YouTube’s biggest star, PewDiePie aka Felix Kjellberg, has over 31 million subscribers. Typically reticent when it comes to dealing with the press, Kjellberg tells all in his first cover interview with the Swedish magazine Icon. Titled “The most powerful Swede in the world,” the wide-ranging interview covers everything from his pre-stardom days, his criticisms of YouTube and how scary it is to have the kind of influence he has. What started out as a hobby has now made the 24-year-old one of the most powerful people on the Internet — a fact that still baffles the humble gamer.
Kjellberg, after a legal dispute with the multi-channel network (MCN) Machinima, is now part of Maker Studios, which was acquired by Disney for $950 million. He tells Icon that the acquisition has no bearing on whether or not he’ll stay with the MCN (his contract is up in December). He did, however, give us a little hint of what’s to come. When asked about starting his own network, Kjellberg said:
I’d rather not talk too much about it. I’m in touch with a couple of people who I think would be so right for this. I’m eager to get it all up and running. So far, all the networks have been managed in such an incredibly poor way, it’s embarrassing really. I’d like to help other YouTubers.
Kjellberg criticized the big MCNs for being inhospitable to the average YouTuber. He continues as part of one to get advertising dollars, but “for a new gamer… all the money disappears,” he said:
Google takes 45 percent of their ads, then the network takes 50 percent of theirs, that doesn’t leave that much money in the end. And it’s still the YouTuber who has produced, financed and made all the material on his or her own. The networks don’t do anything. There is really no good reason to sign all the money over to them. Some people who live in Los Angeles and want to make skits can borrow studios and equipment, but people like myself don’t need that.
Kjellberg also discussed how Maker Studios has pushed him to do things he didn’t want to:
My network Maker Studios wanted me to do this thing in Los Angeles, I didn’t even agree to do it but they still went ahead and arranged it all – I was supposed to sit around and play together with people I didn’t know. It turned out to be a terrible experience, which I haven’t repeated.
Disney recently sent over a bunch of people dressed as Stormtroopers to make a video together with me, for charity. First of all, they got upset when they found out that there was no specific room for them to change clothes. And then, they didn’t agree to do basically anything in the video because it was not OK with “The Star Wars universe.” It all turned into chaos and it took a very long time. Finally, we ended up with something that they were going to edit but it was so bad I had to do it over and edit it myself. Furthermore, I don’t want Pewdiepie to be some kind of trademark that I lose control over…
But perhaps the best quote from Kjellberg came when he was asked what he would do if he lost everything in his hard drives. “It would almost be a relief. In that case, it would all be over. I’d be done,” he said.
For the full Q&A and more pictures, head over to Icon.