Microsoft took us by surprise with last week's announcement that Twitch megastar Ninja was joining the Mixer streaming platform, giving the fledgling streaming site a huge boost over its primary rival, Amazon's Twitch.
I've explored the reasoning behind the exclusivity deal from the perspective of Microsoft's business. Mixer lends itself well to Microsoft's cross-platform efforts, acting as a staging platform for all sorts of goods and services Microsoft will offer now and in the future. But what do Mixer streamers themselves think?
We spoke to some of our friends among Mixer's biggest partners to gauge the mood on Ninja's appointment. By most accounts, they see it as a good thing.
"A rising tide raises all ships"
One common theme I heard among partners is one of legitimacy. For many, streaming is a hobby, a way to earn a bit on the side. But if you make it big like Ninja, it can easily become a full-time job, and become very lucrative as well. Ninja nor Microsoft have revealed any official figures, but it's likely several million dollars, for three years of full exclusivity with the platform.
Mixer partner BobDuckNWeave noted how a partner like Ninja brings legitimacy to the platform above all other things.
Microsoft generally isn't known for properly supporting some of its "side projects," arguably. This patchy commitment is undoubtedly a factor when it comes to investment from advertisers and sponsors, many of whom drive the financial viability of streaming as an option for making a living.
Other major streamers such as Kabby, Archonaut, and Covent have all reported to me that they've seen increased viewership, as well as increased interactions from fresh faces in chat. Sponsorship managers such as GamerSupp's Phlog also noted they were seeing improved viewerships across the board from their own internal analytics of their partners.
Since joining, we've heard Ninja led to over half a million new accounts being created on Mixer, single-handedly giving the site its biggest bout of exposure in its brief history. Mixer partner Kabby described it as a "chain reaction," noting mainstream exposure that Ninja has brought to the platform.
Are there downsides?
While I couldn't find any Mixer partners who explicitally felt Ninja joining the platform was a bad thing, it does seem as though there is a bit of private resentment among some users out there. Ninja landed himself a gigantic banner on Mixer's homepage, as well as a month of free subscriptions for anyone joining over from Twitch, racking up a million after a few days. TinyBuild community manager known as BigHungry2X on Mixer voiced some of this sentiment in a tweet, asking Mixer why none of its existing dedicated partners ever received such red carpet treatment. BigHungry2X elaborated with us a bit further.
Given the amount of likes on BigHungry2X's tweet, it certainly seems like plenty of Mixer partners agree, even if they do so privately. Additionally, Microsoft very recently laid off some Mixer staff in the internal programming suite, as well as shut down the sparks patronage program, which previously allowed streamers to earn money from interactions with their viewers. I've heard comments pondering the possibility that staff was laid off in order to help pay for Ninja's inclusion on the platform, although I personally think that's unlikely to be the case.
I had wondered if Ninja, known primarily for playing Fortnite, would lead to increased homogenization on the platform. At least anecdotally, it does seem as though Fortnite has experienced a bump on the platform, after waning a bit facing competition from Apex Legends, a resurgent Minecraft, and HiRez games like Smite and Paladins — which also have an exclusivity deal with Mixer.
Mixer partner Ehrgeiz also spoke with me about the bump in Fortnite streaming but noted that many of the new faces in his own streams have arrived simply due to the increased exposure to the platform.
Mixer legitimacy, Mixer positivity
One of the most noteworthy things about Mixer, right now, is the focus on positivity in its community. As someone who has been a part of and ran several community sites throughout my life, maintaining positivity is rather easy when you're small — things change when exposed to the masses.
Microsoft, however, is uniquely positioned to stem the tide of toxicity that exists in large parts of the internet, using a combination of its Azure-powered A.I. moderation bots, and by tying Mixer profiles to your Microsoft Account. Violent, illegal transgressions on platform could lead to you getting banned across Microsoft's entire platform, which adds a degree of accountability.
Whether Microsoft can maintain this sense of community in Mixer as it grows remains to be seen. But one thing is for certain. For Mixer, Ninja jumping across as completely changed the game, and most streamers seem upbeat about Mixer's growth and welcome the challenge to entertain a bigger potential pool of stream fans. Even as I write this, Ninja is live with over 30,000 concurrent viewers, showing that his audience is apparently here to stay.
I'll leave you with this note from RunawayLobster, who is among the most positive streamers I've come across on the site.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!