Microsoft is shutting down Mixer and moving most of its streamers to Facebook Gaming as part of a strategic partnership it’s entering with the social media giant. The major streamers locked into exclusivity deals with Mixer — including stars like Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Cory “King Gothalion” Michael, and Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek — will be released from their contracts, and Microsoft says it’s up to them where they decide to go.
“It’s up to them and their priorities,” says Vivek Sharma, the head of Facebook Gaming, meaning the platform isn’t actively pursuing exclusive agreements with any of Mixer’s biggest names.
Where streamers like Blevins and Grzesiek will now go is totally up in the air; Blevins only left Twitch last August, reportedly for a contract worth between $20 and $30 million. That particular acquisition kicked off the war for live-streaming talent, which resulted in YouTube, Facebook Gaming, and Twitch signing many other big names in the streaming space (and more than a few paydays for the beneficiaries). Before last August, explicitly exclusive contracts and professional sports-esque paydays were rare, even though the biggest live-streamers were commanding huge audiences.
It also kicked off a grand experiment: how would viewers respond to their favorite streamers moving to other platforms? The answer wasn’t encouraging. Blevins saw a huge decrease in viewership, though he was by far the biggest name on Mixer, and his follower count dropped by more than 10 million.
Facebook Gaming, for its part, will honor partner status for streamers coming from Mixer, though they will have to sign a new contract with Facebook. It’s also worth noting that Facebook Gaming hasn’t been emphasizing exclusivity when it signs new streamers. Jeremy “DisguisedToast” Wang, Facebook Gaming’s most prominent American face, is still able to stream on Twitch.
Since its birth in August 2017, Mixer has struggled to find a foothold in the live-streaming wars; it’s always been the smallest of the major streaming platforms, and in numerical terms, it hasn’t managed to draw the kind of audiences that would make the venture sustainable. April’s StreamElements and Arsenal.gg live-streaming industry report had the writing on the wall: where Twitch posted 100 percent year-over-year growth in terms of hours watched and Facebook Gaming grew a full 238 percent compared to April 2019, Mixer only managed to grow two-tenths of a percent. “We started pretty far behind,” Xbox head Phil Spencer says.
“We don’t think this is a winner take all world,” Sharma says of the larger live-streaming industry. But here, he might be wrong: Mixer couldn’t scale and ultimately couldn’t convince gamers and the live-streaming community at large that it was a community worth spending much time in. Signing streamers like Blevins — who left Twitch for a contract reportedly worth between $20 and $30 million — now looks like the last gasp of a terminal platform. Mixer’s last day will be July 22nd, 2020. This part of the experiment, it seems, is over.