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Microsoft Gives Up on Mixer

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Karlston

Microsoft Gives Up on Mixer 

The company announced it's shutting down its livestreaming service and will soon redirect to Facebook Gaming. 
tyler blevins
 Tyler “Ninja” Blevins signed an exclusive deal to stream on Mixer last year.Photograph: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC Universal/Getty Images

Microsoft’s livestreaming service Mixer will shut down on July 22 and is “teaming up” with Facebook Gaming to give partnered Mixer streams a new home, both companies announced on Monday.

 

“It became clear that the time needed to grow our own livestreaming community to scale was out of measure with the vision and experiences that Microsoft and Xbox want to deliver for gamers now,” Mixer said in a post today. “So we’ve decided to close the operations side of Mixer and help the community transition to a new platform.” The news was first reported by The Verge.

 

Partnered Mixer streamers tell WIRED they found out about the news when Microsoft announced it.

 

Despite solid livestreaming technology and top talent acquisitions, including Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek, Mixer has struggled to keep up with competitors Twitch and YouTube. In April, viewers watched 37 million hours of gaming content on Mixer to Twitch’s 1.5 billion and YouTube’s 461 million, according to data from streaming analytics company Arsenal.gg. The year-over-year stats are grim, too: Hours watched on Twitch grew 101 percent between April 2019 and 2020, while Mixer’s increased just .2 percent.

 

Mixer launched in January 2016 as Beam. Just months later, Microsoft acquired it. The service’s pitch is super-low latency and direct streaming from Microsoft’s Xbox in addition to PC. In mid-2019, Blevins and Grzesiek—two of Twitch’s biggest stars—signed exclusive deals to stream on Mixer for undisclosed, likely enormous sums of money.

 

Other streamers fled Twitch for exclusive deals with Facebook Gaming, a competing livestreaming service that launched its app on Android in April. (According to The New York Times, Facebook Gaming’s iOS app has been rejected from the Apple Store at least five times.) Facebook Gaming has seen healthy 72 percent month-over-month growth in hours watched between March and April. In April, gamers watched 291 million hours on Facebook Gaming—nearly eight times Mixer’s. At the same time, Facebook as a platform, and as a brand, has the charisma of a Hoobastank concert to much of Gen Z, who tend to prefer social media apps like TikTok or Snapchat and Instagram.

 

Streamers with partner status on Mixer will have partner status on Facebook Gaming if they choose to move over. On July 22, Mixer.com will redirect to Fb.gg—Facebook Gaming’s website. Microsoft’s cloud streaming service, Project xCloud, will also find a new home on Facebook Gaming, although we don’t know what that will look like yet.

 

“It wasn’t as much about return on sell, it was about finding a partnership that was the best things for the community and streamers,” Xbox head Phil Spencer told The Verge. “We think this is it, and it gives us a great place to launch more xCloud content and give gamers the ability to play from there.”

 

As the original home for livestreamed gaming content, Twitch remains the major cultural hub for gamers. Its emotes, in-game loot offers, and other mainstays have a near gravitational pull on millions. And over the last several years, Twitch has expanded to include a flourishing and lively section for non-gaming content including talk shows, cooking, and trolling tech support scammers. When gaming entertainment content leaves Twitch—from streamers’ livestreams to entire esports leagues—viewership tends to plummet. While Grzesiek often attracted tens of thousands of concurrent viewers on Twitch, on Mixer, he averaged just about 5,000, according to data from TwitchTracker.

 

Mixer will be remembered as a promising failure. Although it did many things right—including giving all partnered streamers $100 during the Covid-19 pandemic—the atmosphere wasn’t right for it to develop its own, self-sustaining culture.

 

 

Microsoft Gives Up on Mixer

 

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Karlston

Mixer failed — here’s why

Let me count the ways

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This was a long time coming. For years now, Mixer has struggled, lagging far behind the live-streaming platforms it was meant to compete with — Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch — and by the end of July it will be dead. Even the director of Xbox admitted that Mixer started “pretty far behind,” which is to say too far behind to ever catch up to its ostensible peers. But what happened, exactly?

It’s not that Mixer was technologically flawed, or one of those businesses that’s a bad idea on its face (see: Juicero). It had some good ideas, paid for some great streamers, and the whole enterprise failed anyway. In my opinion, Mixer was doomed from the start because what Microsoft never seemed to understand was that its live-streaming platform was first and foremost a community.

 

That’s not to disparage the streamers on Mixer or the fans who followed them there. Those relationships are real, solid, and will probably last even as streamers leave the platform for greener pastures — adversity binds, after all.

 

What I mean is that Microsoft never marketed Mixer as anything more than a more technologically advanced version of Twitch, and it couldn’t seem to figure out how to showcase the community it was building. In retrospect, the final nail in Mixer’s coffin was bringing Tyler “Ninja” Blevins onto the service by offering him tens of millions of dollars; that was the exact moment that Microsoft decided that organically growing streamers was too hard or too expensive. It tried to buy an audience, which is not how social sites operate. Social sites that don’t fail, that is.

The difference between Twitch and Mixer isn’t like the difference between HBO and Netflix, though they may on their face seem similar. By way of analogy, HBO, Netflix, Hulu, and the like are all operating within a larger market that goes exactly one way: from producer to consumer. If you felt like being reductive, you could say that in this regard every television show is the same; they’re just content, and the delivery mechanism is incidental to the experience. You don’t feel different watching different networks because the network itself isn’t integral to the experience of enjoying television. (Yet.)

Streaming, on the other hand, upends that formula. To put it in television terms, every streamer is a channel. But the more important thing is that every streamer is also the nexus of their own social network — the community they’re working to cultivate. That secondary social network is powered by the larger, primary one: the site the streamer is using to broadcast. And then there are the other broadcasters that the streamer interacts with, which itself makes up a third, distributed network of potential community and audience members. Each platform, too, has its own language and culture, which are esoteric at first but eventually come to symbolize in-group belonging.

 

And all that makes moving from one streaming site to another a risky proposition. If you moved from Twitch to Mixer, you were giving up all but the diehards in your personal community, the tertiary community of fans and streamers you might add to your own group, and you set yourself the task of learning what amounts to a new language on unfamiliar territory. Imagine having to learn a new emote culture!

 

You’d be able to build up those relationships again, but for anyone who’s not a large broadcaster, that process would take a very long time — again exacerbated by the fact that Mixer didn’t itself have a large, dedicated audience. If you add to that the fact that Twitch, by virtue of its age and size, has dominated and changed the live-streaming market (both consumers and streamers) to fit its image, it’s easy to see why moving to Mixer was a tricky proposition at best.

 

But some people still did it. And I think that’s important to recognize because it means that despite everything, Mixer had something for which people were willing to pull up stakes. That might have been that old Western promise of a pristine land, with undisturbed audiences waiting to be cultivated; it could have been the allure of a fresh start; or perhaps even the draw of a place that maybe took allegations of assault and harassment seriously. Whatever the case was, Mixer was attracting streamers.

 

But Mixer was not attracting viewers. (And what’s a streamer without an audience but a podcaster? I kid, I kid.) And why should it? Because Twitch spent so long outside the mainstream — it’s still outside it now, though it’s closer than ever — watching streams on Twitch could feel like an identity. Mixer, which mostly seemed to be positioned as the Not Twitch, didn’t give viewers an identity around which they could rally. The other part of this, naturally, is that Mixer focused on drawing streamers to its platform but didn’t spend much time promoting organic talent and growing their viewership. Getting Ninja to stream on your platform is one thing. But what Mixer didn’t seem to realize is that Ninja’s audience was there to see him. They weren’t necessarily there to be a part of that primary community, to check out new streamers they might like. It just wasn’t a huge part of the site’s DNA. It rhymes with the strategy that a lot of digital news publishers employed in the early 2010s: prioritizing virality over building dedicated, devoted audiences.

 

What all of this means, obviously, is that streaming is primarily social. As a viewer, you watch a streamer, sure, but you also interact with and participate in a community. It’s not plug ‘n’ play; there’s a reason the vast majority of Ninja’s fans didn’t follow him to Mixer. I still think there’s a lot of opportunity in the live-streaming market for real competition to Twitch, and I’ll be looking carefully at what moves YouTube and Facebook make. The closer streaming gets to the mainstream, the bigger the potential audiences get. Any site that’s in a position to take advantage of that swing is going to win those people — any platform that has enough recognizable names, an accessible, distinct culture, and a low enough bar to entry for participation to make streaming worth doing.

 

 

Mixer failed — here’s why

 

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