I am an inveterate Twitter-er, with the second-most Tweets of anyone on Kotaku's staff. I'll interrupt a game to bash out a 140-character punchline to something that just happened or occurred to me in one. It's just my nature. After locking myself out of my bathroom and resolving the matter by literally kicking down the door, my next act was to hit TweetDeck and brag about it.
Tweeting mid-game requires me to pause, come upstairs, type in a password to wake up my computer, write the Tweet and press Enter. All of that is more user friendly than the Twitter application within the Xbox 360, which will be yanked — along with the Facebook app — when the new dashboard update arrives.
I think I sent maybe one Tweet from the 360's Twitter app, which was on the day it arrived on the 360 a couple of years ago. After that, there seemed to be no point. If you wanted to Tweet, you had to be doing only that. Twitter's value comes in multitasking, writing a quick, hopefully witty, reaction to something you just read, heard or did.
The Twitter app on the 360 is functional, sure. It is also extremely rigid, You want to Tweet? Fine, you have to quit everything and use only this app. Done Tweeting? You're gonna log out now and, I might add, go reboot that game you were playing if you want to return to it.
This will likely still be the case when the dashboard update arrives; you can do all your social networking through the Twitter or Facebook sites themselves with the new web browser, which unless I've missed something, doesn't sound like it'll run in the background alongside a game or another application. So it will still be far easier to keep a smartphone with the app on it next to you, if you've thought of something so damn clever you have to pause the game and say it right now.
Could anything make someone want to use social media on a console? Yes. Give me the ability to take a screenshot and send it over Twitter in a game, and I might spend more time doing that than playing. This is what social media does best — sharing that which you are experiencing, whether it's the show you're watching, the article you just read, hell, the breakfast you just ordered. And on a video gaming console, it was basically impossible to share the experience you were having, which is playing a game. No one is going to save their progress, leave the game, sign into Twitter, and belt out a 140-character OMG on losing three squad members in XCOM: Enemy Unknown.
It may take a game with specific Twitter or Facebook features to break this stasis. The Facebook app (called "Facebook Connect" when it was first introduced) promised to let users take a screenshot and upload it to their walls, but the feature had to be specifically supported within the game. (Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 was cited as the example. Facebook's removal from the dashboard is the bigger failure, given all the promises made on its behalf at E3 2009. The application had not been updated in two dashboard generations, either.)
Madden NFL 13 and NBA 2K13, among others, this year offer the means to send Twitter updates on your games, from within the game. Both feature the means to create and save screenshots to their respective online services. At some point, those two functions will integrate. It doesn't have to be a sports video game doing it first, but they've already got the motive and the opportunity.
So Microsoft's removal of the Twitter and Facebook apps doesn't mean that the social media experience has no place on a console, any more than it should have no place alongside PC gaming. But right now it's a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Microsoft doesn't see much value in integrating an under-used Twitter or Facebook with the gaming experience, and gamers don't see any value in using them separately.