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The $150M story of Stardew Valley, TikTok algo changes, and how we're still so early in gaming content

Welcome to Creator 3×3!

Here are 3 Creator facts from the past, 3 notes on the present, and 3 thoughts about the future of the content economy...

3 FACTS FROM THE PAST

I.

Game developer ConcernedApe spent 4 years planning, designing, and coding the 2016 release of the now-famous Stardew Valley entirely by himself.

Almost 8 years later, Stardew Valley has sold over 20M copies across PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android, and is often cited as one of the best games of all time.

Here’s the stats just for Steam’s Game Marketplace!

These are numbers any game studio would be proud of, but when you put it in the context of a solo developer (who eventually started working with a small crew) - it’s a mind-bending success.

As Creator tools get better and better, we’re going to see more incredible creations like Stardew Valley built by top tier micro-teams and individuals.

Technology empowers the best of the best to do more with less.

And building a community let’s you share those creations faster than any company could ever dream of.

(Source)

​II.

Since its introduction in 1994, over 100 million George Foreman grills have been sold worldwide.

He didn’t create the concept or even help design it, but he became the face of the product through infomercials where he’d “knock the fat out” of whatever they cooked.

Foreman himself made an estimated $200M from this brand deal - much more than he ever made as a boxer.

I see this story as a prototype for the foundations of a new creator economy.

Both niche creators and those with broad appeal can leverage owned or licensed products that make sense for their audience - and once product companies start to understand the distributive power of creators they can do it on a scale that has never been seen before.

(Source)

III.

The first online Creators can trace their roots back to the rise of blogging platforms.

Personal diaries shared to internet strangers (for free) eventually turned into media machines fueled by digital advertising.

Sites like Huffington Post and Buzzfeed were actually born from this early era of the internet to track, filter, and highlight these unfiltered stories.

It’s hard not to draw the comparison to how long form YouTube videos evolved from indie skits and vlogs to ultra high production value content streams… or how homegrown lip sync TikTok’s evolved into incredibly well-produced short form video dopamine loops.

Every new medium professionalizes its content over time - even if the professionalized content is designed to look authentically accessible.

(Source)

3 NOTES ON THE PRESENT

I.

Long form TikTok Creators (with videos longer than 1 minute) are growing 5x faster than short form Creators right now according to info shared at a private NYC Creator event in October hosted by TikTok.

The TikTok team is even considering increasing their max upload length from 10 minutes to 15 based on the data!

The trend is clear. TikTok wants to be more like YouTube and YouTube wants to be more like TikTok (even though Shorts are still capped at 60 seconds).

It’s probably worth cross posting versions of your content that can fit within whatever size guidelines they both eventually settle on.

(Source)

II.

Swedish YouTuber Simone Giertz smashed her fundraising goal of $50K for her foldable “Coat Hinger” invention…

by raising (as of this writing) $475,216 to fund the manufacture and sale of the product!

It’s abundantly clear to me just how powerful creator/product fit is - when your audience sees how much you can do for them (because you understand them so well) they’ll demand it loudly… the rest is just execution.​

(Source)

III.

Tyreek Hill, current wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins, announced his retirement at the end of his 2025 contract so he can focus on a yet-to-be-launched esports franchise,

“Gaming is a part of who I am” says Tyreek (who currently has 1.2M subscribers on YouTube)

Esports is still extremely culturally nascent (despite some bonkers prize purses out there) and the cross-pollination of traditional athletes into the ecosystem will undoubtedly help normalize the legitimacy of the industry with classic sports fans.

(Source)

3 THOUGHTS FOR THE FUTURE

I.

There is a new content platform being built out there right now.

Probably multiple.

It won’t feel like what we’re used to.

It might even be built natively for the Vision Pro. Who knows!

The only constant is change.

​II.

Cozy Games have been mentioned 110M times this year on YouTube.

The triple whammy of COVID lifestyle shifts, shifting player tastes, and the tidal wave of gamer girls has dramatically changed the landscape of gaming content.

YouTuber Eeowna shares her experience from just a few years ago in 2020 with the YouTube team

“Every single time I was interested in a game and I'd go to look it up, the feed was just full of men”

So she became the Creator she wished she could watch.

FPS Battle Royale videos aren’t going away, but there’s definitely a lot more to come from cozy games.

(Source)

III.

TikTok is shutting down their Creator fund next week.

Let’s be real though - it wasn’t paying the bills for most Creators anyway.

You and I both know you can’t rely on platform revenue.

It should be a nice bonus to your income, but the risk of de-monetization, platform changes, or even algorithm shifts is a noose around your neck waiting to happen if you’re not building a connection (and an income stream) with your audience beyond your current platform.

(Source)

Things are changing.

It’s not a good thing or a bad thing.

It’s just a thing.

It’s super clear to me that most of the changes are tilting in favor of highly effective individual Creators and small teams.

All this might seem overwhelming, but I’d encourage you get energized.

Stuff is gonna change whether you like it or not 🫡

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See you next week,

p.s. if you’re a basketball fan and haven’t seen how Jordan Haber (legally) snuck into the 2023 NBA Draft then check him out…

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