r/Place, a questionable call for Pixel War
The r/Place is back! The Reddit event that took Twitch and the networks by storm in 2022 and was the cradle of what is now known as Pixel War is available again from today. But it's not certain that the international community will respond as favourably as last time, since behind this unexpected launch potentially lies a thinly disguised communications operation to make people forget the strike affecting its forums and the loss of its users.
What is r/Place?
If you're not familiar with the concept, Reddit occasionally launches a page called r/Place. It features a white canva on which every Reddit user with an account can place a pixel in the colour of your choice wherever they want. It's impossible to draw anything on your own, because there are so many users on the web and each user can only place one pixel every 5 minutes.
These limitations are intended to encouraging communities to come together to draw up action plans and create collaborative works. You have to take over a plot of land (either by negotiation or by force), design a motif and, above all, protect it from other communities. The more of you there are, the more chance you have of taking over a plot of land and putting your design on it.
When the event ends, the canvas is immortalised. The aim is for the various participants to create a drawing that will survive until the doors close and leave their mark on the canvas.
Pixel War 2022
Pixel War is an event that took place within the 2022 r/Place. It's hard to say who threw the first pixel too far, but it involved the esports teams of the Karmine Corp and KOI before the whole thing escalated to the level of most of the communities involved on Twitch.
Above all, there was a very marked confrontation between the French communities, led by Kamet0and the global (especially Spanish) community. It has to be said that under the banner of an influencer like Kamel, quickly joined by most of the French streamers and their communities, the strike force exceeded that of all the other communities.
The French community was able to appropriate a large part of the canva (much larger than those of the other communities, at least) by putting up a huge tricolour flag, with the Eiffel Tower and, above all, Zinedine Zidane's head as the country's champion. This aroused the envy of the other communities, who were convinced that France had to cheat and use robots to appropriate such a piece of land. The result was numerous summit discussions between representatives of each community to negotiate, threaten or support the different territories.
The Pixel War only lasted 3 days and in truth only occupied a small corner of the total canva, but it was an intense event where the feeling of belonging and of having witnessed a page in the History of the Internet was immense. The phenomenon was such that Kamet0 received a voice message from Zinedine Zidane himself ! It's probably the biggest reach Reddit has enjoyed in its history, and it's easy to see why the company would like to do it again, especially now.
Redditeurs on strike
There have only been two r/Place events so far: one in 2017 and one in 2022. Both events were launched on 1 April. Holding another r/Place in the middle of July 2023 may therefore come as a surprise. However, it could well be an attempt by Reddit to win over new users and boost its goodwill.
You may not know it, but Reddit is currently in the throes of a new kind of strike: a strike by its users.
Reddit now wants to charge developers 24 cents per 1000 API requests by users. It may seem ridiculous, but Reddit's most popular applications easily reach 5 billion requests per month, which would require developers to pay several million dollars to Reddit every month. It's a real hold-up, set up overnight and penalising absolutely everyone in the story... except Reddit, of course.
Most developers using Reddit's API offer their software and applications for free. They receive absolutely no income and therefore cannot possibly pay such a fee.
To protest against this decision, thousands of subreddits have decided to close their doors since June, resulting in huge losses for the site.
A complex tug-of-war
Even if this social network is not very popular in France, it is an integral part of the Internet culture of Americans and certain other countries. Yet its financial equilibrium is extremely fragile.
Reddit owes its revenue to the display of advertising, and therefore to its image and the number of active users on the platform. However, advertising revenues no longer seem to be enough for the company, which is looking to new levers for financing. Charging developers for the API is the solution they have found and implemented without consulting anyone, or at least without consulting users.
And therein lies the problem: Reddit is nothing without its users. Even though the company employs around 2,000 people, the users of the platform are the ones who actually manage it. They create the sub-forums, organise the discussions, select or elect their moderators, punish inappropriate content... in short, they take care of maintaining and developing the communities. To do this, many of them use third-party software or different clients, tailored to their needs and the subjects they are interested in.
To put it bluntly, charging developers for the API would be tantamount to penalising a user who prefers to use a browser other than Microsoft Edge to visit a website.
It's an idea that doesn't sit well with the millions of Reddit users, especially those who are most invested in it. So the moderators of many subreddits have taken the initiative of simply close their sub-forums in protest as a reminder that they too have power in this financial balance and that Reddit would do better to take its decisions in concert with the representatives of the various communities.
This obviously raises many questions about Reddit's very model and the status of its moderators. It's a debate and a legal limbo that has been raging since the early days of the internet and IRC channel moderators and which, in a way, continues on Twitch with the ambiguous position of channel moderators and their relationship to remuneration.
A timely return to r/Place?
Re-launching r/Place at such an early stage, outside its usual window of opportunity and only a month and a half after the strike was launched, therefore seems to be a barely concealed attempt to create a diversion. While there will always be users to feed the web, those most involved in the battle are not fooled and are calling for a boycott of r/Place.
But it would be surprising if Reddit had relied on the mobilisation of its striking users. We can more easily imagine that the company is seeking first and foremost to bring back the least informed (or concerned) streamers to its social network in order to create a new hype and give the impression that all is well in the best of worlds. It's a kind of instrumentalisation that could well work, even if it's unlikely, at least in France.
A Pixel War doesn't just happen. It requires the involvement of major figures on the web, who invest themselves simultaneously and who are prepared to hold on to each other for a few days, motivating their troops. The Pixel War of 2022 made such an impact because it was unique, impromptu and was the result of an unexpected snowball effect. It's an organic event, and to try to replicate it at the end of the day destroys both its spontaneity and its charm.
When Reddit is preparing the ground and the media are calling for a rematch between France and Spain, they are showing at best a certain ignorance of Twitch communities, and at worst their opportunism in seeking to make a killing on the backs of streamers and their communities.
#KCORP vs #SLYWIN
As far as the French community is concerned, "General" Kamet0 and his troops are already busy fighting a war of a different kind, on another troubled network: the hashtag war on Twitter.
Fans of Karmine Corp and Solary have been waging open warfare over the past few days in relation to their teams in LFL, the French League of Legends. Last week, for the first time, Solary became the team that generated the most engagement on Twitter, thanks to its hashtag #SLYWIN. The representatives of the Blue Wall (Karmine Corp fans) are determined to be the first this week, by smashing the all-time record for engagement on the hashtag #KCORP. And all methods are permitted to achieve this.
It's a battle of the communities that we've seen so often on social networks, a bit like the fight between PewDiePie and T-Series, or Cyprien and Squeezie to talk about France. It's a fun way to motivate their fans to show their support, as well as a huge promotional coup for their idols who benefit from free exposure at little cost. And when these influencers shine, it's the platform that hosts them that benefits indirectly. In short, it's everything Reddit dreams of at the moment.
It's not impossible that this war between KCorp and Solary could spread to r/Place, but then it would be a Franco-French confrontation. We'll see how things develop on these two fronts in the days to come.