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YouTube's relentless grind is causing an OG creator exodus. Jacksepticeye may be next.

Lindsay Dodgson   

YouTube's relentless grind is causing an OG creator exodus. Jacksepticeye may be next.
  • Gaming YouTuber Jacksepticeye says he has been considering retirement.
  • He said in a recent video he has a maximum of two years left in him.

Retirement could be on the horizon for gaming YouTuber Jacksepticeye — the latest sign of an OG creator exodus.

In a recent video, he said he had been thinking of stepping away from his channel, where he's been making content since 2012 and has earned over 30 million subscribers.

Jacksepticeye, whose real name is Seán McLoughlin, said he probably only had a couple more years left in him of making YouTube videos before he moved on to something else.

"I definitely think I probably have about two years left in me at the very max of doing things the way I am currently doing them," he said. "I want to springboard to other stuff, do other creatively fulfilling things."

This admission shows that even the biggest and most successful content creators are struggling right now, feeling misplaced and confused about their future on an ever-changing platform.

While YouTube is thriving from a business standpoint, many long-standing creators are questioning their future in an era where MrBeast and AI dominate, and the platform is almost unrecognizable from what it used to be.

The OG YouTuber exodus

In January, McLoughlin caused a stir on X when he said that fellow YouTuber MatPat's retirement video had made him realize he also had been on the platform "for a literal third of my life."

"Don't you dare," fans responded, begging him, "Please don't go."

His video, posted on April 5, elaborated on some of his thoughts.

"No, I'm not retiring from YouTube," he said. "At least not yet."

McLoughlin said retirement announcements from creators, including MatPat and Tom Scott, made him consider his "tumultuous relationship" with YouTube.

"I think within the last five years, it's become apparent that I've struggled quite a bit with keeping up with content, keeping up with the passion, keeping up with the energy, keeping up with my audience," he said.

Since the Adpocalypse in 2017, when major companies threatened to pull their ads from YouTube, creators have been under increased scrutiny from the platform. They have had to repeatedly pivot and censor themselves to ensure they comply with a long list of rules so they can make money from ad revenue.

Everything felt easier back when he first started out, McLoughlin said, because he felt he fit into the "mold" of what YouTube wanted. As the years passed, the platform's demands changed, and he felt he no longer knew how to do well.

That might be hard to comprehend. McLoughlin's videos regularly get tons of views. Forbes estimated in 2023 that he had a fortune of around $27 million.

He is one of the few content creators on YouTube who can upload a five-hour game-playthrough video that three million people will happily sit down and watch. Even after over a decade, his fans eagerly await the next upload.

But his perception of his success is skewed, and he's said he has struggled with motivation and burnout multiple times. He said he finds it hard to believe that when he comes back from a break, his audience is still there.

"It sucks that I got into a headspace where whatever's going on with my channel or the system, it made me feel like the stuff I was doing sucked," he said. "And I think that's why this year I was like, OK, I'm going to quit because I just don't really want to have to overthink my content."

McLoughlin also opened up about his diagnosed depression, as well as how much negative comments can affect him. He mentioned specifically the spam bots that flooded his comments sections for months and trolled him after his father died in 2021.

After 11 years of having such a strained relationship with fame, "eventually the cracks start to show," he said.

"I didn't realize how much that sort of stuff was affecting me."

The relentless content cycle

Burnout has plagued content creators since the dawn of it becoming a legitimate career path in the noughties.

In a 2024 paper by researchers Ulrike Gretzel and Tanja Schöllhammer, titled "Under Pressure: A Netnographic Study of Threats to Influencer and Creator Mental Health," they discuss the "precarity" of content creators' work and how their need for constant visibility can "cast long shadows on what is often portrayed as a dream job."

The paper cites pressure from audiences, platforms, their peers, and themselves as reasons that perpetuate the mental health struggles influencers can face.

A YouTube spokesperson previously told BI that they knew being a creator isn't an easy job. They said every creator has a different definition of success, and they want to help them create content in a sustainable way.

Tools on the platform mean frequency or past video performance are not considered when recommending new videos to viewers, they added, to ensure creators feel they can take a break when needed.

Brandon C Harris, an incoming assistant professor at the Journalism and Creative Media department at the University of Alabama, told BI that in reality, "no one really seems to do anything."

"I think he's in the top 150 most successful YouTubers of all time," he said of McLoughlin. But even at that level, there are "no protections," he said.

"YouTube doesn't really care about your mental health," he said. "They want you to keep making videos."

The future of YouTube

McLoughlin seemed to air some frustrations about what YouTube has become last September during a lie detector test where he was asked his opinion on MrBeast — the platform's biggest creator with 250 million subs. When asked if he liked his fellow YouTuber, McLoughlin said "no."

The two spoke behind the scenes and settled things. But in hindsight, McLoughlin's opinion seems to stem from the pressure YouTubers face.

A future seems to be fast approaching where MrBeast's ridiculously high-budget content monopolizes YouTube views. There are also fears about how AI content will harvest the rest of people's attention.

McLoughlin's was one of the "old guard," Harris said, "yelling, shaking their fist at the upcoming new generation."

"YouTube doesn't care because MrBeast is still right there," he said. "Then when MrBeast finally gets tired of it, there's going to be another person who wants to do the same thing."

McLoughlin said he knew he was lucky to have his platform and that he didn't want to come across as ungrateful. But he wanted to remind those watching that the people they look up to aren't "bulletproof."

He said he wasn't on the brink of retirement but that it is the ultimate plan so he can focus more on bigger projects, like producing animated shows, writing a book, and "things that are a bit more creative than just uploading content all day every day."

"I do intend on retiring at some point, but not right now," he clarified.

But he also wanted those watching to know: "I have been a minute to midnight closer than people even realize."

BI reached out to McLoughlin and YouTube for comment.

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