership with Kjellberg for his video game Animal Super Squad. Kjellberg helped Ibrisagic with the core concept of the game and provided him with feedback and creative direction. In 2019, Kjellberg released two more video games: PewDiePie’s Pixelings and Poopdie.
Penguin Group's Razorbill imprint released Kjellberg's This Book Loves You, a parody of self-help books, on 20 October 2015. The book includes a collection of aphorisms, jokes, and wisdom, paired with visuals. It was number-one on The New York Times Best Seller list for two weeks in the Young Adult Paperback category. Kjellberg and his wife Marzia announced their unisex clothing brand Tsuki in a YouTube video. A pop-up store was opened for the brand in Toronto in 2019.[better source needed]
Kjellberg married his long-time girlfriend Marzia Bisognin on 19 August 2019. The two were introduced to each other through a friend of Bisognin’s in 2011, and after establishing an online relationship, Kjellberg flew to Italy to meet her. The pair shuffled between Sweden and Italy, before settling in Brighton and Hove, England. Kjellberg explained that they moved to the UK in July 2013 for preference to live close to the sea and for better Internet connectivity. He says he enjoys living in Brighton and Hove, as he is able to live in general anonymity. The two also have a home in Japan.
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