Over the past few years, Twitter has evolved from a microblogging service into a core element of the online gaming community, the preferred method of countless Twitch streamers to connect with their fans, announce broadcasts and network with other creators. In 2020, the platform had over 2 billion tweets about video games, according to Rishi Chadha, Twitter’s global head of gaming content partnerships. Gaming revenues for Twitter Amplify, the platform’s video advertising product, nearly doubled between Q3 2020 and Q3 2021.
With gaming activity ramping up on the platform, Chadha believes that features such as Tips and Spaces can be potentially lucrative tools to help gaming creators monetize their followings and connect directly with their audiences. Digiday spoke to Chadha to learn more about Twitter’s bid to capture gamers’ money and attention — and his thoughts on the growth of Twitter as a platform for gamers and gaming creators.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
How has gaming activity on Twitter grown over the last few years?
Last year, we had over 2 billion tweets about video games, which was a 75% increase year-over-year. We’ve also had user growth in terms of unique authors; we’ve seen about a 49% increase in unique authors, so more people than ever have been tweeting about video games.
What I think is really interesting to see is that growth has been consistently happening year-over-year; we were really happy to have just a billion tweets back in 2018. I think it’s a testament to the fact that games, and the games industry at large, are becoming more mainstream.
What I think is really important about Twitter is that it’s very much where the zeitgeist is happening. It’s where people are coming to talk about what’s going on in the world. And I think we’ve seen that happen when it comes to gaming. No matter what game it is, or where that game is being streamed, people come to Twitter to talk about it. This is the second-screen experience that’s home for all conversation and content around gaming.
Is Twitter looking to compete with dedicated gaming/streaming platforms, such as Twitch and YouTube, as a destination for gaming creators?
Here’s the way I like to position it: I think that Twitter is very much this complementary second-screen experience for what’s happening on a Twitch or YouTube, or even a Facebook Gaming. I think we really complement these platforms as a second-screen experience. It’s very much a complementary platform, not something that cannibalizes what creators are doing elsewhere.
Can you break down Twitter’s various gaming partnerships?
I think what’s really unique about gaming is that it’s such a vast industry at large. You could be talking to one person, and when you talk about gaming, they’re thinking about creators. And someone else could be thinking about the publishers and developers, right? Talk to someone else, and they’re probably thinking about esports. So when I look at the partners we work with, for gaming, it’s everything under the sun.
There are a couple key pillars we focus on. The first one is publishers and developers — the Epic Games, the Riots of the world. The next one is esports, which is the teams, the leagues, the athletes, et cetera. The next one is around editorial: what does it look like with the editorial partners, as well as the communities? And communities are the awards events, the big shows that are happening, building around creators in their communities.
So those are the four buckets. There’s overlap between them, but it helps kind of describe what the gaming industry at large looks like. We’re trying to work and support the whole industry and make sure that we’re servicing everybody that’s in the space.
The three pillars that I focus on are revenue, reach and innovation. So, how do we work with our partners to help them distribute their content on the platform in a way that’s innovative, that allows them to grow and engage their audiences? And then, to another extent, it’s also about how they monetize their audiences and build a business on Twitter. Some folks, we don’t do stuff with monetization, but some we do a lot; it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.
How will Twitter convince gaming fans to spend money on the platform?
We’ve just opened our doors to Tipping, and now we’re also testing things with Super Follows, so it’s still the early days in terms of what people can be doing with it. What I will say is that I have full faith that, if any community can really figure it out and get creative with utilizing these products, it’s the gaming community.
What I do want to call out, when it comes to some of our monetization functions, is what we do around our Amplify program. Our Amplify Pre-roll program is very much a brand-safe program that allows individuals to monetize short-form clips and highlights at scale. What I love about that program is that it’s an easy, turn-key way for creators to start monetizing their clips and highlights from streams and build out short-form content that lives on Twitter. We started off with some of our premium publishers — the Riot Games and the FaZe Clans of the world — but now we’ve also started to expand into working with gaming creators.
Separately, we’ve got our Amplify Sponsorships program. That’s more where we work with a lot of esports teams, as well as with top publishers, like the IGN and Riot Games of the world, on more non-pre-roll-focused, more innovative formats.
How about Spaces? How are they being used by gaming creators?
There are a few different use cases that we’re seeing right now. One is from our partners on the editorial side, like IGN; they use it for big-show events, or post-show recaps and discussions. Then you also have folks like Geoff Keighley, who was one of the earliest adopters for Spaces; what he’s done with that is to launch a new brand in GameSlice, where he’s bringing on friends. He did his first Space with Reggie [Fils-Aime], formerly from Nintendo.
And then you have — and I think this is the one where you see a lot of the biggest Spaces coming from it — a lot of these MineCraft YouTubers, they’ll just randomly pop on, and they have these voracious and incredibly active fans on the platform, so all of a sudden, thousands of people are listening into these Spaces.
I think one of the biggest takeaways is that the gaming Spaces are becoming some of the most listened-to Spaces on the platform, across all verticals, because of this active audience that’s happening on the platform. Now that we have upcoming features around recording and clipping, I think it’s only going to keep getting bigger.
What is your vision for Twitter Gaming five years from today?
Let’s talk Twitter first: my hope for Twitter, in five years, is that any gaming creator can look at the platform as a space where they can create a business for themselves, and that it’s a viable revenue stream that allows them to distribute their content and complements what they’re doing on other platforms. As long as that’s continuing to happen, that means we’re doing our job right.
In addition, I think that Twitter’s got to be the place that’s going to continue to push the esports and gaming industry forward and make it much more mainstream than it is now. I want gaming and esports to be considered in the same breath as traditional sports, like the NFL and NBA, and I think in about five years, we could really hit that, and I think Twitter’s going to be important for that.
Lastly, one of the other things that’s really important to me is the way a traditional sports fan is monetized, compared to an esports fan. Basically, the esports fan is monetized at such a small fraction of how a traditional sports fan is. And I think that can change through platforms like Twitter and what we do with our Amplify program.