Welcome to the world of VTubers
Taro Iwasaki, Managing Director of KadokawaAmarin. (Photo courtesy of Kadokawa Amarin)
Two college students – Aisha and Yu Estella Kirameki, better known as YuChan – enjoy talking with their fans via the live stream on YouTube where they play games or tell stories. Their activities are similar to those of many YouTubers, however, Aisha and YuChan are not human. They are computer-generated characters with their own individual YouTube channels – Aisha Channel has 303,000 subscribers and YuChan Channel has 115,000 subscribers.
In today’s digital age, many YouTubers and influencers attract large numbers of internet users and advertisers. This ad market, dominated by real people, must now share its space with virtual YouTubers – known as VTubers – and virtual idols. Hailing from Japan, the well-known VTubers are widely used as presenters in commercials and various events. Released in 2016, Japan’s most famous VTuber, Kizuna AI, has almost 3 million subscribers on YouTube and appeared in an advertisement for Nissin cup noodle last year. Taro Iwasaki, managing director of Kadokawa Amarin, which publishes Japanese manga, novels and games and the creator of YuChan Channel for Thai audiences, said the VTuber market in Japan is very competitive.
âIn 2016, people were excited about Kizuna AI, which could act like a YouTuber. Viewers can talk and interact with this animated character in real time. I think Kizuna AI was created for fun and its creators didn’t know it was going.The VTuber market has become extremely competitive. There are around 10,000 VTubers in the market but very few are making any money, âIwasaki said.
Although the VTuber market is still in its infancy in Thailand, it grew rapidly during the Covid-19 pandemic. Nakharin Sinsiri, Chief Product Officer of Guardian Angel AI and Phriezt Sumanas, CEO of Polygon Official – the people behind Aisha Channel – said that Aisha has been hired for many types of jobs.
YuChan, a virtual YouTuber or VTuber.
âThe pandemic has been the perfect time to create content online and the number of subscribers and views has increased. As a result, Aisha has been hired to promote and review several games and appear in advertisements and events,â he said. Nakharin said.
Some marketers believe that since VTubers are controllable, they won’t damage the image of the products they advertise. Phriezt agrees with that and also believes that Vtubing is an opportunity for talented people.
âThere was no platform for these talented artists to show off their abilities. Currently, they can express themselves through their channels as VTubers and can make a living from it. Some people wish to separate their private life from their professional life. As VTubers people don’t recognize them so they can go out and still have their personal space, âsaid Phriezt.
Iwasaki said that since there is a human factor behind VTubers, there is always a risk of human error.
âIn Japan, there were VTubers who spoke about a sensitive issue during the live broadcasts that caused controversy and got them banned. VTubers can lead to these issues as long as there are humans behind them. “said Iwasaki.
Nakharin Sinsiri, Product Manager of Guardian Angel AI. Photo courtesy of Guardian Angel AI
While Aisha made her YouTube debut in July 2019, YuChan’s first video was posted in March of last year. The characters are both 18 years old and enjoy playing games, however, they were created for different purposes. Aisha was created to be a virtual influencer, but YuChan was created to be a customer touchpoint.
âI thought Aisha would be a fun project. Besides having real people as influencers, we thought it would be interesting to add a new category such as a virtual influencer to the market. It was difficult at first because people didn’t know what it was a virtual influencer or an idol. After exploring the market, we found that many investors were interested in VTubers. They mainly come from the digital and application sectors, advertising agencies and restaurants, âsaid Nakharin.
âKadokawa Amarin is a major publisher and distributor of Japanese content such as manga, novels and merchandise. We are using a virtual idol like YuChan to create an additional point of contact for potential customers interested in Japanese content by watching movies. VTubers … read the comic or the manga or buy the merchandise, “Iwasaki said.
The talents and charms of an actress are the key to attracting viewers. Although Aisha has a great sense of humor and can sing wonderfully, YuChan is easy going and good at playing games. Iwasaki said it was difficult to find an actress for YuChan.
Phriezt Sumanas, CEO of Polygon Official. Photo courtesy of Polygon Official
âIn Japan, we have a lot of professional voice actors who can make a living from this career. There are also schools for teaching actors and actresses to work in television or animation. In Thailand there are several comedians and actresses, but most of them are not full-time voice actors. We had to train this actress for a few months before she could reach an acceptable level and become YuChan, âsaid Iwasaki.
As part of the audition process for Aisha, the Polygon Official judges were only allowed to hear the actresses but not to see them. This was done so that the judges could focus on talent, not appearances.
âI picked this actress the first day she came to the audition. She can sing and is a great performer. She has the potential to grow and become a content creator,â said Nakharin.
As a subsidiary of a Japanese company, Iwasaki intends to reach more people in order to promote Japanese content. However, Polygon Official executives decided to expand their business by launching five more female virtual influencers – Lapine, Zona, Hoku, Luxia and Lucene – on YouTube. They also held an audition for male virtual influencers, but have yet to reveal a launch date. Their future goal is to host a VTubers concert.
After Aisha’s success, five VTubers – Lapine, Zona, Hoku, Luxia, and Lucene – were launched. Polygon official
âWhen I was young, I saw Hatsune Miku, a voice bank from Japanese software Vocaloid, perform at a hologram concert. I thought it was cool and I thought about doing this kind of concert in Thailand as a music festival in which local and international VTubers perform on stage in Previously we have had an online concert which some thousands of people attended. However, we want to create a real-time event. I think it can happen in the next five years, âNakharin said.
âOrganizing a concert requires collaboration with people working in different fields such as lighting, sound and screenwriting. I think Thais have the potential to achieve this. In the meantime, it is important to promote and to make VTubers understood. We hope that one day everyone will recognize VTubers as something normal that is part of their daily life, âsaid Phriezt.
Even though VTubers and virtual influencers share the market with people, these leaders agree that VTubers will not replace real people. Phriezt said VTubers are adding more variety to the market.
“Animation is unlikely to replace motion pictures. A VTuber is one of the many ways to create, express, and present content on YouTube or other video sharing platforms. VTubers do not. will not replace YouTubers in the future, âIwasaki said.
YuChan Channel. YuChan Channel
Aisha Channel. Aisha Canal
Aisha. Photos courtesy of Polygon Official