14 May 2021

How Lucky Is Too Lucky in Minecraft?

Earlier this year, a cheating scandal erupted in the world of competitive computer gaming, where a Minecraft player recorded a world-record setting speedrunning round that was too good to be true.

Here's how PC Gamer described the controversy, which involves a popular Minecraft player who goes by the moniker "Dream":

Dream's popularity is largely thanks to the YouTuber's Minecraft speedrun videos, where he tries to complete the game as fast as possible, and their Minecraft manhunt series, which is ridiculously popular. Dream's speedruns continually break records and make the Minecraft world speedrun leaderboard, to the astonishment of many viewers. During this success, suspicions arose about the legitimacy of some of his runs, and in particular, accusations arose about Dream tampering with the game to get better luck.

The accusations arose in October 2020 from a fellow Minecraft speedrunner (whose tweets have since been deleted) who reported seeing higher RNG drops for key items in a run submitted by Dream earlier that month, the same run that placed 5th on the world leaderboards.

Minecraft speedruns are officiated by a team of moderators from speedrun.com and this accusation prompted the team to investigate. In December, they released a 29-page long research paper and accompanying YouTube video summarizing the two-month investigation.

Here's the video for the official moderator's analysis, which is a little over 14 minutes long. Don't watch it yet. Just scroll past it for now and come back to it if you want to later....

The reason we've suggested holding off in watching the official video is because there's a much better video that explains how unlikely the world record-setting accomplishment was, featuring Matt Parker. At nearly 40 minutes long, it is nearly three times the time investment to watch, but you'll be rewarded with a much better appreciation of why Speedrun.com's officials ultimately rescinded Dream's world-record setting title for being "too lucky."

Now for the real mystery. Other than for establishing bragging rights, why does any of this matter?

A potential financial motive can be found in the PC Gamer article:

With 15.4 million subscribers and many of his videos hitting anywhere between 20-60 million views, it's safe to say that 2020 was one heck of a year for the Minecraft YouTuber, Dream. The speedrunner quickly rose to fame, gaining millions of followers so quickly that his subscriber count grew by 12 million between January and November last year alone.

Those rapid growth stats led us to ask "how much is having someone watch a video on YouTube worth to the video's creator?"

Vloggergear answered that question back in 2018, which is useful because even though the values may have changed in the years since, the method for finding the value to a Youtube content creator will be similar.

YouTube uses a method called CPM or “Cost Per Mille” which is a marketing term for cost per 1,000 views or in some cases impressions. Typically the CPM for YouTuber can range from 20 cents to $10 per 1,000 views. But typically an average channel will get about $1.50 – $3 per 1,000 views.

Let's say Dream's channel is at the bottom of the "average" scale. At $1.50 per 1,000 views of just one speedrun video, 20 million views could net $30,000.

A survey of Dream's YouTube channel indicates a posting frequency of 1-2 videos per month. We counted 23 videos that were clearly less than a year old, with a cumulative view total of 842 million. At $1.50 per 1,000 views, that's $1.263 million. And that is a low end estimate.

That revenue, even in the face of the Minecraft speedrunning scandal, perhaps explains Dream's response to having a world record title revoked:

It's a thorough report and, many statistical graphs and math calculations later, the team came to the conclusion that Dream was cheating by modifying the game. When moderators announced their decision, Dream categorically denied the accusation but has since respectfully accepted the team's conclusion without admitting fault.

When you're on track to collect over $1.2 million a year as a low end estimate for making online videos of your video game playing results, there's not much point in spending a lot of time contesting the statistical evidence for the sake of holding onto a title. Especially if like Dream, you can continue averaging between 30 and 38 million views per the handful of YouTube videos posted since the controversy erupted. It's also why the officials really aren't all that upset either. Plus, we haven't even mentioned Dream's revenue stream from merch yet, which we understand is pretty substantial in its own right.

In a lot of ways, it's a modern day replay of the 1950s quiz show scandals.

Now's the point in time to go back to the officials' 14 minute YouTube video if you like. Or to rethink your career choices.