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Last week, following multiple mass shootings over the prior weekend, President Donald Trump held a press conference in which he condemned “gruesome and violent video games” for contributing to the “glorification of violence in our society.” Within hours, hashtags such as #VideoGamesAreNottoBlame and #GamersAreGood began trending on Twitter in response to Trump’s claims.
Gamers’ response to President Trump was far from the first time a video game topic went viral on Twitter. In fact, it wasn’t even the first time that week: The previous Thursday, streaming sensation Tyler “Ninja” Blevins shocked the gaming world when he announced he would be leaving Amazon’s Twitch platform for Microsoft’s nascent Mixer. Both Blevins himself and Mixer quickly became the fourth and second most-tweeted-about topics on Twitter globally that day.
“It’s been crazy to look at the past couple weeks and see a huge influx of trends coming from gaming,” Rishi Chadha, head of gaming content partnerships at Twitter, tells The Hollywood Reporter.
In 2019, gaming has exploded on the platform. More than 500 million gaming-related tweets were sent in the first half of the year, which has the site tracking a 20 percent growth year-over-year, a particularly notable milestone as 2018 marked the first year gaming topics topped 1 billion tweets. Meanwhile, the platform has seen nearly 700 million tweets year-to-date, which is a 30 percent increase year-over-year.
There has also been an increase in where the conversations are coming from. In 2019, there has been a 15 percent increase in unique accounts talking about games on Twitter, signaling a wider swath of users entering the space.
“Gaming is dominating the trend, nonstop,” says Chadha. One major factor, says Chadha, is how global the topic has become on the platform. “The U.S. has been the country that seems to be tweeting the most about gaming, but in the past year we’ve actually seen Japan grow and take the No. 1 spot. That’s something we’re digging into, but it really speaks to how gaming is global.”
A number of major e-sports events have also been driving the trend recently. Last week’s EVO 2019 tournament in Las Vegas was a trending topic worldwide, while the first annual Fortnite World Cup at the end of July dominated the platform, with the event itself trending along with its competitors, including 16-year-old champion Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, who took home the $3 million grand prize.
To handle the increased focus on gaming, Twitter launched the Twitter Gaming handle in 2015, which is handled internally by members of the company’s social media team. It has grown to over 900,000 followers.
“The editorial people behind the [Twitter Gaming handle] identify what is most user-facing content,” says Chadha. By identifying and highlighting trending topics through the handle, the Twitter Gaming account aims to be the “authority for gaming content” on the platform, according to Chadha.
Twitter Gaming helps boost content creators, e-sports organizations and game studios working in the industry, but unlike past efforts on Twitter with marquee brands such as the NFL (the platform previously streamed Thursday Night Football games), Chadha sees live content as a “complement to the conversation.”
“No matter what the game is or what the broadcast is, people come to Twitter to talk about it. We own that conversation exclusively and people are using us as a second-screen experience,” says Chadha. “I’m not looking to focus on live, exclusive rights for gaming content, but if our partners are looking to further distribution we’re going to work with them to make sure it’s as successful as possible.”
While other tech giants such as Google, Apple and Snapchat launch their own gaming platforms and studios, Chadha says Twitter is content with being the hub for conversation around the industry. When asked if Twitter had plans to launch its own version of a Google Stadia, Apple Arcade or Snap Games, Chadha simply says, “No, but I hope everyone comes to our platform to tweet about those games.”
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