I’d love to say influencers don’t matter. I’d love to point and laugh at the Kardashians and call them talentless wastes of space, or joke about how vapid and soulless ‘instagram models’ are. Or to ridicule a game company for trying to cozy up to a popular streamer who is going to dump them when the next shiny comes along.
But I don’t (or at least not often). Because while I might dislike all of the above personally, I can’t deny that not only does it have value, it in many ways has far more value than more traditional means of advertising and getting people to buy a product. On a significantly smaller scale, I speak from experience. I’ve ‘sold’ a lot of copies of games over the years here by blogging about them, and even at its peak this blog wasn’t a top X of anything, or receiving millions of daily views like a top influencer gets. Yet I still helped sales. I still convinced people to spend their money on a certain game that they otherwise might not have. If you are a dev and have a game I’m interested in, providing me a review copy that ends up being solid gets you more sales. From a business standpoint, that just makes sense.
It’s why someone like Shroud of Ninja, people who influence millions, are so valuable. Its also why they themselves earn millions, and why a budding new industry (eSports) is likely to overtake traditional sports in popularity in the very near future. I’d bet today more kids under the age of 18 watch eSports or streams then watch pro sports, and when those kids grow up a little more and start having disposable income, you can bet it won’t go towards traditional sports as much as it will towards eSports. I wrote a bit about this back in 2015, and now as we approach 2019 I’m even more confident in that future.
At the same time, I think the age of the ‘influencer because influencer’ will come to an end. The Kardashians are the WoW of social media influencers. There will never be anyone bigger, there are a countless number of imitators, and the whole thing being main-steam is more pop culture blip than a shift in how things will be going forward. The MMO genre peaked with WoW and won’t return to that high a spot ever again, and I think Instagram and all that peaks with the Kardashians. I suspect there will be a downturn in Twitter/Instagram interest (there basically already is with Twitter, to say nothing about MySpace and now Facebook), and the decline will be somewhat swift. Being social media popular will be looked back on as somewhat of a joke, much like the pet rock, even if the truth is that whoever invented the pet rock did make a million dollars.
eSports are different though. There is a legitimate skill there, and legitimate entertainment. Humans love sport/competition, and eSports is simply the modernization of that primal interest. Right now influencer is a tag used for both eSport stars and the ‘popular because popular’ crowd. That will change, and eSports will be left standing, more popular than most would have ever expected.