Millionaires: Austin John plays Pokémon

By 11/09/2023
Millionaires: Austin John plays Pokémon

Welcome to YouTube Millionaires, where we profile channels that have recently crossed the one million subscriber mark. There are channels crossing this threshold every week, and each creator has a story to tell about YouTube success. Read previous installments here.

Austin John was eight years old when he got his first Pokémon game.

Now, 27 years later, it (and other Nintendo games) have become his career.


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They weren’t always, though. Growing up, Austin came to love music, and that led him to producing, and to remixing, and finally to DJing, where he was a regular performer on New York City Radio and Music Choice Television. He also DJ’d and MC’d weddings, and at one point was doing over 100 weddings a year.

Through all that, he kept playing video games. Then, in 2016, he got a copy of Pokémon Sun and Moon early.

“I was super excited. I learned a bunch of things and I wanted to share that information. I was going to write a Reddit post and then I was like, ‘Wait a second. I know how to do B-roll. I know how to do voiceovers and everything else from my years doing music production,'” he says. “I recorded a video and I put it out on YouTube.”

The video got a whopping six views.

But Austin was hooked. He realized this games guide-esque approach was something he enjoyed, where he could teach other people about the games he loved–things like how to navigate a difficult level and how to find specific items and use them to their fullest potential. Over time, his videos started getting much, much more than six views, and by 2019, he had enough traffic to quit DJing and go full-time on content.

2019 was a turning point for another reason: Pokémon Sword and Shield came out that November, and Austin’s coverage of it pushed his channel from 840,000 subscribers to 1.2 million in just two months.

Now, he has 2.5 million subscribers, so yes, we’re a little late to him crossing one million. But the story of how he got to one million is pretty rad. We’ll let him tell you below.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tubefilter: Hey there. To give you an intro about us, we’re Tubefilter, and we run the Streamy Awards. Each week we also profile creators in different stages of their careers and different niches of content. I’m speaking to you for our column called Millionaires, where we chat with people who have hit a million followers or a million subscribers. I know you’re a bit past that now.

Austin John: A little bit past that.

Tubefilter: For people who don’t know you, give us some background about you, where you’re from, and what your cool hobbies were as a kid.

Austin John: All right. My name is Austin John. That’s my first name. I’m from North Jersey. I’ve grown up here my entire life. I now live in Central Jersey, which it’s arguable if Central Jersey exists, if you ask anyone in New Jersey, but it’s pretty much in the middle.

As a kid, I was a big fan of music and it was an outlet for me to express my creativity. I gravitated toward hip-hop first in performing. That died off very quickly, and then producing, which then got me into remixing, which then circa 2006, 2007, I got into DJing and then performing. Then I was a DJ for New York City Radio and Music Choice Television for about seven years with a syndicate radio show. I was in rotation with the likes of Steve Aoki, Paul Oakenfold, Benny Benassi. I retired all that in 2019 once my YouTube channel, which I started in 2016, became my main focus of creativity.

Tubefilter: What made you start a YouTube channel?

Austin John: It’s a weird story that I got a copy of Pokémon Sun and Moon early and I was super excited. I learned a bunch of things and I wanted to share that information. I was going to write a Reddit post and then I was like, “Wait a second. I know how to do B-roll. I know how to do voiceovers and everything else from my years doing music production.” I recorded a video and I put it out on YouTube and I got six views from it.

Tubefilter: Viral. Then you just continued with that?

Austin John: Then I put out another video and another one. Then by the time the game actually released, I was doing tips and tricks and tutorials that I had seen other people do and other websites and everything else. The space was occupied with people who were just pulling up a notepad on their desktop and then writing things on there and then switching windows between an emulator to show you what was going on. I felt as though there was room to elevate that exact type of content.

Tubefilter: Was there a point where you actively decided, Okay, I’m going to keep doing this? Was there a point where your traffic really started picking up?

Austin John: By my third video, I was noticing that I was getting actually views. I got my first thousand views on a video and then most of the comments were like, “This video deserves a lot more views.” Then just, I put out videos every day, every two days, every three days, right when the game came out and people started watching them and then they actively sought my channel out for information. They would ask me questions about how to do specific things, which was the inspiration for the video I was going to put out the next day. Honestly, that one main point right there has remained true throughout my entire time on YouTube. I enjoy the games that I cover and I listen to what people actually want and I make that content for them.

Tubefilter: Have you always been into Pokémon, or was this something you discovered later in life?

Austin John: I got Pokémon Red for a holiday when I was, I think, eight years old, the first Christmas that was available here in the United States. I kept up with it for first generation, second generation, third. I took a little hiatus during fourth and fifth because college-age and exploring that part of my life. Then I started playing again for X and Y, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Then for Sun and Moon is when I started making content.

Tubefilter: You started in 2016 and then in 2019, this became your full-time thing. What caused that? What was that moment for you where you’re like, “I can do this full time?”

Austin John: I was working my main career as a DJ, and honestly, I was doing mostly weddings at that point because, while doing festivals and clubs and everything else is cool, it doesn’t pay the bills that consistently. I was doing weddings and I was doing over 100 weddings a year as a DJ and MC, working with a local company here in New Jersey called Posh DJs. From then, once the channel started taking off, I stopped taking new reservations. This was early 2018. By the end of 2019, I was ramping down on how many events I had left.

Tubefilter: Then you just decided you were going to go all in on YouTube?

Austin John: Yes, for the launch of Pokémon Sword and Shield, that was my that was my turning point. Within the first four weeks of Pokémon Sword and Shield, I went from 840,000 subscribers to 1.2 mil.

Tubefilter: Oh, wow. Do you attribute that to the sheer amount of videos you were able to put out?

Austin John: Yes.

Tubefilter: You were able to stop your previous career, or at least pause it, and go full-time on YouTube. So it was the increase in production time?

Austin John: I retired from my full-time career. Also, this was within the same two-week window that me and my wife broke up. I was newly single, had a lot of time on my hands, and I was able to devote it all toward making content. The format of my channel breaks a lot of the rules for YouTubers where they say you need to do weekly daily content. You need to be consistent, so on and so forth. I don’t do that at all. When a new game comes out of Pokémon or Zelda, I bum rush all the information that I possibly can in the first. Then I put out one, two or three videos a day for the first three to four weeks of the game being out because that’s when people want that information.

Tubefilter: Oh, very interesting. I hear all the time, “You can’t do multiple videos a day.” Then someone in the next interview will be like, “No, I do six videos a day, and that’s how you have to do it.” 

Austin John: You can put out so many videos in a day that it becomes over-encumbering to the viewer. Say, for example, I put out– Well, first of all, let’s talk about actual rules of the algorithm from YouTube. If you put out more than three videos within a 24-hour period, no notifications go out for that fourth video within a 24-hour window. During that release time, if you stagger your videos for noon, 3:00 PM, and 6:00 PM, you can do that every single day perpetually. However, if you do 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, and 8:00, that eight o’clock video, no one knows about it until it just gets picked up from viewership. Three should be the maximum you’re going to do unless you specifically want to upload bulk content.

The point of bulk content would be, say, for example, Tears of the Kingdom, on release day, if I wanted to, I could release 152 videos about every single shrine. When people are playing through the game, if they type in the name of that shrine, they’ll find that content. It’s not something that you’re going to actively be like, “Oh, well, let’s see what they’re doing today.” Look in your notifications on your phone. “Oh, there’s 152 videos. I’m going to watch them all.” That’s not how that works.

Tubefilter: Got you. You mentioned people’s suggestions or people’s needs have always been a big part of how you structure your content. Somebody could be like, “Hey, I need help with this particular aspect of the game.” I’m curious about how that’s continued now and how you come up with which aspects of the game you’re going to feature in your videos.

Austin John: I always play the games early, whether I get an official review copy or if I am playing the Australian release date, which is 8:00 AM the day before American release time. I’m always at least 12 hours familiar with a game as soon as it goes live. That ahead-of-time knowledge allows me to be like, “Well, I had a little bit of trouble with this,” and I, in my opinion, I’m pretty darn good at video games. “Someone who’s not really good at video games and someone who doesn’t have a full-time job dedicated to playing games, they may have more trouble with this. This is probably a video I want to make.”

I always release videos in the order in which you would experience them in the game. A lot of people will actually ask a question, be like, “Hey, how do I do this?” That’s the video that I already have done, formatted, edited, and is going to release in three hours. People were like, “I didn’t expect him to put this video out so soon.” Meanwhile, the planets just happened to align. Mercury was in Gatorade.

Tubefilter: So knowing what people will get stuck on is a big plus for you.

Austin John: Yes. At the same time, I put out videos that I know are going to do poorly. I specifically put out videos that I know are not, they’re not going to be a banger.

Tubefilter: Is there a reason?

Austin John: The first time you hear it on the radio, you’d be like, “All right. Yes, that’s cool.” I might hear it in the background while walking through Macy’s. You’re not going to be like, “I specifically want to hear the song 15 times today on my way to vacation or whatever.” I put out a video sometimes that I know is something that someone is going to eventually seek out this information and no one else is going to want to cover it, or I have a feeling no one else is going to cover it as well as I know that I can.

An example of that would be Pokémon Sword and Shield, a video on how to make the perfect curry dishes, which took a lot of time to understand and explore the concept of it. Then to be able to make that 28-minute video going through all the ins and outs and chapter it to exactly what you want to find out. No one else was going to make that video, so I did.

Tubefilter: It’s a very games guide approach. I did want to ask, I know you focus a lot on Nintendo games. Have you had copyright claim issues?

Austin John: I had a lot of copyright claim issues. For Sun and Moon, I didn’t have a capture card when I first started my career, so I was using official trailers, and those all got flagged. When Breath of the Wild first came out, every single cutscene would be copyright flagged for the background music. While there’s very minimal of it, when a Guardian is attacking you or you’re going into a shrine or something else, all those sounds all got copyright claimed and everything else.

I learned that I had to do a dance around that specific material, which actually, cause and effect, caused me to make faster, more precise cuts in my edits. Then I’ve just had videos that didn’t have any of those issues. Nintendo was just like, “No, we don’t want you to have this video exist. We’re going to take it down,” like when I did a series on modding Breath of the Wild.

Tubefilter: Yeah, sucks. They’re very against modders.

Austin John: I was making videos before the DLC was even out for Breath of the Wild. Yes, they came down pretty hard on me about that.

Tubefilter: Is it basically just something you have to learn to adapt to and keep going?

Austin John: You need to learn how to live within the rules unless you know how to change them. I didn’t know how to change them, so I learned how to live within the rules.

Tubefilter: Yes. This is something I hear from a lot of people who cover Nintendo games. It’s disappointing. It feels like creators are very limited.

Austin John: I was in Japan for the Pokémon World Championship summer of this year in Yokohama, Japan. I spent two full weeks out there and I also got to explore Kyoto and Osaka and everything else. There’s a common theme with just the Japanese culture that’s very respectable and you avoid certain things like this and that. That might just be the Western interpretation of how they view things that we may feel as though these concepts are unfair. I just look at it as it is what it is.

Tubefilter: Do you ever feel the urge to go outside of Nintendo games at all?

Austin John: My channel actually didn’t start as a Nintendo channel. I started by doing a Skyrim playthrough. Remember how my first Sun and Moon video got six views? My Skyrim, my six episodes, got zero views. I honestly wanted to start as being a Bethesda tuber doing Skyrim and Fallout and Fallout mods and stuff like that. Then that didn’t take off for me at all. Then Pokémon did. I love the Fallout franchise. I love Pokémon. I love Zelda. I love lots of different franchises, but I do what people enjoy. That’s my responsibility as a performer.

Tubefilter: Do you have any sort of plans or goals you’re looking forward to in the next year or so?

Austin John: The format of the channel Austin John Plays is tutorials and tips and tricks for AAA Nintendo titles, specifically of the Legend of Zelda and Pokémon franchises. Austin John Plays is always going to be exactly that. I’m going to have, months off where I’m not covering anything because nothing is coming out. Then, Mario Odyssey comes out on Friday, I have two videos planned for that. That’s it. Just because it’s a straightforward, a platformer game. Very fun, by the way. I enjoyed it. It took about 14 hours to beat the game. Right now I’m about 40, 36 hours in, and I’m almost done with 100% of it. Some aspects are very difficult. It took me over an hour to do one level. Then I have the Pokémon DLC for the Blueberry Academy. I forgot the exact name of what they’re calling part two of the DLC. And we have no plans for Zelda coming up yet. If I were to do anything outside of exactly the format of this, I would start a second channel for it.

Tubefilter: Interesting. Have you, have you thought about it? Is that a serious plan or is it just like something that you might want to do someday?

Austin John: Oh, I’ve thought about it thoroughly, but it’s just like, if I am going to do it, I’m going to do that. Right now I want to see the world a little bit more, use my downtime to travel and build relationships, and see the world. I’m 35. Despite how young this looks, I’m 35, and eventually, I want to settle down with doing the whole life thing. I can still continue YouTube after that, but definitely want to use my time and my remaining youth and spend it well.

Tubefilter: Got you. Do you have a team who works with you at all behind the scenes? Is it just you?

Austin John: It’s just me. I love editing. I record everything. I head to the other room and then future Austin, which is just me in the other room, I edit. I have Viral Nation and I have, a little bit of this and that, but as far as like the straightforward creative process, that’s just me.

Tubefilter: How much time goes into each video on average?

Austin John: Editing used to take a while for me back when I was making photo montages for weddings back in 2012 and ’13. Now I’m at the point that it’ll take me 30 minutes to edit a 45-minute video and once information drops at 8:00 PM, like for the Pokémon Scarlet and Terror Raid Den updates, I can have that video recorded, formatted, thumbnail made, metadata done, editing everything else usually within 35 minutes. I have my record right now is 22 minutes.

It’s all macros. These four fingers are literally able to cut everything while this hand just goes around. I literally edit in the same way that you use a keyboard and mouse to play PC games. Once you’re able to map everything and do your cuts that fast, it’s easy.

Tubefilter: Do you script your videos ahead of time, or how does the process work?

Austin John: I don’t do well with reading from a script. I’m very good at bullet points. If there’s a very specific thing that I need to do, I’ll just write it in notepad and I’ll put it on this screen right here. I’ll put it on this corner of the screen or I’ll put it right there. While I’m going through, when I need to reference that specific thing, I just glance up there, but I almost never make a video on something that I haven’t already done once or twice or just a few times, just because I want to be able to record a video with confidence and knock it out of the park. Sometimes I’ll record the same video two or three times, just because I know that I can do it better if I scrap the entire video and just do it all again. I’ve actually thrown away– I’ve actually rerecorded the same video. I’d say like a fair amount of my videos, I’ve done the same video two or three times, and then I like the third full take of it, and then that’s what I’ll edit. The recording process is usually a little bit longer, but the editing process is a lot shorter.

Tubefilter: Do you cut various takes together?

Austin John: Oh, absolutely. Sometimes you just need to get that splice in there perfectly. Because of my history with audio engineering, I can see the waveforms and I know exactly what the waveforms, what they sound like and what they look like. Then I’m able to go in there and cut this and that, make them seamless. Then I’ll drop this audio down, extend it, blend it together. Then while the video may have that chop, the audio doesn’t. That’s fine because video is two-thirds audio. If your audio is amazing, people can withstand a little bit more of what they’re seeing. Heck, most people just watch this stuff from their phone while they’re playing along and that’s streaming at 480p.

Tubefilter: Gotcha. Is there anything else you want readers to know about you?

Austin John: Every time that there’s a new game that I cover, I do a full room renovation. You are actually the first person to see this room, this brand new room layout. If you look at my most recent video, it does not look like this at all. I love interior design and I love going on Reddit and looking at cozy male spaces and going to estate sales and looking for unique pieces of furniture for my house–not so much for the studio, but then that inspired me for this specific layout. Also, I wanted to upgrade my lighting and stuff. I got like a nice softbox over here and everything. Even though it’s 1:30 in the afternoon, we have this cozy evening scene going on here.

If you look at my Animal Crossing or Breath of the Wild or Scarlet and Violet or Sword and Shield or my Minecraft series, it’s all a different background.

Tubefilter: That’s cool. I think you’re the first person I’ve ever spoken to who does that.

Austin John: It’s one of my favorite things to do. I’ve had Nintendo employees tell me that one of their favorite things is to look really closely at my backdrop for very specific things that are in there that they can identify. That’s like, that Master Ball right there is one out of 500. There were 500 distributed in the U.K. and 500 distributed in the U.S. and that’s number 300 and something from the U.K. because I couldn’t get one from America, but like. It’s just in a line with regular poker balls and stuff. Someone who’s knowledgeable about that one specific thing, it’d be like, “Oh, man, it’s that.”

Tubefilter: The easter eggs.

Austin John: Pretty much. Yes.

Tubefilter: Any last words to wrap up?

Austin John: Not really. I’m a pretty straightforward channel. I do tutorials and trips, tutorials and tips and tricks for Nintendo games, mostly Pokémon and Zelda. I always saw a space there that needed to be better. If, heck, I take videos down and change them around, if new information comes out, that’s more accurate or anything else. If you’re a fan of either of these franchises and you want someone to help you go through and make you an expert at these games while they’re coming out, hit the subscribe button and consider turning on notifications.

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