Commentary

Microsoft Hopes 'Ninja' Will Add Players, Viewers To Mixer Platform

“Yes, it’s a big deal,” read the subhed of The New York Times’ report after multimillionaire gamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins left Amazon’s Twitch platform for Microsoft’s Mixer on Aug. 1. Just how big -- particularly for Mixer -- is the question.

“I know this may come as a shock to many of you, but as of today I will be streaming exclusively on Mixer,” the 28-year-old Blevins said in the video posted  to Twitter announcing his departure from Twitch, where he was approaching 15 million  followers, more than twice the fan base for No. 2 streamer Michael “shroud” Grzesiek. “I feel like this is a really good chance to get back in touch with my roots and really remember why I fell in love with streaming in the first place,” Blevins maintained.

“Whether Blevins’ fans would follow him from Twitch to Mixer, a much smaller platform compared to Amazon’s streaming behemoth, has been a question on the minds of everyone in the streaming community this past week,” Julia Alexander wrote  for Verge after he had already attracted a million viewers within five days. 

“One million subscribers over five days is an impressive feat regardless of platform, and it’s a strong testament to Blevins’ popularity and the strength of his personal brand regardless of platform. Yet it’s unclear how many of those subscribers will be still there in two months, after a free promotion expires and fans will have to pay a monthly fee to continue receiving exclusive perks,” Alexander points out.

Microsoft acquired the Seattle-based Beam platform from 18-year-old Matt Salsamendi in 2016 and renamed it Mixer in 2017. It lags far behind Twitch in popularity, however. 

“Many people hadn’t heard of Mixer before, but it provides the same basic service as Twitch. Gamers can stream themselves playing live. The audience can chat with each other and interact with the streamers. Viewers can pay to subscribe to channels they like, and both sites have their own version of tipping systems,” writes  James Leggate for FOXBusiness.

But now, it’s got a shot at making it in the big leagues.

“The terms of Mr. Blevins’s current and former deals couldn’t be learned, but Mixer’s move made Microsoft a buyer in the red-hot market for streamer talent. Streaming is an increasingly big part of the $150 billion-a-year global videogame industry, as more people spend more time watching others play games online -- drawing advertising dollars and subscriptions and influencing which game titles gain popularity. The streaming platforms depend on big-name players like Mr. Blevins to attract viewers,” Sarah E. Needleman points out  for The Wall Street Journal.

“Microsoft needs top streamers to establish Mixer as a true destination to compete with Twitch and YouTube,” Macquarie Securities analyst Ben Schachter tells her. 

“Competitive pressure is growing because Google plans to introduce a cloud-gaming platform in November called Stadia that will be integrated with YouTube, potentially strengthening its position,” Needleman adds.

Blevins, meanwhile, continues to maintain that money isn’t everything.

 “On August 10, Ninja watched a short fan-made animated video, highlighting some of his biggest moments and achievements on Twitch, such as the livestream with Drake and being the first and only streamer to hit the 10 million follower mark on the platform,” writes  Daniel Cleary for Dexerto. “The video ended with a Mixer logo pouring out money for the animated Fortnite streamer who looked thrilled by seeing the cash raining down, suggesting that financial gain was one of the main reasons for Ninja’s switch.

“However, after laughing at video, Ninja quickly shut down the claim that his move to Mixer was primarily incentivized by money as many fans had believed: ‘I can’t even give you guys specifics but trust me, money was not the incentive, that I can tell you,’” Cleary adds.

Blevins was not so amused, however, this weekend after Twitch started  “promoting other streamers piggybacking on his brand [twitch.tv/ninja] while he doesn’t have any say in the matter,” reports  Abhishek Baxi for OnMFST. “To add to the mess, on August 11, one Twitch channel streamed Fortnite and Minecraft-themed porn for over two hours before it was taken down -- a stream that was ‘recommended’ on Ninja’s now-defunct channel,” Baxi adds.

“I have no say in any of this stuff. This is the line, this is the straw …,” Blevins says in another Twitter video bemoaning his fate at the hands of The Amazon.

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