What is a VTuber? The streaming sensation explained

By Melany Moncada

|

Feb 16, 2023

Reading time: 2 min

The growing popularity of streamers and content creators is undeniable. There is a streamer for every taste, including animated streamers who go by the name VTuber.

The term VTuber or virtual YouTuber refers to an online entertainer who uses a virtual avatar generated by a computer. While YouTube’s name is part of the term, these content creators are not limited to that platform. VTubers have expanded to platforms like Twitch and Bilibili, a popular streaming platform in China. This trend started in Japan in the 2010s and became an international sensation years later.

Some VTubers use real-time motion capture software while live, bringing their avatars to life and improving the experience for the audience.  In recent years, augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) have increased in popularity. As a result, more companies are investing in developing software and hardware that ultimately makes it easier for people to start a career as VTubers.

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Who was the first VTuber?

The first VTuber is Kizuna AI, a Japanese VTuber created by Kizuna AI Inc., a subsidiary of Activ8, a digital entertainment company. Kizuna AI was active between 2016 and 2021, amassing a total of four million subscribers across three different YouTube channels and one million subscribers on Bilibili.

Kizuna AI’s channels included a regular channel, a gaming channel, and a Chinese language channel. The content ranged from conversations, Q&A videos, and gameplay videos. Eventually, Kizuna AI started streaming at least once a week.

The community of fans of Kizuna AI was not limited to just Japan and China. International fans started contributing with English translations for her videos. In 2020, official subtitles were included in the videos.

Kizuna AI’s popularity was not limited to the online world. The VTuber made appearances at anime conventions, TV shows, worked with game companies, and hosted virtual concerts. On February 2022, Kizuna AI hosted a live concert and, afterward, announced an indefinite hiatus.

The hiatus comes after multiple changes in the company behind Kizuna AI. Activ8 created Kizuna AI Inc. as a subsidiary dedicated exclusively to the VTuber. This company had 3D artists, cinematographers, and voice actress Nozomi Kasuga all working on putting out content. It is unclear if Kizuna AI will become active again in the near future.

How much does it cost to become a VTuber?

The price of a VTuber avatar will depend on different factors. The model could be 2D or 3D.

A 2D model ranges between $35 and $1,000. For 3D models, the prices can go between $1,000 and $15,000. The price will also depend on the artist, the amount of detail, and the complexity of customization.

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VTuber avatars come with basic facial expressions, like eye, mouth, and eyebrow movement. More detailed expressions will be more expensive. Another factor is how much of the avatar is showing up on the screen. If the avatar is used to stream, building the upper half of the body should be enough.

There are plenty of options available for users that want to start investing the bare minimum. On Steam, aspiring VTubers can find the most well-known software for free.

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