Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (// SHEL-burg; Swedish: [ˈfeːlɪks ²ɕɛlːbærj] (listen);[c] born 24 October 1989), known online as PewDiePie (// PEW-dee-py), is a Swedish YouTuber, comedian and video game commentator, formerly best known for his Let's Play commentaries and now mostly known for his comedic formatted shows.
PewDiePie at PAX 2015
|Born||Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg|
24 October 1989
|Partner(s)||Marzia Bisognin (2011–present; engaged)|
|Also known as|
(13 December 2018)
|Total views||19.5 billion|
(13 December 2018)
|Network||None (formerly Machinima and later Maker Studios)|
|Subscriber and view counts updated as of 13 December 2018.|
Born in Gothenburg, Sweden, PewDiePie originally pursued a degree in industrial economics and technology management at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg. 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 losing interest in 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 worked at a hot dog stand. PewDiePie soon gathered a rapidly increasing online following, and in July 2012, his channel surpassed one million subscribers.
On 15 August 2013, PewDiePie became the most-subscribed user on YouTube, being surpassed in late 2013 by YouTube Spotlight. Holding the position since 23 December 2013, the channel has over 76 million subscribers as of December 2018[update]. From 29 December 2014 to 14 February 2017, PewDiePie's channel held the distinction of being the most-viewed YouTube channel, and as of November 2018, the channel has received over 19 billion video views.
PewDiePie's most noted YouTube content includes his Let's Play-styled video game commentaries, particularly of the horror genre. Many of his early videos consisted of him expressively reacting to the frightening elements of horror games, although he shortly broke his focus away from horror and played games of varying genres. While maintaining a focus on video game commentaries, PewDiePie began incorporating comedic vlogs into his content output with an increasing frequency. In the mid-to-late 2010s, PewDiePie began producing formatted vlogs that had a concentration on Internet culture and interactivity with his audience. His content has been praised as genuine and unfiltered, but also 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, Maker Studios—the multi-channel network (MCN) he was signed to—ended their partnership with him. While he criticised the coverage of the situation and defended his content as jokes that were taken out of context, he conceded its offensiveness.
The prevailing nickname for PewDiePie's fanbase is the "Bro Army".[d] PewDiePie has raised money for charities, encouraging his audience to donate to charity drives. 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 fiancée, Italian Internet personality and fashion designer Marzia Bisognin.
Early life and education
PewDiePie 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 sister. His mother, a former CIO, was named the 2010 CIO of the Year in Sweden. His father is also a corporate executive.
During his early schooling life, he 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; 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. 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." 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."
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.
YouTube content format
Early in his career, PewDiePie 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 out of this niche while having his channel maintain a mostly gaming identity. Unlike conventional walkthroughs, PewDiePie devoted his Let's Play videos to "sharing gaming moments on YouTube with my fam." 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 PewDiePie typically performed a "Brofist" gesture at the end of his videos. PewDiePie often referred to his fan base as the "Bro Army" and addresses his audience as "bros". Later on during his YouTube career, PewDiePie stopped referring to his fan base as the "Bro Army", and began frequently using the term "Squad Fam", and later “9 year olds”, in his videos.
As his channel grew, he began to branch out in terms of his video content, uploading vlogs, in addition to live-action and animated comedy shorts. PewDiePie has also uploaded music onto his channel, often accompanied by an animation or fan art. Regarding his music videos, PewDiePie has collaborated with The Gregory Brothers (also known as Schmoyoho), Roomie, and Party in Backyard.
Production and output
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, Swedish magazine Icon detailed that "he has no manager, no assistant, or friend to help out with work-related contacts." That month however, while speaking to Rhett and Link on their Ear Biscuits podcast, PewDiePie expressed that he would seek an editor in 2015. In 2016, PewDiePie thanked two other content creators for "helping [him] out with videos". 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." The following month, PewDiePie expressed he was looking for a U.K.-based production assistant. In July, PewDiePie commented that a couple months prior, he "had an office [... and] a couple employees" to assist with his content creation, due to him thinking he needed to "be more 'professional'".
PewDiePie has been noted by both himself and media outlets to put out videos with a high frequency, a practice he first 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. PewDiePie has been frequently cited for making videos and statements expressing his feelings of burnout from frequently creating content for the platform, and its affect on his mental health. In March 2017, PewDiePie commented that his channel was running on a daily output, stating, "[there's] a lot of challenges in doing daily content, it's stupid. I really shouldn't be doing it, I really should just fucking go back and upload twice a week or some shit, and then take a step back, 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."
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. Icon noted that he uses Adobe Premiere Pro to edit his videos.
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." Walker wrote 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 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, PewDiePie called himself "just a guy making jokes on the Internet." 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."
Early years (2010–2012)
PewDiePie originally registered a YouTube account under the name "Pewdie" in 2006; he explained that "pew" represents the sound of lasers and "die" means death. After forgetting the password to this account, he 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."
In his early years as a YouTube creator, PewDiePie 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, PewDiePie also began posting weekly vlogs under the title of Fridays with PewDiePie.
By December 2011, PewDiePie's channel had around 60,000 subscribers. On 9 May 2012, PewDiePie's channel reached 500,000 subscribers. Around the time his channel earned 700,000 subscribers, PewDiePie spoke at Nonick Conference 2012. In 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 No. 1 YouTube channel. That December, PewDiePie signed with Maker Studios, 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. PewDiePie expressed feeling neglected by Machinima, and frustrated with their treatment, PewDiePie hired a lawyer to free him from his contract with the network.
Early in his YouTube career, PewDiePie used rape jokes in his videos. A satirical video mocking PewDiePie's content highlighted his usage of such jokes. Shortly after, PewDiePie 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 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 on 9 July 2013.
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'." PewDiePie received a certificate from Guinness World Records for becoming the most subscribed YouTuber. 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 and disabled the comment section on all of his videos. On 23 December 2013, PewDiePie overtook the YouTube Spotlight channel to once again become the most-subscribed 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)
To this point, PewDiePie's commentaries were best known for featuring horror video games. In 2014, however, he began to more actively play games that interested him, regardless of genre.
In March, 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. On 13 October, PewDiePie decided to allow comments on his videos once more, albeit only after approval. However, PewDiePie expressed that he set toggled his comment settings this way so he can redirect people to instead comment on the forums of his Broarmy.net website. In a later video, PewDiePie claimed that disabling comments helped him become happier.
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, who is also a video game commentator.
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." PewDiePie mulled the option of launching his own network, rather than resign with Maker, 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 would ultimately continue creating videos under Maker. His relationship with Maker developed into the network establishing an official PewDiePie website, app, and online store to sell merchandise, while PewDiePie promoted Maker's media interests and gave the network a share of his YouTube ad revenue.
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 SocialBlade, a website which tracks YouTube channel statistics, on 29 December 2014, the PewDiePie channel surpassed emimusic's video view count, at over 7.2 billion views, to become the most-viewed channel on the website.
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 programme 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 programme. 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 PewDiePie's concern and criticism was toward the approval of a video which Nintendo has to administer, and the potential of that approval process being motivated by biased intentions.
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.
YouTube Red, Revelmode, and style change (2015–2017)
During September 2015, PewDiePie teased about having a role in a 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 titled Scare PewDiePie. The series premiered the following February.
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. Three YouTubers—Cryaotic, KickThePJ and Slogoman—would later join the sub-network after its launch.
Throughout 2016, PewDiePie's video style change became more apparent than the tweaks he implemented in the past (see above for more). 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 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 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, stating "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 5 pm 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 custom Play Button from YouTube as a reward for hitting 50 million subscribers.
Controversies, release from network, and streaming (2017)
In January 2017, PewDiePie began to receive criticism for his non-gaming videos. According to International Business Times, one of the videos "appeared to show" him using the racial slur "nigger", 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 US$5. In the video, PewDiePie shows his reaction to a duo he had paid to display the message "DEATH TO ALL JEWS" on a sign. 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 Fiverr, prompting the latter to upload an apology video stating that they did not understand the meaning of the sign, and that they were sorry to all Jews. PewDiePie later explained that the video was done in jest and attempted to highlight the ridiculous things which can be provided as paid services on the Internet.
– PewDiePie, My Response video (February 2017)
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 reported he removed three of the videos, including the one from January 2017. 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 programme, 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 defense of his content as jokes taken out of context, opining that his content helps normalise ideologies such as fascism, neo-Nazism and white supremacy.
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 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 March, PewDiePie confirmed that Revelmode "doesn't exist anymore," in wake of the controversy surrounding the Wall Street Journal's allegations of anti-Semitism toward him. While announcing this, he also revealed that he worked on the company for about 3 or 4 years.
In April, while still continuing to upload new content onto YouTube, PewDiePie 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. PewDiePie 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 PewDiePie's first stream amassed around 60,000 viewers, and that Netglow has accumulated 93,000 subscribers to that point.
In September 2017, PewDiePie drew criticism again when he used the racial slur "nigger" while live-streaming PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. As a response to the incident, Campo Santo co-founder Sean Vanaman referred to PewDiePie as "worse than a closeted racist", announced that Campo Santo would file copyright strikes against PewDiePie's videos featuring the studio's game Firewatch, and encouraged other game developers to do the same. PewDiePie later uploaded a short video apologizing for the language he used during the live-stream, expressing "I'm not going to make any excuses to why [the slur] did [slip out] because there are no excuses for it. 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."
Formatted shows and further controversies (2018–present)
In 2018, Paul MacInnes of The Guardian wrote about PewDiePie's YouTube content; he noted that each week PewDiePie 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 PewDiePie watching "a stream of supposedly humorous, or perhaps laughable clips" while trying to not laugh; Last Week I Asked You, in which he challenges his audience challenges and reviews the output; and Meme Review, in which he reviews popular Internet memes. Furthermore, PewDiePie then began a book club-styled series. PewDiePie's own enjoyment with the Book Club series was also noted. PewDiePie also began Pew News, a satirical series that has PewDiePie present and discuss recent news stories while in character. Pew News parodies both mainstream news channels, such as CNN, and YouTube news channels, such as DramaAlert.
In May, PewDiePie attracted controversy for using the term "Twitch thots" in one of his videos, at a moment when a clip of Twitch streamer Alinity was playing. The controversy was further fueled by Alinity's response, in which she asked on stream if she could "copy strike" PewDiePie, referring to tagging PewDiePie's video with a copyright violation claim, resulting in a copyright strike for his channel. The video would be removed from YouTube, although Alinity stated the video was tagged with a copyright claim by CollabDRM, a company that copyright strikes videos on YouTube on behalf of content creators. Due to PewDiePie's video being removed, Alinity received backlash from some online users. She responded to this backlash by stating that the "rampant sexism in online communities" caused her to react in the way she did, and additionally argued that PewDiePie's "Twitch thot" comments degraded women. PewDiePie apologized for using the term, although Alinity's further comments and refusal to accept his apology led him to argue that she was pushing a "victim narrative." PewDiePie also criticized Alinity for wearing revealing clothing and acting provocatively in her streams. Following PewDiePie's videos, Alinity told Vice, "I'm gonna be honest with you, if this wasn't my job this would have pushed me off the Internet a very long time ago. It makes me wonder maybe this is why women are so underrepresented on Twitch in general." Shortly after, Alinity completely backed away from the controversy.
In July, PewDiePie posted a meme with singer Demi Lovato's face; the meme jokingly referenced Lovato's struggles with addiction. As a result, he received criticism from online users, including fans of Lovato and others struggling with addiction. On 26 July, he issued a tweet reading: "Deleted meme. I didnt mean anything with it and I didnt fully know about the situation. I realize now it was insensitive, sorry!"
On 5 October, PewDiePie uploaded a diss track on Indian record label T-Series titled "Bitch Lasagna" in response to their YouTube channel being projected to surpass his channel in subscribers. On the prospect of being surpassed by T-Series in terms of subscriber count, PewDiePie stated, "I don't really care about T-Series, [...] but I think if YouTube does shift in a way where it does feel more corporate, then something else will take its place."
On 30 November, a hacker—going by the alias TheHackerGiraffe—exploited over 50,000 printers open to port 9100 and printed flyers asking people to subscribe to PewDiePie and unsubscribe from T-Series, among other things. The hacker found the vulnerable printers using Shodan, a search engine for internet-connected devices and exploited them to spew out a message, and used the open-source tool Printer Exploitation Toolkit to deliver the payload. The hacker also noted that he actually could have performed the exploit on more than 800,000 printers.
Public image and influence
Since breaking through on YouTube with his Let's Play-styled videos, PewDiePie has emerged as one of the most noted and influential online personalities. 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 commented on 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, 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 added "PewdiePie's content is written about even less often."
In 2015, PewDiePie 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, 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." Forbes wrote that "[PewDiePie'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 PewDiePie in the Gaming category of their June 2017 "Top Influencers" list.
PewDiePie 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, 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."
Channel demographics and fan base
PewDiePie's 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, which has been linked to be an important reason for PewDiePie's popularity. In a 2017 video, PewDiePie 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 PewDiePie's fan base by both himself and media outlets. In the late 2010s, PewDiePie 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 PewDiePie'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, 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.
Media reception of PewDiePie's content
Responses to PewDiePie'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 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."
When critiquing PewDiePie'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." PewDiePie has also been received negatively by the media, often being reported as an "inexplicable phenomenon." Andrew Wallenstein of Variety heavily criticised PewDiePie, following his channel becoming the most-subscribed on YouTube, describing his videos as "aggressive stupidity" and "psycho babble." However, both Walker and Reed have commented positively on PewDiePie's intelligence. Walker stated PewDiePie 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 PewDiePie's content. These outlets suggested that PewDiePie's content contained and promoted fascist, white supremacist, and alt-right ideologies. A Wired article covering the controversy was originally titled "PewDiePie Was Always Kinda Racist—But Now He's a Hero to Nazis", although this was later changed to "PewDiePie's Fall Shows the Limits of 'LOL JK'. Writing for The New York Times, John Herman commented "[PewDiePie] 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, MacInnes opined that PewDiePie "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
PewDiePie has been noted to support video games from indie developers, often playing 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." 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, 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 an NPC in the indie game, Party Hard. PewDiePie also had a voice acting role in Pinstripe, a puzzle adventure game.
PewDiePie's earnings have been an often-reported topic by media publications. However, this reporting has frustrated PewDiePie, who has said that he is "tired of talking about how much [he makes]." After extensive media coverage of his earnings, PewDiePie expressed his frustration and suggested that they should rather look at the money he raised for charity.
In March 2014, PewDiePie made an estimated $140,000-$1.4 million monthly from YouTube revenue, according to SocialBlade. 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 SEK ($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."
In December 2016, Forbes named PewDiePie 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, PewDiePie's income dropped to $12 million in 2017, which made him the sixth highest-paid YouTuber during that year. Forbes commented that PewDiePie's income would have been higher had he avoided the pushback from advertisers resulting from the controversies surrounding his videos in 2017.
Relationships with brands
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 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. 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." Eventually, PewDiePie began to work with more brands. He stated that he wants to have "genuine, good relationships with brands," and added "luckily, I'm not dependent on working with brands to do what I do, but when videos get demonetized [...] it's a nice way to counter that."
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 $446,612. PewDiePie would organize another charity drive for Charity: Water in February 2016. The drive raised $152,239, suprassing a $100,000 goal.
In celebration of reaching 25 million subscribers in June 2014, PewDiePie, announced another charity drive for Save the Children. The drive 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, PewDiePie 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. PewDiePie also hosted a livestream on 4 December, donating all of its proceeds to CRY.
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 each year from 2013 to 2016.
On 3 June 2014, Sveriges Radio announced that PewDiePie was chosen to host his own episode of the Swedish radio show Sommar i P1. Due to the 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 English version was made available 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 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 of the same year, PewDiePie appeared as a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
On 24 September 2015, PewDiePie 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 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.
On 31 October 2017, former Goat Simulator developer and lead designer Armin Ibrisagic announced his partnership with PewDiePie for his video game Animal Super Squad. PewDiePie helped Ibrisagic with the "core concept of the game" and provided him with feedback and "creative direction"
Kjellberg is originally from Sweden, but moved to Italy to live with his girlfriend, Marzia Bisognin. She is an Italian former 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. On 27 April 2018, Bisognin announced on Instagram that Kjellberg proposed to her while on a trip to Yokohama, Japan. Kjellberg and Marzia own two pet pugs named Edgar and Maya.
The two shuffled between Sweden and Italy, before settling in Brighton, East Sussex, England. Kjellberg explained that the pair moved to the UK in July 2013 for preference to live close to the sea and 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.
|Year(s)||Series or Show||Role||# of episodes||Ref(s)|
|2012||Sveriges Television (Interview)||Himself||2||[e]|
|2013||Epic Rap Battles of History||Misha||1|||
|2013, 2015||Smosh Babies||Baby Pewds||2||[f]|
|2014||Good Mythical Morning||Himself||1|||
|asdfmovie||Lonely Guy / Magician||1|||
|2015||Oscar's Hotel for Fantastical Creatures||Brock||6|||
|The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (Interview)||Himself||1|||
|2016||Scare PewDiePie||Himself||10 (All)|||
|2015||PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist||iOS, Android, Microsoft Windows, OS X|||
|2016||PewDiePie's Tuber Simulator||iOS, Android|||
|2018||Animal Super Squad||Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch|||
|2018||"Bitch Lasagna"||Co-produced with Party in Backyard; T-Series diss track|||
|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|||
- PewDiePie received a second Silver Play Button for the Jack septiceye2 channel in 2016.
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- Appeared in 2 interviews.
- Voice acted in "Ian's Lost Love" and "The New Teacher".
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