We talk to local VTubers to discuss the rise and trajectory of live streaming and virtual YouTubing in Singapore.
Gamer or not, you’re likely no stranger to the world of live streaming. YouTube has produced its fair share of famous streamers like PewDiePie since its inception in 2005. Fast forward to the present, and services like Twitch have accelerated interest in the creation and viewing of similar live content. But while we’re all accustomed to the usual video broadcasts fronted by human faces, a new wave of streamers have caught on to the trend of virtual YouTubing in Singapore. These VTubers entertain the masses while concealing their real identities behind digital avatars that emulate their every movement and emotion.
But where is this trend going, and is it just a fad? We speak to local VTubers in Singapore to find out more.
The draw of VTubing in Singapore
The concept of VTubing and digital avatars may be fairly new in Singapore’s streaming landscape, but it’s been thriving in countries like Japan for a while now. Think along the lines of well-loved vocaloid Hatsune Miku and female Japanese VTuber Kizuna AI. The latter is a pioneer in virtual YouTubing who debuted in November 2016.
No doubt, it’s been picking up pace around the world. But when Covid-19 hit, causing individuals to shut themselves in, millions sought entertainment from online activities. The streaming industry boomed, experiencing a 99% year-over-year growth in hours watched between March and April 2020. Individuals with access to the right platforms and equipment began picking up VTubing as a way to socialise within the confines of home.
“When Covid-19 started, I began watching content from Nijisanji, a popular VTuber group in Japan. I was drawn to the characters and personalities they exhibited in their games, and was inspired to jump into VTubing,” says Lottichu (her in-game name), 24, a local VTuber in Singapore. She specialises in tactical and rhythm games including Valorant and Mahjong Soul.
“Initially I thought it would just be a hobby, but it became a big part of my life,” she shares. “I was stuck at home. But I managed to collaborate with VTubers from across Singapore and around the world to stream games together. Along with other local streamers, I formed the SGVTubers Discord community for Singaporean VTubers. It now has over 200 members.”
Other local VTubers who are part of this community, like AkaneRumi, 26, and Chef Kushion, 30, also cite Covid-19 as a strong push factor for picking up VTubing. They stream a variety of games ranging from Genshin Impact to Resident Evil. These broadcasts attract subscribers with similar interests, opening up opportunities to carve out new friendships. But the biggest draw? The privacy and anonymity that comes with the use of digital avatars to conceal identities.
With great privacy comes relief from great responsibility
In today’s technology-driven world where everything is on the internet – from life milestones to personal opinions and connections – VTubing provides relief from the prying eyes of the public. There’s no need to share details about your life, no worry of being spotted outdoors by keen fans or vicious haters, and no repercussions if you decide to take off one day and end your career as a streamer.
“We get to choose how we present ourselves online,” AkaneRumi says. She shares that through maintaining this level of privacy, viewers who watch their streams learn to respect their boundaries and need for space. “They interact with us purely for our content instead of infringing on our personal lives.”
If you’re a shy individual who’s keen to get into the world of live streaming, VTubing lets you do this without the fear of being judged. “You can be whoever and whatever you want to be, and it gives you the confidence to be the person you’re normally afraid to show others,” adds Chef Kushion.
“Plus, we get to connect with like-minded people, build friendships, and be part of a close-knit community while keeping ourselves safe and sane,” Lottichu says. You can earn some extra pocket money on the side if you get a big enough following, too. Game developers and companies may contact you for sponsored streams to review their latest games. And you may even be scouted to join professional Esports teams!
So, is VTubing the future of streaming or just a fad?
According to Grand View Research, the market value of live streaming itself is predicted to hit US$224 billion by 2028. And VTubing provides a great way to join the streaming crowd with anonymity as protection. But as we hit the tail-end of the pandemic, will VTubing continue to grow and thrive?
These local VTubers believe that signs point to yes.
“I’m seeing more and more VTubers arrive on the scene every day, equipped with incredibly beautiful models and more intricate rigging techniques,” Lottichu says.
“There’s a lot of room for creativity, and I feel that it removes certain insecurities when it comes to streaming with a webcam. With more individuals picking up streaming as a hobby, the anonymity factor makes it an optimal choice for those who are just testing the water,” adds Chef Kushion.
There might even be potential for popular VTubers to have their avatars used in commercials or as part of interactive shopping experiences. Imagine walking into a store in the future and having your favourite VTuber recommend the latest games on-screen. “There are a lot of places where it can be applied to provide a better and more immersive experience for content consumers,” AkaneRumi says.
Keen to get into VTubing? Here’s how to get started
To start your own VTubing channel, you need to design and rig a digital avatar. This can be a costly venture, with some spending up to $1,000 on live 2D models (whoa!). But if you’re broke, the good news is, you can still create a functioning avatar within a reasonable budget.
“If you’re looking for something low cost, you can make a 3D avatar using applications like VRoidStudio or Custom Cast. Or buy a premade model on Booth.pm and Nizima,” AkaneRumi advises.
Once the model is finished, you’ll pay to get your character rigged so it can emulate your movements. “If you’re starting out, don’t feel pressured to animate your model. Perhaps you can save that for later when you’re sure it’s something you want to invest in,” Chef Kushion says.
You’ll also need a computer setup that can run both game and motion capture software. But if you’re already a gamer, you’ll likely have a PC that’s capable of streaming. In that case, you’ll need to budget for additional things like a microphone and miscellaneous software.
Most importantly, join a community! From tips on holding your debut live stream to building your presence on Twitter, groups like SGVTuber can provide you with insider information from experienced members.
Intrigued? Perhaps you might be the newest addition to the VTuber community in Singapore…