Twitch streamer Ninja loses 40k subscribers after 48hr break

Twitch is a live-streaming platform used by many gamers. A popular streamer, Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins lost 40,000 subscribers after taking a break for less than 48 hours.

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Jason Ng
October 24, 2020 12:05 pm

I’m not a Twitch streamer but I have done some YouTube content creation in the past, and I can categorically say that streaming and general content creation is not for someone who wants an easy ride, as exemplified in the situation above. It’s a lot of hard work, particularly for the small content creators who don’t have a production team behind them. It’s also a lot of hard work that may not necessarily be rewarded monetarily.

When I started creating videos for YouTube earlier this year I had a vague, but I believe fairly accurate, understanding that frequency of uploads is something that platforms reward. I set myself the objective of publishing one video a week, thinking this would be doable alongside my job, social life and hobbies.

What I completely underestimated was the time it takes to produce quality videos. Fleshing out the content, the script, the location of filming and editing all takes time. I haven’t even mentioned the filming itself, which can take hours and many takes to get it right. Editing videos is another beast altogether, ensuring it’s a smooth and pleasant ‘journey’ for the viewer, and audio/music syncs well with the content. Given how much time this whole process was taking, I even decided to buy a video editing app for my mobile so I could lie in bed and edit my videos. I’d be in bed for hours into the night editing away.

Once a video was published, it felt like the job would never end. Then I had to ensure I had a good thumbnail to attract viewers’ attention, write out captions to help with search results on Google, and promote the video on social media. All of this work for just 10-20 views.

The experience wasn’t forgiving. As soon as I had completed the project cycle of one video, my thoughts immediately turned to the next. I had to start brainstorming straight away to ensure I could meet my deadline of one video a week. I noticed that I’d want to rush conversations with friends and family, and I’d go by hours without having eaten anything. It makes me wonder how some creators can publish several times a day and whether they consider the threshold to which they can compromise quality in order to increase quantity.

Moreso it makes me wonder about the way the system is set up to encourage content creators to publish non-stop. For me, the situation of Ninja taking 2 days off and losing 40,000 subscribers doesn’t detract from his ability as a streamer, but does shed light on the almost insurmountable and continuous uphill battle content creators have to climb.

Alex Bakalov
October 24, 2020 8:37 pm

The loss of 40k subscribers is indicative of the expectation that people have of streamers. People go on Twitch and subscribe to streamers, sometimes forgetting that they’re actual people who have to concentrate on the game they’re playing as well as providing commentary. Ask anyone to do this for several hours a day, consecutively day after day and you’ll soon realise that it’s no walk in the park.

The problem is that a subscription to a streamer is seen as a form of on-demand TV. The subscriber goes on to Twitch and will then want (and expect) to view in real-time the streamer they have an interest in. If the streamer isn’t available, this can result in an unsubscribe. Exactly what happened to Tyler Blevins for just being away for less than 48 hours.

Of course it’s not deliberate. Twitch users don’t just go onto the platform hoping to squeeze every ounce of energy from streamers, but often it’s their behaviour that drives this expectation. There is barely any effort required at all to subscribe (and to unsubscribe), but a considerable amount of effort required to stream. And when users are unsubscribing just because a streamer isn’t available, this sets a tone of expectation that is almost impossible to meet.

Tyler Mendoza
March 20, 2021 5:38 pm

One ‘skill’ or attitude that content creators, in particular live streamers, develop is a tolerance for imperfection. As you mention , platforms like Twitch and YouTube tend to reward creators who stream more often. The problem is that once you realise you need to be streaming or uploading a lot, your ability to spend hours on just one scene to get the delivery of your words and the music just right is no longer possible. It’ll eat up too much time – time that is better spent making more content.

As you become a more seasoned content creator, you’ll obviously improve in what you do, but you also learn to let go of mispronounced words, bad lighting or interruptions, and often keep these imperfections in the videos you upload.

In a way this is a big advantage of live streaming over uploading of produced videos, which can involve hours of editing and re-filming scenes the content creator isn’t happy with. In a live stream, things happen and you just roll with it.

Anna Alonso
December 31, 2020 7:47 pm

Followings on video platforms such as YouTube, TikTok and Twitch are notoriously volatile. One small scandal or badly worded video can mean the immediate loss of tens of thousands of followers. I have seen this happen so many times on YouTube.

There are some YouTubers who see conflict and drama as a ticket to get a big following. Drama generates a lot of views and some YouTubers deliberately leverage this for their own advantage. There was one fitness YouTuber who gained hundreds and thousands of subscribers by calling out other YouTubers. He would make a video when someone was suspected of using fake weights or when another had edited their photos on Instagram to make themselves look better. He often used the phrase, “realest in the game” to describe himself until someone exposed him for photoshopping his own photos. The downfall was swift. His comment section was flooded with hate messages and people unsubscribed in their thousands. His credibility has never been the same since.

A very popular YouTuber called James Charles was in a YouTube beef with Tati Westbrook. Both are beauty vloggers and have very large followings. In May 2019 they got into an online argument, which I believe stemmed from Charles promoting one of Tati’s competitor’s products. Accusations were thrown back and forth, and you can see in the graph below the consequence of a ‘hit piece’ by Tati. Data from Social Blade shows James Charles lost 2.5 million subscribers in early May as a result of the accusations against him by Tati. He then gained 1 million subscribers the following week after posting a response. YouTube subscriber counts can have major swings like this just from the posting of one video.

You may think this only applies to those seeking drama. Perhaps they are at risk of it more because they polarize fans. But I’ve also seen it happen to those who aren’t involved in conflict, diss tracks and so on. It’s difficult when you put yourself out there. There’s an expectation that’s almost impossible to live up to. We’re only human and we have imperfections, but on video platforms our imperfections come at the cost of losing thousands of subscribers.

Timo Asbeck
October 25, 2020 3:40 pm

Sympathy among the general public for this and for the plight of the average influencer is pretty low. Many people will look at Ninja’s loss of subscribers and think all he has to do is play video games. How hard can it be? I’ve often seen comments along the lines of “Oh he has to play video games all day. What a hard life.”

These comments of course lack the understanding of how draining such work can be. Along with the streaming itself, there’s an expectation for streamers to engage with their fans. This in itself is a losing battle. There’ll inevitably be a time when a streamer is exhausted and misses one question asked by a fan, after which his reputation changes into someone who doesn’t care about his subscribers.

It also doesn’t help that the reputation of influencers is at a low. There have been numerous articles published that show how influencers with a few thousand followers on Instagram have requested free meals at restaurants, free accommodation at hotels and free services from web developers, wedding planners and so on. Even when some of these influencers are denied this partnership request, they often resort to insulting the business professional who they wanted to work with in the first place.

Abi Ortega
October 25, 2020 3:19 pm

Interesting that he lost so many subscribers after such a short time off! There’s a general understanding that taking an extended period of time away from streaming will lead to a loss of subscribers, often in a way that is unrecoverable.

Perhaps the algorithm stops working for you as well as it used to. Maybe less people will have your streams show up on their feeds. No wonder so many streamers feel they need to keep up the grind non-stop for fear of being left behind.

Interestingly in November 2019 the CEO of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki, encouraged creators to take time off for their own mental health and to avoid burnout. She went on to explain that her team had analyzed data showing that creators can take time off without their viewership suffering.

Robert Huot
March 20, 2021 5:45 pm

Taking a 48 hour break and losing 40,000 subscribers isn’t a great sign. Just think about how the average streamer or content creator will interpret this. You stop to take a break and tens of thousands of subscribers that you have worked so hard to get decide to leave.

The YouTube Creators channel has produced content on burnout, so they’re well aware of the problem. For a lot of creators, the issue is the lack of communication about changes to the algorithm. Changes to the algorithm can make a massive difference to those whose content is monetized and those who are full-time content creators. There are loads of videos out there from YouTubers talking about how YouTube doesn’t value its community, changing the algorithm at will without any preparation time for creators to adapt. This can be the difference between earning a comfortable income in one month, and then earning almost nothing the next month. The unpredictability and stress can take its toll and definitely makes it seem like YouTube doesn’t sympathise with the impact it has on creators.

Bear in mind it isn’t only YouTube that does this. Who remembers publishing companies such as Upworthy and Diply that built their success on the back of Facebook sharing? Where are they now? Victims of the Facebook algorithm that decided to reduce organic reach of Facebook pages. A recent change to Facebook’s algorithm is that it prefers videos that are 3 minutes or longer, meaning a shift for many content creators that were focusing on short form content.

Twitch’s algorithm doesn’t make the news as often as Facebook or YouTube, but smaller streamers have voiced difficulties in breaking through and getting noticed. Aside from intense competition, there’s a belief that Twitch rewards streamers will more viewers. Well how does that help those who are just starting out, with little to no viewers? Many have resorted to view-botting, a form of fake engagement whereby streamers pay for viewers with the hope of gaming the Twitch algorithm.