How Many Virtual Celebrities Are There?
Virtual Celebrity Fun Facts & Statistics
Have you ever heard of Kizuna AI and Lil Miquela? If so, you would know about Virtual Celebrities! Virtual Celebrities — so-called virtual YouTubers or virtual influencers — seem pretty much like existing YouTubers and Influencers. They will live stream or upload daily postings on SNS. Except that they are not real but pure 3D graphics.
As virtual celebrities gain global popularity, we started to wonder from when they started and how many there are. These questions led us to dive deep to research the trends and found out the unexpectedly vibrant ecosystem and insightful data about virtual celebrities. In this article, we want to share our research, raw data*, and insights in hopes that you will understand the virtual celebrity industry better.
- Interested in trends about virtual humans? Read ‘Digital Human is Becoming Prevalent’
- Interested in real-time 3D graphics? Read ‘The Advent of Real-time 3D Graphics in Mobile Industries’
*We collected/listed virtual celebrities, their subscribers, companies, channel info, related tech solutions, and visualized/categorized data. Our raw data page is available here.
From When Virtual Celebrities Started?
Let’s take a look at the keywords trends related to virtual celebrities from Google Trends — Virtual YouTuber, VTuber, Kizuna AI(キズナアイ), and Lil Miquela. The search has been activated and keeps the traffic level consistently from since early 2018 till current worldwide.
And the trend seems to be deeply connected with Kizuna AI’s success as a first virtual YouTuber. Look how the search in the topic ‘Virtual YouTuber’ and the term ‘Kizuna AI’ are soaring as of Jan 2018. We also found out that the subscriber number of her YouTube channel, A.I Channel, also increased within the same period.*
*Inferring the fact that she received Gold Play Button with over 1M subscribers in Dec 2018, it is speculated that this derived massive traffics in Jan 2018.
In fact, everyone agrees that it is Kizuna AI who used the term ‘Virtual YouTuber’ for the first time and started the trends.* Since early 2018, we witnessed that lots of VTuber channels started to pop up. According to our raw data, out of 112 virtual celebrities with over 100k subscribers, 85 celebrities’ channels are created after Jan 2018. This means that most of the current influential channels are built upon Kizuna AI’s success.
*There is an older generation before Kizuna AI, called Vocaloids who are still popular such as Hatsune Miku and Lio Tianyi. However, Kizuna AI is the first to generalize live streaming and internet broadcasting as a virtual character.
Around the same time, Apr 2018, Lil Miquela started to gain popularity from different sides of the world. In fact, she is the one with major name recognition worldwide despite her search volume being smaller than ‘Virtual YouTuber.’ While ‘Virtual YouTuber’ is Asia centric, ‘Lil Miquela’ search is dominant in the rest part of the world — US, South America, Europe, and some part of Africa.
The same but different virtual celebrities are grabbing attention from early 2018 until now all over the world.
How Many Virtual Celebrities Are There?
User Local Co., Ltd. announced that the number of VTuber exceeded 8,000 on May 6 based on User Local Virtual YouTuber Ranking. As you see the graph above, the number of VTubers has been constantly increasing. Considering this is mainly Japanese VTuber, there might be more than 10,000 VTubers out there including virtual influencers and global VTubers.
There are a total of 112 virtual celebrities with over 100K subscribers. Most of them are VTubers and some are virtual influencers. You can also find Luo Tianyi and Hatsune Miku from Vocaloid. In cases of virtual influencers, we believe that they are required to have higher 3D graphics for photorealistic appearance resulting in a higher threshold to start.
A very interesting fact regarding VTubers is that YouTube is not the only place for them. They are expanding their influence over local video streaming platforms such as Bilibili, Niconico, Weido, or Twitch to penetrate certain markets that do not prefer to watch on YouTube.
One great example is China. Luo Tianyi has over 1.1M followers on its Weibo channel but does she does not have a YouTube channel at all. Fubuki’s Bilibili channel has 613K followers — three times more than her YouTube subscriber count. We think there are a lot more China dominant virtual celebrities that we couldn’t search due to the language barrier.*
In the case of Kizuna AI, she localized her Chinese channels with a Chinese voice actor, calling it a ‘language update patch.’ By the nature of the virtual characters, localizing can be easier than other real celeb business. As a result, she has a total of 5.5M followers (A.I. Channel 2.6M, A.I. Games 1.4M, Bilibili 1.1M, and Weibo 400K).
*Refer the raw data page for the information about other channels and followers. If you know any virtual celebrity that is missing there, please let us know!
How Do They Make Money?
How do virtual celebrities monetize their business? It’s quite simple — the same way as existing streamer/influencer business does. Depending on the volume of followers, earnings and influence fluctuate.
Even after all these years, YouTube and influencer marketing market share are growing fast. YouTube generated $14B in net revenue in 2018 and influencer marketing is predicted to grow to more than $6.5B in 2019. This indicates that there is still much room for creating profits. For example, Top-10 YouTuber channels earned $180.5 B between June 2017 and June 2018.
Lil Miquela posted her photos wearing Prada and interviewed at Coachella in relation to YouTube Music as a part of sponsorship advertisements. The most recent paid partnership was with Samsung. A digital fashion model Shudu appeared on the stage of a virtual fashion show as well.
Some famous virtual idols generate profits through offline music concerts. It is not uncommon to see VTubers that are focusing on singing and dancing contents, dreaming of becoming famous virtual idols. Take a look at the photo below to see how the virtual concert is like. 10,000 people gather around at Shanghai concert hall to see their own favorites.
Derived Business: Talent Agencies
As virtual celebrity business becomes profitable, specialized talent agencies began to pop up along with virtual celebrities. While previous virtual celebrities were managed by individuals, the wave after Jan 2018 has been more enterprise-centric.
To be honest, working with agencies seems to work well! Among 112 virtual celebrities with over 100K followers, over 64 belong to these 6 major agencies in the graph below.
Involving talent agencies can be beneficial for mutual growth. Virtual celebrities can make a connection to collaborate with others or participate in events while agencies share revenue with them.
Technical Limits to Become a VTuber
According to ‘Think with Google’ article,
“as the technology used to create VTubers becomes more accessible, their numbers are expected to rise.”
Becoming a virtual character is a charming alternative for those who seek for fame, yet, do not want to reveal their face. To realize their imagination, the technical solution should be ready to give access to potential streamers.
That’s why we are going to learn about the process of becoming a virtual human and technical solutions in the next article. There will be a lot more interesting insights so stay tuned!
Hyprsense develops real-time human sensing technology. Hyprface is our product-ready software fully built in-house to track expression values and remap them into a 3D character in real-time. The SDK supports iOS, Android, Windows, Unity, and Unreal. If you are interested, feel free to ask us for a free 30-day trial SDK.