Swedish YouTube phenom Felix Kjellberg, better known to gamers as PewDiePie, has 27 million subscribers and pulls in around $4 million in ad sales per year. Most of this is straight profit, according to a profile of Kjellberg published in The Wall Street Journal.
Kjellberg, 24, created PewDiePie five years ago. In December of 2012, he signed a deal with online video content creator Maker Studios, which sold itself to media giant Disney just a few months ago.
He is best known for his funny videos that aren't video game reviews, but rather "Let's Play"-style programs where he plays a title and narrates his experience. In the past two weeks alone, he's posted more than two dozen videos featuring games like Among The Sleep and Next Car Game. With the exception of one video that went up today, all of these videos have attracted more than 2 million views.
Kjellberg admits that the kind of videos he's making are, in some ways, encouraging developers to create games that are not only fun to play, but to also watch others play. "It's cool to have this kind of influence, but at the same time it's kind of scary," Kjellberg said.
Before he rose to fame as a YouTube star, Kjellberg went to college in Gothenburg, Sweden, uploading videos during his spare time. He later dropped out of school and starting selling hot dogs instead.
Where did the name PewDiePie come from? Kjellberg says the original name for his YouTube account was PewDie ("pew" for the sound of a laser gun and "die" for death), but after he lost his account password he had to come up with a new name, so he added "Pie" to it.
His prominence on YouTube is somewhat unsettling, he said. "I'm so central to YouTube now, and that puts me in the spotlight and raises a lot of questions like 'Why is he so big?'" Kjellberg said. "I'd much rather prefer to have something like 5 million subscribers."