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Who is Ninja, the Fortnite streamer dominating Twitch?

Leading to questions about compromised subscriptions

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Ninja Blevins
Tyler “Ninja” Blevins on a Twitch stream.
Tyler Blevins/Twitch

Update (March 15): On March 15 at approximately 1 a.m. ET, rap god Drake joined Ninja for a late night Fortnite stream. The stream gained 635,429 concurrent viewers, far surpassing Dr. DisRespect’s previous record of 388,000 and Tyler1’s record of just under 380,000 concurrent viewers. Ninja also reportedly gained more than 90,000 subscribers, which accounts for a total of at least $250,000 a month in revenue for Ninja.

Original story: The Twitch community loves a good story, and Ninja happens to be one of the best.

Between Feb. 22 and March 3, Fortnite streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins gained more than 50,000 subscribers. The rapid growth of his channel is unprecedented, and there are a couple of hypotheses floating around as to what could have led to his exponential gain. Fortnite is undoubtedly one of the biggest games people are playing right now, with hundreds of thousands of people tuning in every day.

Blevins didn’t start his streaming career playing Fortnite, though.

Blevins is a 26-year-old esports star who first came into prominence for playing competitive Halo. Blevins’ career started in 2009 with a Halo event at MLG Orlando, but it wasn’t until 2011 and the arrival of Halo: Reach that he began to thrive. A year later in 2012, Blevins won his first Halo championship for Halo 4 at the Halo 4 Exhibition as a member of a team called the Warriors.

His esports career was pretty successful, but in 2017, Blevins decided he wanted to spend more time focusing on streaming. He quickly found a new and bigger audience in late 2017, when he started streaming PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds before switching over to Fortnite.

So why are we talking about him now? There are hundreds of people streaming Fortnite on YouTube and Twitch at any given moment. Blevins isn’t just one of the best Fortnite streamers playing today; he’s also at the center of a conversation about a trend on Twitch that top streamers are concerned about.

Fornite Zombies art Epic Games

No one grows that quickly

Even though Blevins is one of the best players streaming the biggest game right now, some people suggest his newfound success can also be attributed to the Fortnite deal that’s running on Twitch Prime right now.

Twitch and Epic Games partnered up on Feb. 28 to deliver the Fortnite Twitch Prime Pack, which gave Twitch Prime subscribers and Fortnite players a pack of exclusive gear and skins. Collecting gear and skins is a major proponent of Fortnite’s success, according to players, and Twitch’s exclusive pack has reportedly led to people buying Twitch Prime accounts from third-party vendors to collect skins.

There have been reports that third-party vendors are buying and selling Twitch Prime accounts on retailer sites like eBay to help players get skins. Those accounts often come with a free subscription they can give to a streamer of their choosing, resulting in thousands of new subscriptions appearing.

A popular streamer who goes by Shorty tweeted about the situation on March 1, saying that the growth appears to come from bots and compromised accounts.

“Channels, including mine, have been receiving spam Twitch Prime subscriptions from viewers not even in the channel viewer list or talking,” he said. “It’s 100% compromised accounts and bots even though the sub count does increase and the streamer still gets paid.”

Another popular streamer, who goes by Lil_Lexi, tweeted similar thoughts, referring to what was happening on Twitch as “Prime sub bots.”

“The Twitch prime sub bots are crazy, wonder how twitch is going to handle the channels getting mass subs from them at the moment,” Lexi tweeted. “I’m genuinely curious if they’re going to payout for them and how they plan to cycle out which are bots and which are not. When it happens its [sic] literally just a non stop spam of prime subs.”

The biggest concern is how Twitch will handle the financial side of subscriptions. If all of Blevins’ new subscribers are picking the minimum $4.99 tier, he’ll still make a minimum of $250,000 a month based on his 100,000-plus subscribers. (Twitch streamers collect 50 percent of the $4.99 price, with Twitch collecting the other 50 percent.) There’s also a good chance that even if people are selling compromised Twitch Prime accounts — which isn’t confirmed at this time — the company will still have to pay Blevins for the 30-day period during which he amassed tens of thousands of subscribers. (Viewers who are Twitch Prime members can subscribe to one channel each month for free; the streamer gets paid as usual.)

Since Twitch Prime subscriptions must be manually renewed every 30 days, people are expecting to see a big dip in Blevins’ subscriber count.

The more attention being paid to Blevins’ channel and what’s happening with his subscribers, the more other streamers are speaking out. Hot Ted, a popular streamer with thousands of subscribers, noted that he reported his own subscription weirdness to Twitch.

“I’ve had 100+ offline subs subscribe to me,” he tweeted. “Those accounts are obviously compromised so I report the incident to Twitch.”

Twitch does not allow the unauthorized selling or redistribution of accounts. If the company discovers someone is behind the practice, which is mostly used to inflate subscriber growth and viewer count, it can dole out punishments.

“Any content or activity that disrupts, interrupts, harms, or otherwise violates the integrity of Twitch services or another user’s experience or devices is prohibited,” Twitch’s community guidelines state.

This includes “selling or sharing user accounts” and “reselling Twitch services or features (such as channel Moderator status).”

It could all be legit

There’s little proof that compromised accounts and bots are the reason for Blevins’ impressive growth.

A Twitch Clip captured the exact moment Blevins surpassed 100,000 subscribers, and he seems genuinely surprised about the number.

Again, Fortnite is the most talked-about game on Twitch, and Amazon is trying to sell more Twitch Prime accounts. Blevins could just be the lucky streamer this month.

Update (March 6): A Twitch spokesperson told Polygon the company hasn’t seen any indication that its accounts have been hit by bot activity. The company is crediting the exponential increase to Fortnite’s popularity. The full statement can be read below.

​It’s awesome to see so many players jump on the Battle Bus with the Twitch Prime Fortnite offer. We’ve seen large numbers of players trying Twitch Prime for the first time, getting free loot, and using their first monthly free channel subscription. It’s great to see many broadcasters getting a bump from these new Twitch Prime members. New members are subscribing to these popular Fortnite channels and we haven’t seen any indication of bot activity.

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