Source: Windows Central
Microsoft’s Mixer streaming platform has a huge hill to climb, and lately, it’s arguably gotten even bigger. Microsoft shook up the streaming industry last year when it began buying up major streaming talent, including the likes of Ninja and Shroud, and bringing their sizeable audiences to the platform. While it hasn’t proven to be the silver bullet Mixer may have hoped for, it certainly was disruptive. Amazon’s Twitch began dropping piles of cash on its stars to keep them from jumping ship, and just last week, Google announced a major deal with Activision-Blizzard for exclusive rights to stream its esports and events on YouTube.
Begun, the streaming wars have. And Mixer is by far the underdog in this space.
Microsoft has incredibly deep pockets, but cash only goes so far. Mixer has a range of problems, both in terms of its culture and its platform, creating a headache for streamers and users. With both of Mixer’s founders departing Microsoft last year, Mixer can no longer hide behind its “indie” status — it’s part of a massive corporation, and in some ways, it has to meet those expectations.
The past couple of weeks I’ve spoken to dozens of Mixer partners, both former and current, and Microsoft itself, to learn more about what issues the platform has to overcome, and what the future holds for Mixer.
Source: Windows Central Mixer @ E3 2019.
Mixer streams tend to be less reliable than Twitch and YouTube, requiring users to frequently refresh to get video or audio working correctly. I found this to be the case most often while using Microsoft’s old legacy Edge browser, although I haven’t had any problems with Chrome, Firefox, or the new Chromium Edge. Either way, it remains the top complaint that I’ve been hearing, and it has also become a bit of a harmful meme regarding Mixer in general.
Another complaint pertains to platform consistency across devices and apps. The ability to subscribe to a streamer — a primary source of income for content creators — remains inaccessible on some apps, naturally hurting the streamer’s bottom line. Money was another source of frustration for partners, with Microsoft’s experiments on allowing partners to earn cash via Sparks or Embers creating a perception of inconsistent income. For clarity, Microsoft has always labeled such things as “events” or “experiments,” but I’d argue that you can’t play with people’s cash flow and expect to not suffer backlash when you take it away. The fact that this was brought up repeatedly during my conversations shows that there’s still some lingering resentment about the way Microsoft handled these events.
Source: Windows Central There’s no official Mixer app for Windows 10 right now.
These are just a few of the concerns that were sent over to me in the past few weeks, which also include frustrations over its clothing policies which some streamers feel disproportionately target female creators, lack of focus on variety streaming versus battle royale and Fortnite, in addition to soft marketing and user acquisition.
Source: Ninja Ninja announces he joins Mixer.
Truth be told, Microsoft is increasingly in direct competition with Google and Amazon on the gaming front. Leaving Microsoft games and services discovery to the mercy of Google and Amazon might not be the smartest business decision, especially in a world where cloud gaming is poised to expand. The reality of viewing a game stream, to moving directly into playing it is fast approaching, and it’s only Microsoft and Google that have the infrastructure in place to create this reality today.
Source: UbisoftTwitch runs various direct promotions with games, Mixer runs very few.
That said, Microsoft has a long way to go before offering a compelling competing product. As noted, Google just bought up exclusive rights to stream Activision-Blizzard game’s esports and events, which is a huge blow to Twitch. Microsoft may have bought up Ninja, Shroud, and a few others, but they’re a drop in the ocean compared to landing exclusive streaming deals with entire games. Microsoft already has a deal in place with HiRez for games like Smite and Paladins, but I’d argue that expanding this to other major industry heavyweights is smarter than buying up any individual streamers alone. Microsoft needs to shift a game’s entire community if it wants to compete with the likes of Twitch and YouTube long-term.
“We have heard the feedback from Mixer’s community and our Partners regarding areas where we must improve the service. We recognize that increasing video stability, better discovery capabilities, additional monetization opportunities, and broadening our marketing programs are critically important to our streamers, and we are focused on supporting their success. Our new Head of Mixer, Shilpa Yadla, is committed to addressing these critical needs and in delivering an incredible experience for Mixer’s streamers and viewers. The entire Mixer team is working tirelessly behind the scenes on these and other new initiatives to help maintain our positive, welcoming culture as we continue to grow. We expect 2020 will be an exciting year for Mixer and our community.”
Microsoft is working on a lot of these aspects already as noted, but one thing that often typifies Microsoft, in general, is its slow, slow speed of doing basically anything. Unlike a smaller independent company that can move way faster, Microsoft is a lumbering giant that has too many working cogs for its own good. Doing something as basic as changing the terms of service can take literal months, as it passes through various legal teams and institutions. Twitch and YouTube have similar problems, but they’re already established — Mixer isn’t, and catching up is going to take rapidity and urgency more so than anything else.
I don’t believe for a second that Mixer is doomed to follow Microsoft’s various other failed pet projects. The hill it has to climb is steep, but not impossible, as long as Microsoft can find the will to do so.
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