Blog: The Ninja Phenomenon
Where Did Ninja Go?
The last year has been a roller coaster of ups and downs for gamers watching the phenomenon of Ninja (Tyler Blevins). From small time streamer, to top Twitch personality in a record amount of time. As a Mom who runs many businesses, I watched things from a professional and personal stance transpire that made me shake my head with disbelief.
I watched this charismatic kid with a great outlook on life turn his love of gaming into an empire of money. His ability to learn any new game was something that all of us as gamers (myself included) would love to achieve. The release of Fortnite was his stepping stone to internet notoriety. He adapted to the game so quickly that he could not be beaten. His interaction with the chat with the boy next door attitude made him rise to the top of the Twitch almost over night.
He was sought out by celebrities and professional athletes on social media to team up and get them wins. He was overwhelmed by the spotlight as I watched him fumble with words, while trying to still be the cool kid he portrayed on a daily basis. His subscriber count was rising daily, as was his income. The real change occurred when Ninja teamed up with Drake to top the all time high Twitch views in history. The subscriber count put him in the million dollar range for Twitch income. The subscriber count on his stream was displayed with pride and a little bit of attitude that being the best is incredible.
As the subscriber count was rising so were the sponsor offers to appear at media events. Sponsors were lining up to get their hands on this young man who could expose them to millions of people that would buy their products. I get it, I would have done the same thing. Unfortunately for Ninja, I also watched him disconnect from his viewers by referring to streaming as WORK. As a gamer, I never think about gaming as work. It is what I love to do. He stopped reading subscriber names and very few donation names. He became silent during streams and started constantly asking people to subscribe with Twitch Prime, etc. He spoke about the search for a new house which turned out to be a million dollar mansion which is a great investment if you can keep the money coming to pay the taxes. He complained about having to drive back and forth between the two houses while waiting for his internet connection to be ready in the new house. This did not make viewers want to watch.
As a Mom who is watching all of this transpire I had wonder, where is the adult in this situation to tell him that bragging about new houses, new stream rooms, shopping in LA, and not conversing with the chat who fell in love with the kid that loved gaming, would bring about his downfall, plus piss everyone off? It is a blessing that he received all that money, but he should remember that the people donating wanted to support him not turn him into an internet celebrity that showed signs of unappreciation with the constant push for more subscribers.
I watched him begin to drink and party on stream. The stress of all of the decisions in front of him wearing him down. He looked tired and haggard from loss of sleep. The new house or maybe having a profession chef prepare meals for them was just too much. Where were his parents? Why did they not say “Tyler, do not let people know everything about your personal life. People will not understand about you spending money on things they themselves cannot afford, especially since they donated and subscribed to you with their hard earned money.” Why did they not sit Jess down to let her know that posting all of the Instagram pics and stories of her spending money on designer clothes, shoes, and showing off the MANSION would be offensive to some people? I understand that she is super excited about the house, money, their life but someone should have said that viewers were taking it as a slap in the face. They donated and subscribed to Ninja for love of his stream not for his wife to spend it on what most considered FLUFF! Not that she couldn’t buy what she wanted, but she should have been more discrete. Hence the internet labeling her as a “Gold Digger” which is absolutely untrue. That girl loved Ninja long before the money was an issue, but we all know the internet is an unforgiving bitch. I just wish someone would have counseled her on how to get what she wanted without coming across as boastful. All the viewers saw was a small town kid getting rich quick and his wife out spending his hard earned money. It was a marketing nightmare. It still is.
As subscribers became frustrated, disconnected, unappreciated and down right angry the numbers began to deteriorate right before my eyes. All the trips, the constant push for subscribing, the loss of connection with the chat and his loyal subscribers, drove people away from the stream. The boy next door was gone and a celebrity that doesn’t need their money had taken his place. To make matters worse, the removal of the subscriber count on the channel only drew more scrutiny. Made it look like he was hiding something or just plain embarrassed. He should have owned it and worked to get the numbers back up.
I am amazed that those around Ninja are not telling him the real truth. They seem to be encouraging him to do things that are driving his viewers away. The sponsors, advertisers and Twitch themselves do not have his best interest at heart. They are using him for profit at the moment but are already looking for the next big thing they can promote for profit. It is not Ninja’s fault that he is naive in business. Until you are a business owner dealing with tons of problems that crop up daily it is hard to know what decisions or deals to make. Sometimes learning the hard way is the only way you grow and mature.
The event that just had me pulling out my hair causing me to put into words my total frustration with how Ninja has been handled as a man, business, and trademark is the Ninja New Years Eve Party! I understand he is a huge draw and the event is a great idea. The advertising of the event on other streamers Twitch channels is a bad idea all around. Twitch made a decision that is dividing them from the people that play games to make them money. Ninja probably had no say in the matter at all, but if I was his manager I would have notified Twitch immediately to take the advertising down on other streamers channels. It is hurting his image among what used to be his peers, causing extreme drama that will only hurt the event they are trying to make successful. Just bad marketing all around.
Ninja’s response to the Twitch communities complaints of the advertising was so badly managed it makes me wince thinking about it. His tweet started out very well, but it ended with a childish question that reminds me of a temper tantrum. Is there no one that monitors his Twitter? I get it, he was super pissed at people for complaining and just wanted to blow off some steam, but at this point in his career he must know that deleting the Tweet doesn’t make it disappear. On the contrary it makes matters worse. Sometimes he is his own worst enemy. He should have taken some time to think about what was happening and maybe responded with an apology Tweet something like this:
“I apologize that Twitch is placing my ad on other streamers channels and will speak with them to have it removed. Thanks for letting me know.”
He should have played dumb and just worked through it from there.
The New Years Eve Bash in Times Square was an extravagant event that honestly was quite amazing. The venue was decked out in Fortnite themed items that was very well done. It was spacious, and seemed to have everything you would need for a high end party. Unfortunately, some things just sound better than they actually turn out to be. In the gaming community Ninja is a name that means celebrity status. In the real world, not so much. Ninja attempted to get the freezing, rain soaked crowd in Times Square to do a Fortnite dance. Not only did they not dance, they pretty much ignored him. It was a sad thing to watch. Who suggested this in the first place? Did they not notice it was pouring down rain? That the crowd was already miserable and cold? Just another bad idea that was not well thought out or at the very least let the crowd know what was going to happen.
Ninja needs to hire a good Manager (with experience) that can guide him with career decisions. Any manager would have told him 6 months ago that some of your sponsors are not looking out for what is best for you. A good manager would have argued for a deal that allowed him to stream on his schedule, stay in a good relationship with his chat, not be pushing for subs so hard (makes you look desperate) and tone Jess’s shopping announcements down. Every decision being made today is going to affect your future. I know it is a lot of pressure, but stop
thinking in the moment.
What type of man will Ninja end up being? A wiser one regarding how to handle people. Will Ninja’s business grow and succeed? Only time will tell. With some good guidance, better decision making, and going back to his roots he could salvage what is left. It is an interesting story that I am afraid may have a sad ending. As a parent, I hope he seeks better people to guide him along this crazy road he is walking. His future depends on how others perceive him, not on how much money he makes. No fans equals no money. Good Luck Ninja, I’m cheering for you.