Meet Twitch New Star of Streaming Charts – She’s Anime Avatar Ironmouse

There’s a new face at the top of the charts from live video game streaming site Twitch: She’s an anime avatar with wavy pink hair.

There’s a new face at the top of the charts from live video game streaming site Twitch: She’s an anime avatar with wavy pink hair.

The character, known as Ironmouse, is controlled by a real woman, whose facial expressions and movements are relayed using motion-capture tools that input data through computer animation software. With her high-pitched voice, Ironmouse sings karaoke or jokes while playing hit games like Elden Ring to an enthusiastic audience of 11,000 live viewers. Her antics make her the most subscribed female streamer on the platform and the third most subscribed streamer of all time. She’s right behind Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, who was one of the first Twitch streamers to break into the mainstream playing Fortnite.

Ironmouse currently has more than 1 million followers and as of March 7, it had 171,800 subscribers who pay a $5 minimum monthly fee to patronize its content, according to data from TwitchTracker. Behind the cute veneer, with her tiny fangs and purple eyes, little white horns and frills, white princess dress, Ironmouse’s operator is a Puerto Rican woman who keeps her identity a secret to protect herself from harassment.

“It’s like putting on a superhero costume,” Ironmouse said in an interview with the game chat app Discord.

Ironmouse is one of the most prominent English-speaking VTubers or virtual YouTubers – a genre of entertainment that appeared on YouTube six years ago in Japan. The form has since migrated to Twitch, where the service’s livestream format gives fans the impression of interacting with a live anime character. According to Japanese analytics company User Local, there are now more than 17,000 VTubers around the world.

On Twitch, which is owned by Amazon.com Inc., VTubing content grew 467% in 2021 compared to a year earlier, according to company data.

“Streamers, anime and role-playing are three of the hottest trends right now, with VTubers being the perfect amalgamation of these genres,” said Jason Krebs, chief business officer at live streaming company StreamElements. “The market has spoken and made it clear that virtual content creators are a big hit, so the future is continued growth.”

The $25 billion anime market has fueled interest in watching VTubers, as well as becoming one. A big part of the appeal, Ironmouse said, is the freedom to become her best or most entertaining self, freed from the constraints of her body. “I don’t like the pressure of being in front of the camera,” she said. Ironmouse has an immune deficiency disease that she says has affected her self-esteem. “Through VTubing I have learned to love myself. Otherwise I just don’t think I can ever bring myself to be a famous person in front of the camera.”

VTubing’s mother, Kizuna AI, launched her YouTube channel in Japan in 2016 to huge fanfare and quickly attracted an international audience of anime and video game fans. She appeared in advertisements for Cup Noodle, Eye Drops, SoftBank Corp. and the National Tourism Organization of Japan. In the intervening years, half a dozen talent agencies and management firms in Japan and the US have sprung up to manage VTuber’s balloon careers and facilitate deals with brands like Taco Bell.

Companies including Sega Sammy Holdings Inc., Netflix Inc. and Micro-Star International Co. have launched their own brand of VTubers. In March, US-based VTuber agency Vshojo raised $11 million in funding.

“In the beginning, people were just streaming with a webcam,” said Justin Ignacio, Vshojo’s chief executive officer and a member of Twitch’s founding team. “Now you can go beyond the reality of being a person, and enter a new reality of who you really are below that.”

The VTubing boom has coincided with the push into the metaverse, a sirbptial world envisioned by technology and gaming companies as an immersive version of the internet, where people can interact, play games, or complete tasks as a sirbptial avatar. VTubers may be ahead of the metaverse curve.

“VTubers live in the same time as the public,” said Eiji Araki, CEO of VTubing software company Reality. “They say good morning to you on Twitter, stream games as you play them, invite other VTubers to the stream and say goodnight.” Their massive popularity shows the online public’s willingness to suspend disbelief and fully embrace avatars as they would real people.

“As the metaverse becomes the everyday platform for living, playing, connecting and others, we will all become VTubers in one form or another,” Araki said.

Arun Agarwal
I am Arun Agarwal, a passionate blogger and gamer. I love to share my thoughts on games and technology through blog posts. I’m also an avid reader of books about history, philosophy, science-fiction, and other genres as well as an anime fan. I like reading books that give me new perspectives or help me think differently about the world around us.