Nibel leaving Twitter says a lot about the platform’s problems


The Twitter user known as Nibel, a prominent resource for gaming news, announced his departure from the platform Monday morning. His account, with more than 440,000 followers, is currently locked. On his way out, he cited financial constraints and disillusionment with the platform and its new management as the reasons for his exit.

“After some introspection, I’ve made the decision to focus my time and energy elsewhere and move on from Twitter,” Nibel wrote in a now-locked tweet. “This marks the end of my video games coverage and my active participation in this platform.”

Nibel said he would leave his account up to prevent people from squatting on and misusing his handle.

Under the handle @Nibellion on Twitter, Nibel was among the fastest and most reliable sources of breaking video games news. He was an expert in curating announcements from a variety of sources, whether it was news outlets, gaming blogs, YouTube channels, Twitch streams or official company sources. He started his Twitter account in 2012; since then, his tweets have almost always spread virally across the platform.

The burning out of a power user — widely followed and trusted on the platform — points to some broader issues bedeviling Twitter.

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In late September, Nibel tried to monetize his work on Twitter by introducing $1 and $3 tiers on the membership platform Patreon, where followers could pay him monthly. As of Monday morning, he had 987 backers.

“Unfortunately, I was not able to create an interesting and sustainable Patreon which is evident in the number of Patrons stagnating during the first weekend and the first (of many) pledges being deleted during the first week,” he wrote in a pay-gated post on Patreon, according to Kotaku.

“I have miscalculated the value of my Twitter activity and realize that it is nothing worth supporting by itself for the vast majority of people. It is not me who is popular, but it is that work that is useful. It is not valuable by itself, but a comfortable timesaver, and I get that now,” he continued.

Compounding this lack of support, Nibel said he had no confidence in Twitter’s viability as a platform since billionaire Elon Musk’s recent acquisition of the company.

“I do not trust Musk and his seemingly infinite immaturity. I do not think Twitter will fall apart instantly but that it could die a slow death. Why waste more time?” he wrote.

Nibel almost never did original reporting or coverage. Still, he provided a valuable service as a news curation feed. He provided a service of convenience, especially considering the massive size and diversity of the gaming industry, which is reported to hit $200 billion in revenue this year.

His followers were saddened by his sudden departure from the platform, a testament to the amount of trust he built through accurate and concise repackaging of gaming news. Geoff Keighley, the media entrepreneur and founder of The Game Awards, the video game industry’s marquee awards show, saluted the account with a heart emoji.

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However valuable Nibel’s work was, the onus of supporting him should not have been on his thousands of followers. The onus is on Twitter, as it benefited from his continued high-profile usage of the platform.

Historically, Twitter has been among the worst social media platforms when it comes to supporting its most visible and valuable users. YouTube and TikTok are currently the industry leaders when it comes to providing high-profile creators with opportunities to make money. Twitch shares ad revenue (though that split has gotten worse for creators of late). These platforms have issues and controversies when it comes to payments. Regardless, those companies all pay to keep the power users who attract and service an audience on their respective platforms. Not Twitter, which only offers a still-in-development subscription called a “Super Follow” and a donation tip jar for its users to monetize their audience.

On Sunday, The Verge reported that under Musk’s leadership, Twitter was contemplating charging up to $20 a month for users to remain “verified” with a blue checkmark. Nibel was not a verified checkmarked account, and his account was often parodied to spread fake news and misinformation, which spoke to the level of trust Nibel cultivated on Twitter. People saw his profile picture — a picture of the character Mob from the anime Mob Psycho 100 on a yellow background — and immediately understood that what they were seeing was news. Which speaks to the bigger issue: Instead of figuring out how to retain its most valuable users, Twitter appears intent on extracting money from them.

Curating news on Twitter is a difficult job. While some journalists, such as Kyle Griffin of MSNBC, have become prominent sources of news on Twitter, their tweets are supplemental to their work and main sources of income. Nibel, from all indications, was simply doing this on his own time. And he eventually realized that his own time was more valuable than the zero compensation he was receiving from the company that benefited from his work.

A recent Reuters report cited internal Twitter research that shows its power users are leaving the platform. The report states that heavy users account for 10 percent of the platform’s user base but create 90 percent of its content. Nibel, with more than 80,000 tweets in recent years, was easily among that tier of power users. These users get little for the value they bring to Twitter: As someone with more than 100,000 followers, I can attest that a following of that scale only paints a target on your back for harassment and other distasteful methods of digital engagement.

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From Nibel’s statements on Patreon and Twitter, it’s clear the hope was to turn a Twitter presence into a regular job. In that respect, he was not unique among popular Twitter accounts trying to capitalize on their popularity. The Twitter account Sh*t My Dad Says, started in 2009, wrote a book based on the gimmick and even worked on a short-lived CBS sitcom based on the account, starring William Shatner. But Nibel’s attempt at monetization only lasted a month; he said a number of supporters unsubscribed after the first week.

It’s arguable that Nibel didn’t provide a unique enough service, something he acknowledged in his farewell Patreon post, noting that he did not cultivate an online “personality” as established creators have done on YouTube, TikTok and Twitch. It’s also important to note that growing an online paying audience often takes a lot of time. (Source: I work for a newspaper).

Paying Twitter’s most visible and active users has been a topic of conversation for a while. The departure of a high-profile, beloved account like Nibel raises questions about the long-term viability of Twitter if it can’t keep its most valuable accounts active — and if it’s willing to start charging for some of the protections that keep those valuable accounts around.

Twitter is a place that extracts value from its users while giving almost nothing in return. We can’t even edit our own words without needing to pay a monthly subscription fee. Facebook has offered that feature free for years.

As long as Twitter continues to suck people’s precious time with no compensation, more users like Nibel will depart from the platform. Elon Musk’s dream of overseeing the digital town square may prove a lonely one.