Here's why Microsoft shut down gaming app Mixer and partnered with Facebook Gaming

Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 1:10 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 1:10 pm
Prolific gamer Ninja's deal to stream exclusively through Mixer was thought to be worth between $20 million and $30 million per year (Photo: Robert Reiners/Getty Images)

Microsoft has announced that it is closing its Mixer streaming service, less than a year after it pinched Ninja – a prolific Fortnite streamer who amassed a following of millions as he played – from rival streaming service Twitch as part of a lucrative exclusivity deal.

Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox at Microsoft, said the decision came down to “the time needed to grow our own livestreaming community to scale” being “out of measure with the vision and experiences we want to deliver to gamers now.”

“The success of Partners and streamers on Mixer is dependent on our ability to scale the service for them as quickly and broadly as possible,” Spencer added in a blog post, “so we’ve decided to close the operations side of Mixer and help the community transition to a new platform.”

The streaming platform will cease to operate from Wednesday 22 July.

Here’s everything you need to know:

What is Mixer?

Mixer – based in Seattle and owned by Microsoft – is a video game live streaming platform, which allows users to broadcast their gameplay in real time to fans and followers, much like the much more popular Twitch, to which it was once positioned as a rival.

The service launched in early 2016, but struggled to maintain a grip on the streaming industry.

Its selling point was that it offered more features designed to allow viewers to interact with streams than other platforms.

This included features integrated into games to allow users to affect gameplay or vote on elements using buttons displayed alongside the stream.

Users earned “Sparks” for watching and participating in streams, which could then be spent to activate these features.

When announcing his move to the new platform, Ninja – who in 2018 made nearly £8.3m from playing video games – said, “honestly I’m lost for words, I’m freaking out in the best of ways.”

“I just feel like I’m going to get back to the streaming roots, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Where will the Mixer community go?

The streaming service – while not as subscribed as others – was widely praised for fostering a community that was welcoming, supportive and positive, something of a rarity in many online spaces.

So where will that community go now?

“To better serve our community’s needs,” said Spencer, “we’re teaming up with Facebook to enable the Mixer community to transition to Facebook Gaming.”

From 22 July, all Mixer sites and apps will redirect users to Facebook Gaming, and as of now Facebook Gaming is making it easy “for anyone in the Mixer community to join, if they choose to do so.”

The combination of Microsoft’s Mixer tech and that of Facebook Gaming – where every month more than 700 million people play a game or watch a gaming video – is expected to allow new experiences going forward.

For one, Microsoft is hoping to one day incorporate its Project xCloud technology with Facebook Gaming, which would allow players to play the latest games on any screen they own, regardless of whether they own the expensive tech usually required to run graphically demanding games.

What’s happening to Ninja?

Some of Mixer’s biggest streamers – including the aforementioned Ninja, Cory “King Gothalion” Michael and Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek – are now considered free agents, with Microsoft terminating their contracts and saying they are free to decide where they continue their streaming careers.

Vivek Sharma, head of Facebook Gaming, said “it’s up to them and their priorities,” and confirmed that neither party would be pursuing exclusive agreements with any of Mixer’s biggest names.