Big companies like Sony and Electronic Arts still set the tone for the industry, but game players, YouTube and Twitch stars, and a community of independent studios are playing a larger role, observers say.
LOS ANGELES — Mitchell Hughes’ slate of meetings at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) here last week fit the typical pattern for attendees of the video-game industry mecca.
He got his hands on some hardware. Marketers told him why their games would be a hit. Game developers asked what type of features he likes to see. Business deals came up.
But Hughes, a first-time attendee of the show, isn’t your typical industry insider.
Better known by his internet handle Bajan Canadian, he’s a 22-year-old YouTube personality whose “Minecraft” videos have helped him rack up 5.5 million followers on the site. His videos have been viewed about 1.6 billion times.
When a school classmate several years ago suggested they make video-game videos, “I told him he’s an idiot,” Hughes said. “Nobody would watch that.”
But instead, at 22, broadcasting game-related videos online is the only job he’s ever had.
E3, which wrapped up on Thursday, has long been geared toward industry gatekeepers. At the trade show, video-game and hardware makers pitch their products to journalists and retailers like GameStop and Best Buy, and meet with industry partners.
But Hughes, attending the show along with other social-media personalities, is among the vanguard of a new generation of figures wielding influence over how games are made, distributed and played.
Big companies like Sony and Electronic Arts (EA) still set the tone for the industry, but game players, YouTube and Twitch stars like Hughes, and a community of increasingly well-equipped independent studios are playing a larger role, analysts and industry executives say.
The shifting ground was in focus here after EA decided to pull out of the show floor entirely and set up shop nearby for what the company billed as a more fan-focused event.
Shortly after introducing its new titles to the media, the company started broadcasting gameplay from its new “Battlefield 1” direct to consumers online. In a multistory event space, the company invited local players, along with the usual group of industry insiders, to play its upcoming games.
The new approach “is way more consistent with how communities are forming around gaming,” Chris Bruzzo, EA’s chief marketing officer, said in an interview. “The audience is there.”
That shift is enabled by internet broadcasting portals like Twitch.
The company, which Amazon.com bought in 2014 for about $1 billion, helped prove that online broadcasting of video-game content and commentary could draw a massive pool of viewers, bypassing traditional media and corporate outlets. Google-owned YouTube has also made a push toward broadcasting gaming-related content.
Unlike game-company news releases or television ads, game streams are often interactive media.
When a trailer introducing a new “Call of Duty” game received an overwhelmingly negative reaction among YouTube commenters last month, Activision’s chief executive was pressured by industry analysts to address the criticism.
“Gaming fans are fanatics,” said Mike Nichols, chief marketing officer of Microsoft’s Xbox unit. “They are so passionate, so educated. They have an opinion, they will share it, and that is a blessing.”
Microsoft, in its own E3 presentation, addressed the fracturing video-gaming universe with an effort to broaden its reach beyond the Xbox living-room console. Among the features the company introduced was a program linking Xbox social features and gaming to mobile devices.
Underscoring the growing importance of mobile gaming, The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Chinese internet giant Tencent was considering buying mobile-game-maker Supercell at a price that valued the maker of “Clash of Clans” at more than $9 billion.
Newzoo, a video-game analysis firm, estimates that mobile gaming will account for 37 percent of the industry’s $99.6 billion in worldwide revenue this year, surpassing PC gaming as the largest source of industry revenue for the first time.
“It’s clear that over time mobile is going to become the single-largest revenue driver in gaming,” said Lewis Ward, a gaming analyst with IDC.
Reach across platforms, and into mobile, was a large piece of the calculus behind Microsoft’s $2.5 billion 2014 acquisition of “Minecraft” developer Mojang, analysts say.
It was “Minecraft” and its massive group of fans that helped catapult Mitchell Hughes to stardom, turning an effort to earn some cash during a gap year before college into a full-time job.
His gaming moniker, Bajan Canadian, comes from his parents: his father is Canadian, and his mother hails from Barbados. After a childhood full of moves that included a stop in Vancouver, Wash., he’s landed in Florida.
Hughes recently branched out into lifestyle videos and is looking to make more videos featuring other games. He came to E3 to get early access to games and hear from the companies that made them.
And, he says, they seem genuinely interested in his views.
“There is a lot more pressure on the companies” to be receptive to feedback, said Hughes. “It’s becoming a lot more geared toward what the fans want to see.”