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As Microsoft shuts down Mixer, the streamers left behind speak up

Mixer
Mixer (Image credit: Windows Central, Microsoft)

Microsoft recently announced a withdrawal from the live-streaming space, with the closure of Mixer, its ambitious response to Twitch's soaring success. The industry looks more lucrative than ever and is host to some of the hottest emerging digital talent, with online viewership on the rise. But Mixer winds down operations on July 22, 2020, presenting its members only a brief window to jump ship, before disappearing from the web.

That Monday afternoon, Mixer creators across the globe stumbled on the single tweet thread — one that immediately uprooted their live-streaming careers. The announcement was unexpected and seen as callous by many, with one month to shift elsewhere ahead of the closure. The move exposed the underlying volatility for any streaming career, leaving many top personalities speechless, following a year of soaring mindshare amid high-profile talent acquisitions.

Mixer never prevailed as a true Twitch or YouTube contender, but Microsoft managed to propel the service into the spotlight. With an existing Xbox presence as a vital springboard, the platform rapidly scaled in an attempt to legitimize its standing, and its reported multi-million dollar contracts with top creators like Tyler "Ninja" Blevins and Michael "Shroud" Grzesiek. And while its culture appeared far from rosy behind the scenes, many creators expressed a sense of stability.

For prominent Mixer streamers, a sense of shock and disbelief

Mixer at E3 2019

Source: Matt Brown / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Matt Brown / Windows Central)

The notice left many creators dazed, and many aired their reactions live to their audiences mid-broadcast. In addition to those tied to legal exclusivity contracts, the surprise struck streamers of all sizes, including those with livelihoods deep-rooted in the Mixer ecosystem. We reached out to Microsoft for details, but the company declined to comment on its handling of the announcement.

'To find out you're losing your job, through a tweet, it felt like a slap in the face.' — former Mixer streamer 'NVAD3'

"That day I was devastated, in tears all day," said former Mixer streamer, Chris Covent, in an interview with Windows Central. Covent established more than 200,000 followers over four years, was among the most prominent personalities on the platform, and even moving to Washington to settle closer to Mixer's Redmond HQ. "I couldn't believe it. I couldn't talk to my community. I couldn't look at anything. My phone was exploding, literally on fire, more than any other day. I was like, @#$%, what do we do?' Because we just re-signed this really expensive lease, and now our future is uncertain ... There's no way they could do this to us. No way. Just kept repeating it. I walked to my living room. I just sat on the floor up against the wall, and I just stared at my phone. My whole world crashed. My whole world came tumbling. It felt like four years of my life just gone."

Allan Shofner, known under Mixer alias "NVAD3," was also among those prominent names set to lose his nearly quarter of a million followers with the shutdown. "No one in the world expected that tweet to happen," Shofner said. "I was literally watching a friend's stream ... all the faces that were watching that announcement were just jaws wide open. Like, 'You've got to be kidding me.' That was pretty much my reaction too, which then turned into anger, which then turned into tears. We honestly could not believe it, that they just had, for lack of better words, pawned it off."

NVAD3 on Mixer

Source: NVAD3 on Mixer (Image credit: Source: NVAD3 on Mixer)

"It didn't really feel real, and it didn't really sink in for a little bit," said former Mixer streamer "RunawayLobster," who also went full-time earlier in this year. "When you put all your effort and your time and your heart into a platform because you think it's gonna succeed, and then they turn around on Twitter and then tell you that it's basically gonna shut down in a month without any heads up or anything, it's really heartbreaking."

Microsoft's decision to shutter Mixer wasn't a surprise, but ...

The closure marks a radical change for many, but a share of that frustration hinges on its delivery, with Microsoft first publicly outlining the decision through a series of tweets. Like many streaming platforms, Mixer had a long-standing partnership program that allowed Microsoft to formally promote and foster relationships with its most prominent streamers, who best represented the brand. While Redmond briefed those tied up in exclusive contracts and small groups of media, all but a few of its top partners and staff members were kept in the dark.

Mixer Shutdown Announcement on Twitter

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

In retrospect, the writing was on the wall for Mixer's demise. While Microsoft hasn't extensively talked motives behind the shutdown, third-party numbers depict the likely reality. The COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders saw streaming viewership climb, with a StreamElements report suggesting triple-figure year-over-year growth for Amazon-owned Twitch and Facebook Gaming in April 2020. The same analysis put Mixer up just 0.2 percent, staying flat during what should've been an equally historical surge.

StreamLabs' corresponding findings also state that in Q2 2020, Mixer streamers outnumbered those on Facebook Gaming and YouTube Gaming combined. The platform also saw more hours streamed than other rivals, only bested by Twitch. Content output wasn't behind the downfall, and a failure to retain users to watch was the culprit. While this is only a narrow slice of recent highs and lows for Mixer, it was far from the success story Microsoft hoped to achieve.

How Mixer went from experimental startup to SNAFU

Mixer Homepage

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

Microsoft first entered the streaming game through its acquisition of Beam, an independent venture from Matt Salsamendi and James Boehm, 18- and 20-year-olds, respectively, in mid-2016. The platform discovered its voice through interactivity and a community-oriented vision, which grew in tandem with new features under the Mixer rebrand.

Throughout its early days, Mixer was defined by its faster-than-light (FTL) technology, cutting latency to deliver sub-second delays between streamers and their audiences. It released further features on the back of those video encoding triumphs, including multiple synchronized feeds dubbed "co-streams" and allowing hosts to virtually "pass" the controller to Mixer users. While rivals were quick to react, soon reflecting those most influential oddities on other platforms, Mixer retained a community-geared brand image.

With Microsoft further investing in Mixer over the years that followed, a growing population discovered opportunities to secure full-time income. Talking with those endorsed by Microsoft through its Mixer partnership initiative, many saw the platform become their livelihood.

Covent on Mixer

Source: Covent on Mixer (Image credit: Source: Covent on Mixer)

"I was on Twitch from 2012 to 2016," said Covent. "And then I caught wind that [Microsoft] was acquiring a platform. I went over to Beam and checked it out, and I enjoyed what I saw because they had the low-latency FTL technology, and it was pretty revolutionary back in 2016. Because if you were used to watching a Twitch stream, it was like 20 to 30 seconds delay back then."

'I picked up and moved from Detroit to Seattle [...] That was purely due to Mixer feeling safe to me.' — former Mixer streamer 'Covent'

Covent was among those who saw Mixer as a full-time career, along with his partner, who is also a dedicated streamer. He reflects on attending conventions across the U.S. with Microsoft, taking opportunities to represent the platform at industry events like E3 and PAX. With several stable years and Redmond simultaneously pouring resources into building its talent pool, the broadcasting duo saw an opportunity to move cross-country for Mixer.

"There were a lot of staff who were like, 'Dude, come on out, man. If you and [his partner] Britni were out here, and in the Seattle area, close to Mixer, we could do things with you. You could help us grow the brand in house. We could put you on our shows. We could showcase you more ... [So] I picked up and moved from Detroit, Mich., to Seattle, Wash., which is like 2,000 miles away ... That was purely due to Mixer feeling so safe to me."

Former Mixer Partner "BobDuckNWeave" was also among those who found Mixer during its formative months, initially drawn to its unique features. The platform also opened unique opportunities for the group, with its co-stream feature enabling multiple perspectives of the same gameplay sessions. "I first started streaming on Mixer before it was acquired by Microsoft when it was still Beam," BobDuckNWeave said. "I began streaming on Mixer due to its unique features like FTL (ultra low latency) and co-streaming, which is where your chat and up to four others is combined along with your broadcasts onto one single screen … My growth started to accelerate, and around this time my wife gave birth to my son, who has Down syndrome."

RunawayLobster on Mixer

Source: RunawayLobster on Mixer (Image credit: Source: RunawayLobster on Mixer)

Due to the extra attention his son required, they moved from London and nearer to family, so he could work remotely and spend more time with his son. "A by-product of this was I was able to now stream more and more due to the lack of work at my job … at that point, my wife and I decided that I should take some time off and try streaming full-time."

For some, a career with Mixer was unplanned, providing their first full-time opportunity in content creation. "I went full-time at the beginning of the year, so I think it was before lockdown," RunawayLobster said. "I actually quit my job, to go full time. Because I also met my partner on Mixer, so I moved from North Wales, down to England, to be with them. I thought it was a really good opportunity to go full-time, and then move down to somewhere new as well."

A tale of big acquisitions and mishandled allegations

Ninja Joins Mixer

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

Microsoft continued to scale its platform over the years that followed, but it was with the famed 2019 deal with Tyler "Ninja" Blevins that Mixer truly fell into the spotlight. Blevins, inarguably the most famous streamer of the moment, had become the face of Fortnite's monumental rise, pushing streaming into the mainstream. The deal between the two parties saw Ninja stream exclusively on Mixer, and the partnership was reportedly valued between $20 to $30 million.

But even with the world's hottest streamer already on its side, Microsoft followed up with only more talent acquisitions. It onboarded Michael "Shroud" Grzesiek, Cory "King Gothalion" Michael and Soleil "Ewok" Wheeler, momentarily boosting its perception as a rising Twitch rival. And while the move prompted similar actions from Amazon and Google, all indicators suggest that for Mixer, the payoff wasn't there.

"I think just streamers in general thought that once we acquired Shroud, Ninja, Gothalion, and Ewok — and a couple of other people I believe as well — that there was no way that Mixer wasn't going to be at least put on the map. That it wasn't going to create some type of waves," streamer Shofner. a.k.a., NVAD3, said. "And the fact that with the recent reports, basically proving that it did absolutely nothing, is a tough pill to swallow ... How does a platform go from being supposed to be known as a real community, to where it's at now? If you had told me three years ago that this is where we'd be, I would have laughed at you."

Xbox Phil Spencer

Source: Matt Brown / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Matt Brown / Windows Central)

Mixer's final months brought light to rising internal tensions that were later perceived as one of several attributes stifling the platform's growth. Mixer co-founders Salsamendi and Boehm, both departed in late 2019, following a wave of layoffs impacting content creators and producers. Morale appeared to hit an all-time low, with existing issues further compounded by new leadership. Leaked footage from an internal Town Hall captured a potential glimpse into concerns, featuring Mixer head Shilpa Yadla downplaying employee frustrations.

Public-facing allegations of a toxic work culture surfaced just days before Microsoft's announcement, with former staff member Milan Lee and others corroborating instances of racist comments from leadership, including using slavery as analogy to describe partner relationships. Those actions reportedly went unchecked, though executive vice-president of Gaming at Microsoft and Xbox chief Phil Spencer did publicly respond on Twitter.

Microsoft declined to comment, instead referring us to previous comments it made to The Hollywood Reporter. "We have been in contact with Mr. Lee seeking to better understand his experience," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "We do not tolerate any form of discrimination and thoroughly investigate all employee concerns and will take appropriate actions as warranted."

Mixer Studio, NYC

Source: Matt Brown / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Matt Brown / Windows Central)

Those grievances surfaced in parallel to allegations of sexual misconduct against several top Mixer partners. Microsoft reportedly turned a blind eye to concerns. These were the final catalysts that drove a call for a response, with its announcement to sunset Mixer already scheduled for just hours later.

"My initial reaction was 'no way,'" said Shofner. "If you're following what was going on, you understand everything that was happening behind the scenes of Mixer. We all assumed, they're going to take care of the racial allegations and stuff. That's going to be taken care of. And then the sexual predators that are being talked about on there, that's going to be taken care of as well. And then now that Phil's getting involved, we're going to kind of start taking steps in the right direction ... [a]nd we all kind of assumed that somewhere in a week that we'd get an announcement that, you know, she's been fired and that this person has been removed and kind of just clean up all the garbage that we had on our platform."

"I didn't think that was gonna take it down," said Covent. "I was like, they're gonna take care of this. ... I believed they would do the right thing, fire that employee, make a statement that we don't tolerate this @#$%. That we are moving on, we're moving forward."

"Maintaining a safe, friendly, welcoming community and environment is a priority at Mixer," a Microsoft rep said in a later statement. "We take any accusations extremely seriously and conduct thorough investigations to determine the most appropriate course of action."

BobDuckNWeave on Mixer

Source: BobDuckNWeave on Mixer (Image credit: Source: BobDuckNWeave on Mixer)

For those speaking out, Microsoft's approach has left many leaving the platform with a lasting bitterness — not down to the closure itself, but the handling of it. Microsoft also has not yet extensively responded to many allegations facing staff or those endorsed through its partner program. And while Mixer's fate was likely decided far ahead of time, the community climate made for poor timing.

"The delivery of the announcement shows the complete lack of empathy you'd expect from a corporation like Microsoft." — former Mixer streamer 'BobDuckNWeave'

"[It was] worse than a breakup via text from your other half of five years," said BobDuckNWeave. "I put in three years of time and energy. For others, Mixer was their life. The delivery of the announcement shows the complete lack of empathy you'd expect from a corporation like Microsoft."

He's not the only one who feels that way. "I think it's shocking. I think they should have made a statement about everything that happened first," said RunawayLobster. "They should have reached out to staff and partners first. I think they handled it really, really badly."

"For all of us, the people who helped build the platform, we had no idea. For us to find out you're losing your job, through a Twitter tweet, it almost felt like it was like a slap in the face," said Shofner. "But then again, it is Microsoft ... [a]nd they're cutthroat about it. That's how they've always been. I just didn't think it was going to be that way in this situation."

An abrupt end for Mixer

For Mixer's streamers, it's time to adapt. Microsoft has doubled all Mixer earnings pay-outs for the month of June. The company has also proposed a streamlined onboarding experience at Facebook. However, many fomer Mixer streamers are gravitating to Twitch, voicing their distrust in Facebook and its business practices outside of gaming. And while it is still early days, many have found initial support from their audiences amid the migration, some even nearing their previous numbers on Mixer.

But for Mixer, it's the end of the road.

Microsoft remains committed to closing up on July 22, 2020, redirecting traffic to the social media giant and concluding another chapter in its services. That's a shame given its once-unique voice and substantial backing from one of the world's largest organizations. If nothing else, this story spotlights the ruthless nature of the hyper-competitive, fast-evolving streaming landscape.

Matt Brown
Matt Brown

Matt Brown is Windows Central's Senior Games 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.

28 Comments
  • Most of the streamers are moving to Twitch, not Facebook Gaming 😂
  • Yeah about 90% of them, even though Facebook offered partnership plus a $2500 bonus after staying with them for 90 days.
  • It's really again a disrespect towards consumers and even content creators. Why they don't just stick with ANYTHING finally? :/ It would be better if they would just sold it or made spin-off. Now also this market will be ruled by mono- or duopoly. Dr. Distrespect banned for nobody know what - he could switch to Mixer and platform would grow even more!
  • What? An be beneficial to ages to come and contenders in mobile/cloud/consumer space? Nah, this is the norm. We all saw this over and over again with their attempts to dive into Mobile devices. The issue is compartmentalization of the different facets of Microsoft. Maybe if Mixer was ran by the Surface group it would have survived. Or maybe this was purely a business decision which imo was what it was. Money is money and after all Microsoft is in the business of being in business.
  • I will never understand this type of entertainment. I'm a hard core gamer and the last thing I want to do is watch some one else play games. I'm glad Microsoft got out of this, I can only imagine how hard it would be to monitor all the toxic streamers. I assume Microsoft looked at selling it off first and got a better deal from Facebook that made it easier as well. I love Xbox, but would rather be playing games than watching others play.
  • Probably missed most of the point of what sites like Mixer were all about there. Streamers are entertainers. The successful ones aren't just successful because of the games they play, but because of their personality, the quality of their broadcasts and ultimately, the communities they build.
  • I could understand if they are reviewing the game like a movie. But I want to be immersed in the game when I paly. If I'm playing co-op, love it, against someone else, love it. But other than that it's not my cup of tea to have someone else play while I sit by and... do nothing. I have to have my input and have it mean something.
  • Again, you are missing the point. It is not the game they play. It is the person they are. They way they talk. They way they handle their audience. Try to see past the actual gaming and understand that this is not about playing a game only.
  • I know I tried for a few hours here and there to see just what people are so excited about, but... it's just more entertaining to play, period. And to play with friends you know... even more entertaining. I would say watching old sitcoms from the 70's or my 4 year old nephew play games is more entertaining. I've made friends all over the world through gaming and it's just more entertaining by a long shot to have conversations with them about video games than watching these people on Mixer and what have you. And serious, they are not that entertaining. It's like watching a bad show on the Disney channel. Just my opinion, if it entertains you and puts food on their tables so be it. I can think of worse jobs.
  • It’s like watching sport. Some people like it, some don’t. Stop searching for a single truth.
    Some people find it entertaining. Some of the ladies are very nice to watch for me.
    I like watching people play games I have to see how they approach it.
    I like a seeing games I’m undecided about buying to see if it grabs me
    I like some of the real life stuff
    I watched an NYC bike courier for hours one evening. Just seeing what he is seeing in Covid New York.
    It’s something to do when you don’t even want to pick up the up the controller but still prefer gaming over another Hollywood movie firing guns and abducting children or something else that I will find boring. Gaming all the way 🤣
  • People will watch football or baseball games but your don't understand watching video games, especially e-sports? Twitch and YouTube are extremely popular for a reason!
  • I don't watch sports for the same reason. Now if I couldn't play the sport (like Curling) then I might watch it.
  • It's a generational thing, I think. Twitch/YT/Mixer streaming is a stand-in for what going to a bar and watching a football/hockey/basketball game was for my generation. Yeah, it's sort of about the game, but it's mostly about the community experience.
  • I'm with you all the way, I never understood wanting to watch someone play games. I couldn't even get my wife to watch me. Why the hell would anyone else want to? The only thing I used to mixer for was to show someone how to get past something or let someone show me how to get past something.
  • If you ultra skilled at a game. Or funny. Or have big boobs. Then people will watch. If you are Mr average. Nobody will watch.
  • You and me both dude. Why spend time watching someone play a game when you can play it yourself. I have no respect for game streamers.
  • I usually watch streamers to get tips on how to play better. I'm sure a lot of people do the same
  • Mixer streamers got a taste of the bitter World Windows Mobile users were licking. Nothing is good enough for Microsoft when it comes down to establishing grounds. It's easier to hit refresh. And start alienating sets of people. It was in my read a decision made because of hurry. There could have been dozens of better solutions, but they would have required some time and management. Implementing something new though always takes three times as much in the mills of Microsoft though than it would in any other software company, so their decision is understandable. They are incapable of organising any of the other solutions, and steakholders are interested only in money after all. Microsoft keeps handling people as if they were cold enterprises.
  • There seems to be something of a theme to how Microsoft jettisons something it has lost interest in. Whether it is an off-hand remark from Joe Belfiore in a web cast of an internal meeting at Microsoft (Windows Mobile) or a tweet (Mixer), Microsoft displays its utter disdain and indifference to the people that were actually using these products. Not even the courtesy of a press release or a blog post announcing the decision and explaining the rationale or even, in some cases, a sufficiently long notice period for users to make alternative arrangements. After all these years, Microsoft still has so much to learn about how to better communicate with its customers.
  • I don't know who any of these streamers are. I would treat any piece of technology like stock. And there's a reason why Warren Buffet never bets on technology because it is too volatile. Plus Microsoft gave them a month's notice which is far longer than most people get when they are laid off so they were given notice. Now it's up to them to see to use that time wisely to use another platform.
  • If they couldn't see the writing on the wall from a year ago, then they deserve what happened.
    No growth should have been a warning sign. later
    -1
  • Most of the streamers are doing fine on Twitch. I've seen streamers that matched their sub numbers in 1-2 weeks. These people are finding out just how massive of an audience Twitch is even it their are allot more streamers too. Being a smaller streamer in on Twitch can actually make a person more money than if they were a top streamer on Mixer.
  • I don't understand why Microsoft give 40% and don't hit what they want and close it.. Start give 100% on your projects and you will see that even new things can be big when the time go.
  • OMG some of these folks need to grab some backbone. To sit all day on the floor crying about losing your job? Our society needs more coping skills. Try moving your family to a new State and getting to the office and having them say "Sorry, but we're closing our offices. Sorry." You stop whining, caulk it up as a lesson learned, pull your pants up and starting looking for something better.
  • The writing was on the wall when Mixer signed Ninja and Shroud for $50 million but refused to create a native Windows 10 app. That $50 million could have been invested in other places to improve the service.
  • I can't help but think it's a little naive to (apparently) think that being a streamer, working for Microsoft, or doing what you love for a living would make you immune to losing your job.
    Moving cities/states/countries is not an unusual thing for a job in this day and age, and losing said job is always a risk - especially in a volatile field like entertainment/technology.
  • Facebook gaming is still unprofessional and childish. MS should partnered with YouTube gaming instead.
  • It was like watching Windows Phone drama all over again, except the team/person/leader learned one thing: To be quick to say they are closing. Still, they were not upfront about it. They played it like "big news" when it was actually horrible news. Instead they should have been honest: We're terribly sorry, but we're closing Mixer. To give you a form of safety net, we've partnered with facebook gaming as we deem it the best choice from a competition standpoint. But only a few companies dares to put it upfront. (GGG is one of them) I've experienced it from the inside.
    Once I wrote a statement in far smaller scale and was given hell from it, so I resigned my social network role - If they wanted to lie to their consumers, they would have to do that without me. (I was in a very good position to do that and keep my job) Apathy towards fans or partners on the consume side, seems to be the reason why Microsoft will not be popular in anything but enterprise. So far it has taken them 5+ years to change to something better. I have yet to see evidence that the top-level management live after their own mantra: For everyone to achieve more. Until Microsoft rid themselves entirely of people like that pathetic "leader" woman that spoke in the town hall, they will continue to be distrusted and now - after 5 years of following Microsoft, I finally understand why everyone hate Microsoft so much.