As the situation at Twitter grows increasingly chaotic, gamers aren’t exactly jumping ship from the social media platform — but many fear that its collapse could irreversibly damage the online gaming community. To hedge their bets, both gaming creators and rank-and-file gamers are spending more time and resources on alternative platforms such as Discord, Instagram and YouTube.
Twitter has been mired in controversy since late October, when Elon Musk acquired the company and immediately laid off half of its workforce, telling staffers that bankruptcy was not out of the question.
The social network’s gaming staff were not exempt from the layoffs; although head of gaming content partnerships Rishi Chadha survived the cuts, many of his staff did not.
“The @TwitterGaming handle no longer has life anymore; there’s no one running it,” said industry insider Rod Breslau. “[Musk has] gotten rid of much of the team over there, and it really is not good for our industry, the way that things are going now.”
The bottom line: Twitter’s fate is unclear, and gaming creators have already started actively promoting their presences on alternative channels in preparation for Twitter’s complete meltdown.
“A lot of gamers and gaming figureheads are starting to understand that Twitter is not going to be around forever, especially in the state that it was a year ago,” said Justin Cohen, a top Super Smash Bros. player and a leader of New York City’s Discord community for the game. “So they want to be posting to different, diversified platforms.”
This isn’t as much a case of gamers downloading Discord for the first time — the overwhelming majority were already on the platform — as of gamers and gaming creators consciously laying the groundwork for it to supplant Twitter as their primary community platform. Between Oct. 27 and Nov. 14, Discord’s mobile app was installed approximately 4.8 million times, only a two percent increase from the 4.7 million installs it saw between Oct. 9 and 26, according to data provided by Sensor Tower.
“Discord is purely there as a communal gathering space, which is directly competing with one of the two main features of Twitter,” said Gappy, a Twitch streamer who requested anonymity to avoid jeopardizing potential brand partnerships. “So, if you can’t use Twitter anymore, you might as well use Discord for the entire community management part, as a creator.”
Streamers are also now feeling increased economic pressure on Twitter, he added, due to the impending need to purchase a Twitter Blue subscription to prevent their posts from being deprioritized.
As gamers and gaming creators look elsewhere to build their communities, Twitter risks losing the attention and advertising dollars of brands trying to reach gamers.
Ad spend on Twitter by gaming companies saw a month-over-month decrease of $131,200 between the first half of October and the first half of November, according to data provided by Sensor Tower, as advertisers across sectors pulled away from the platform, citing its “high risks.”
“If the brands start moving their announcements to different platforms, and migrating somewhere else, to a more trusted sort of space, that’s probably the death knell for Twitter as a default sort of marketing tool,” said Jason Chung, director of esports and gaming at New York University.
Ultimately, the most existential challenge the gaming community faces, with regard to Twitter’s potential collapse, is not the issue of creators posting less content, or of advertisers spending fewer dollars. It’s the fact that the narratives built around gaming and esports — the passion, the rivalries, the hype moments — have traditionally been created and disseminated more on Twitter than on any other social media channel. Without a central platform such as Twitter to bring together the many individuals and communities that make up the esports industry, viewership and engagement of esports could suffer across the board.
“If Twitter went away, I would fear for the participation levels of your average Joe in the Smash community, for people who are not actively entering tournaments, and who are not actively searching for matches,” said Rishi Malhotra, a top Smash competitor and the co-founder of Melee Online, a 22,000-member Discord channel for the game. “Because there are a lot of people that are really just interested in the narrative aspect of following Smash.”