Microsoft is closing Mixer — what went wrong?

Mixer Logo Distorted
Mixer Logo Distorted (Image credit: Matt Brown / Windows Central)

Microsoft's answer to the live streaming boom has been a journey of highs and lows, but it's soon the end of the road for Mixer. The virtual abode to many of gaming's top online personalities, streaming continues to witness explosive growth. While the Mixer platform has become an established broadcasting brand, it failed to dent the three dominant players. That brings us to Microsoft embarking to migrate users over to Facebook Gaming, shuttering Mixer after four years.

The bleak future for Mixer isn't surprising, following stories of missteps and unrealized potential. But that wasn't always the case, with promising propositions in Mixer's early iterations. But with a brief look back, the writing was on the wall.

The end of the road for Mixer

Mixer Homepage

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Microsoft boarded the live-streaming train in mid-2016, known under its former alias, Beam. The move saw Redmond adopt the independent venture from Matt Salsamendi and James Boehm, 18- and 20-years-old as of acquisition, looking to scale its response to streaming. The focus on interactivity and community established a unique hook for the platform, which continued to grow in tandem with new features, under the Mixer rebrand.

Mixer's initial promise came from underlying technologies, including the low-latency "faster than light (FTL)" stream protocol, reducing the delay between creators and their viewers. The sub-second broadcasts closed the gap for audiences, fostering more profound engagement, and opening doors for real-time connections. Viewers could impact the game, multiple streamers could chain synchronized video feeds through "co-streams," and hosts could even virtually "pass" the controller to Mixer users. That community-focused sentiment would help shape Mixer's lasting identity, even if oft-overlooked by Microsoft.

While Amazon-owned Twitch and YouTube's live features garnered their respective followings, no one had their foot in gaming like Microsoft. The service naturally linked to Microsoft's broader Xbox ambitions, filtering down to its Xbox One console family and Windows 10 PCs. Partners could also earn a commission for selling Xbox One games or Xbox Game Pass subscriptions via their Mixer channel.

Ninja Joins Mixer

Source: Ninja on YouTube (Image credit: Source: Ninja on YouTube)

Backing from Microsoft finally put the platform on the radar — at one point considered a tangible threat to Twitch. That came with several high-profile successes, most famously with a string of talent acquisition. Microsoft locked down Tyler "Ninja" Blevins following a sudden rise to fame, later tailed by established names like Shroud and Gothalion. The reported multi-million dollar deals disrupted the landscape in an unprecedented manner, later mirrored by other platforms keeping their prominent faces in-house.

Building platforms within a crowded space is never easy, making it reasonable to ask why Microsoft bothered with Mixer in the first place. But the streaming world has become increasingly lucrative over the last decade, with viewership continually on the up, and gaming industry actors looking to secure their share of that growth. Games and content creation are closer than ever, and the value only increases as endeavors like Project xCloud hit the scene.

Unrealized potential, internal struggles, and fierce competition

Mixer

Source: Mixer (Image credit: Source: Mixer)

While Microsoft appeared to be pouring funds into Mixer, Redmond's track record proved that it didn't guarantee the platform's future.

Mixer's problems weren't just outward-facing, with reports of discrimination and low morale under late leadership.

Problems at Mixer weren't just outward-facing, with reports of low morale among the team earlier this year. That followed with the departure of founders Salsamendi and Boehm, resulting in a "skeleton" team, increasingly detached from Xbox operations. A leaked Mixer Town Hall video provides a glimpse into late leadership, with Mixer head Shilpa Yadla downplaying internal frustrations among staff.

One former Mixer employee recently voiced their personal encounters with racism among leadership, prompting executive vice-president of Gaming at Microsoft, Phil Spencer, to publicly respond. That's been followed by a wave of harassment and discrimination allegations among top streamers with no known repercussions from Mixer — just days prior to the announcement of its closure. While still a developing situation, it's not the first report of internal issues among Mixer's remaining team.

Chart showing flat Mixer growth

Source: Stream Elements (Image credit: Source: Stream Elements)

The streaming landscape is stronger than ever, with its latest uptick reflecting the ongoing pandemic, enforcing stay-at-home orders across the globe. But for Mixer, this was likely the final shot. A recent report from StreamElements surveyed top video game streaming platforms­, spotlighting triple-figure year-over-year growth from Twitch and Facebook Gaming. In contrast, Microsoft's Mixer was flat with underwhelming 0.2 percent growth, seemingly struggling to retain its users.

StreamLabs' corresponding findings state that last quarter, more users were streaming on Mixer than Facebook Gaming and YouTube Gaming combined. It also had more hours streamed than rivals, only topped by Twitch, suggesting that content output wasn't behind its downfall. Mixer was the home for streamers — but without an audience to watch.

Even with Ninja's debut Mixer stream clocking over 90,000 concurrent viewers, propelling its iOS app to the top of Apple's App Store, it was a short-lived blip, rather than a long-term gain.

Mixer was the home for streamers — but without an audience to watch.

As Mixer looked to expand, new issues arose for Microsoft's live-streaming destination. The low-latency FTL protocol, previously a defining feature of Mixer's backend, was muted by reduced broadcast delays from Twitch and YouTube. Rivals replicated a majority of the best traits, while it wrangled fragmented features between platforms and weak localization beyond U.S. audiences.

That's without touching on missed opportunities, especially regarding its ties to Xbox services and subscriptions. Amazon's Twitch Prime serves exclusive game rewards, which Microsoft replicated via Xbox Game Pass, over the Mixer Pro subscription. Xbox Game Pass and Mixer Pro also failed to nail down a relationship, with a complimentary subscription under the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate tier a no-brainer during the height of Mixer's success.

With Microsoft backing down from the streaming scene, it leaves Twitch as the undisputed champion, and YouTube and Facebook witnessing similar growth. Microsoft will aid Facebook in bolstering its video game streaming solutions, helping migrate Mixer Partners to the platform, and teasing future Project xCloud integration.

But for now, Mixer is yet another casualty among Microsoft's service experiments. Missteps, both consumer-facing and internal, ultimately led to the platform's demise — while also failing to resonate in the competitive streaming field.

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Matt Brown is Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.

64 Comments
  • I'm not surprised, but I feel that the migration to Facebook gaming is an even worse move for Microsoft. Facebook as a company has one of the worst track records for privacy and security. I would think that the partnership with Google in terms of the Duo, would lend them to partnering with YouTube. I think that a partnership between Microsoft and Google in the gaming universe would help both parties push sales for gaming devices and games. YouTube could link directly to buying games on Stadia if available, and Xbox/xCloud if available.
  • For me personally, the name “Facebook” is an irredeemably tainted brand that will never be good for anything, let alone gaming or live-streaming.
  • Exactly Facebook is just the "uncool" brand now
  • Couldn't agree more. Just the worst, rep-wise, company in tech.
  • I agree. I sure how this doesn't mean Facebook is going to be integrated with my Xbox account or even just the OS. I want nothing to do with that company.
  • And yet... Facebook Gaming already surpassed Mixer in terms of viewership (what actually matters the most) before this shutdown. Mixer is going out as number 4.
  • I don't give a damn what numbers Facebook has. No number could make Facebook more trustworthy, reliable, honest, or worthy of my attention.
  • lol that’s fine. You are just one person; Facebook has millions of users who don’t have an issue with the company.
  • Microsoft should have worked out a way to integrate Twitch and YouTube. Facebook is garbage and to be avoided whenever possible (generally speaking). Maybe Xbox demographic is Facebook users? Otherwise it makes no sense unless Twitch and YouTube said no. Whatever as far as mixer. It was slow and poor and no one used it
  • Google has its own cloud gaming platform. Amazon is reported to be building one. Why would either of those companies want to partner for xCloud?
  • Welp, im eating my words from a few weeks ago about Mixer stagnant growth.
  • What went wrong? Nobody used it.
  • Ya, this doesn't surprise me. I'm by no means an expert, but it seems like Twitch/YouTube pretty much dominate the scene. Too bad it didn't take off more, but hopefully A) people don't have to lose their jobs in mass B) Microsoft themselves can devote more of these resources elsewhere (like Xcloud/GamePass).
  • No surprises here. It was really obvious Microsoft did not care about Mixer as a platform. They did not even attempt to build out features people were asking for and they did not build good Mixer apps. The integration into Windows 10 was removed and I felt like that was the writing on the wall, tbh.
  • When it doesn't work, throw your hands in the air and say "F*** it!" That's the Microsoft way.
  • Plenty of Google product as well
  • Google is king on that section. Fail it bin it motto.
  • Are they though? Google has 202 dead products, Microsoft 346. Edit: on the Version Museum website they list an additional 44 products killed by Microsoft that they haven't cataloged yet. The number of dead MS products is 400. https://www.versionmuseum.com/history-of/discontinued-microsoft-products https://killedbygoogle.com
  • I would have assumed google was king of killing products too. But I guess i'm wrong.
  • Bill once said in an interview: there is only space for two platforms, the winner and the one that fills the rest of the void.Or something like that, he was talking about operating systems but I suppose it's true about any platform.
  • That doesn't really align. On PC, you have Windows, Mac, and Linux. Smartphones had the potential, with Blackberry and Microsoft showing up, but both were lazy and late to the party. Cars manufacturers are all over the place in all kinds of markets. The TV market has shown that Samsung, LG, Sony, Vizio, and some lower-tier brands can all exist. PC components have all kinds of OEMs to provide options for things like motherboards, cases, and memory. These duopolies only exist where it's kind of allowed. Microsoft didn't do much to promote Mixer, similar to how it half-supported things like Windows phones, Band, and Kinect, and the results showed. They're doing something similar with WMR. Microsoft's uninspiring inaction in the market is the cause of the failure, not this "you can only have two" myth.
  • I totally agree with this. MS has it in their head that there can only be 1 real player in any given market. Except apparently when it comes to the cloud, as Amazon does out perform them in pretty much every cloud segment, and google cloud is out growing azure. MS has pretty much sacrificed everything for the cloud but will end up playing second fiddle. By the end of all this, they'll have to put themselves on the chopping block.
  • Microsoft is about business and user experience. Why stick with something that isn't working or failed in attempts to make it a success. It's obvious they looked ahead of time to have a transition in place which is Facebook Gaming. Not only that, they got themselves a platform for xCloud now, something nobody seems to get or see. xCloud is likely to transform into what Stadia is but better, an easier position to rival the Cloud Gaming Space. And if Facebook is really serious about gaming which so far they are with VR, they should support Oculus for Xbox consoles.
  • they barely even tried tho. Mixer changed very little since MS purchased it. We go half-assed OS integration that absolutely nobody even knew about and in a last ditch effort they bought out popular streamers, something they should have done from the get-go.
  • I dont know why you think this helps xCloud. Cloud resources arnt scarce for MS, so it's not like mixer not using resources somehow helps xCloud. Furthermore, cloud steaming is even less interesting to consumers then game streaming is. On top of that, xCloud is having technical feasibility trouble, having platform trouble launching, doesnt have an audiance, and costs a heck ton of money to run. It's already on MS choping board.
  • xCloud is actually very popular and I use it almost every day. For a Beta it goes beyond player and time spend expectations Microsoft had for xCloud. Satya mentioned this twice in his speeches. When xCloud launches fully it will be starting strong. Not just cause of Facebook but because xCloud is that good. Not to forget cause of its success, they will be upgrading the blades to Series X specs next year and add it to Game Pass this year. Edit: and xCloud will receive Click-to-play on Instagram.. A mass popularity platform that will significantly boost xCloud. The service is far from being a problem.
  • Microsoft in 2022: "xCloud on Facebook is not that popular. Let's pull it."
  • Ha ha ha, another Microsoft failure and now making deals with Facebook! How low can you go Microsoft? I'll be staying with Twitch...
  • Not to defend them or anything but is a business decision... Are you aware Microsoft value today is 1.5 trillion USD O.o
  • Not surprised, but honestly sad.
  • I'm waiting for Rubino comment : Microsoft is a software company first.. Oh wait!
  • Why aren't they choosing to simply partner with Twitch? This makes little sense to me.
  • Because Twitch is owned by Amazon, and right now Amazon is pretty upset with Microsoft over a government contract that they won. I would say Amazon wants very little to do with Microsoft right now.
  • You think Twitch cares about xCloud? No. Definitely not.
  • On the upside, it frees up cloud space and resources, like cash. That can be used for worthwhile stuff, like games, cheaper consoles. Facebook has the backend to make Xbox streaming reach more people. Likely also link in to xcloud. Actually lot of great potential, business speaking. Hopefully I can delete the preinstalled Facebook streaming app from my Series X.
  • Everyone saw this coming. Mishandled much like cortana.
  • Classic Microsoft. (Also classic Google)
  • We’ll probably never know, but I wonder if Microsoft lost more than the $8 billion on the Nokia disaster.
  • Again, why does ANYONE expect consumer products/services from Microsoft? Isn't it bloody obvious by now that Microsoft is NOT a consumer company? And they never will be.
  • Microsoft hates consumers.
  • Actually, consumers hate Microsoft.