I want to talk about my experiences as a mixer viewer, from 2017 until today, and what I've seen so far. It's a bit long, I hope it's worth your time. This is something ive sent to someone else, but i figured i might as well post it here too. Noone is probably gonna care/read any of this, but i already spent so much time writting it, so why not ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Back in 2018 mixer was amazing. They had an extremely positive community (unlike twitch/YouTube), they were rolling some new features that made them different than twitch/YT etc., they were very open about themselves as a company and had A+ technical support. The platform was growing quite fast, and it seemed like it could get big sometime in the future. But in 2019 something changed. I remember their 3rd anniversary stream, and one member of the team said something along the lines of "Well, 2020 is gonna be an interesting year for us, it's time to go bigger and Microsoft has been gracious so far with us, but they still have expectations and we have to deliver.". He seemed a tiny bit worried, which was strange because he was an extremely cheerful person. But now, it makes sense. A few weeks later, they signed ninja on the platform.
Looking back, mixer was always a but weird in terms of feature development. Basic stuff like clips, gifting subs, or a smooth mobile app were missing (the mobile app was v buggy at launch, and even when it started running well months later, it just never was as smooth as the twitch app.)
Plus it was also nonexistent in other consoles. Which is weird because Microsoft has been in business with both Nintendo and Sony. Why didn't they push for a mixer app on these consoles? They ported 3 Xbox exclusive games to Switch and are working with Sony on cloud gaming. They had a way to push for wider adoption for mixer, just by asking and pushing around a bit, but the executives probably didn't even remember about it.
In 2018, they start signing a lot of smaller streamers from twitch, all of them are hyped because of how open the mixer staff is and it seemed like they were excited about moving to mixer. (Nearly all of them returned to twitch in 2019, very bitter about the whole ordeal. Many mentioned a sudden change in mixers leadership in early-mid 2019, leaving suddenly many streamers in the dark, feeling that mixer didn't care for them anymore as their feedback was going nowhere.)
In the fall of '18, mixer launches something called "Season 2". It brought a lot of unique features, like 'embers' which was mixers version of twitch bits, and sparks. Basically, you would gain points (or sparks as they were called) for watching a streamer, and then you could spend those points on chat-stickers, GIFs and other fun stuff. If you were a mixer partner and your community spent a lot of sparks in your chat, reaching certain milestones within a week ("200.000 million sparks" for example), could get you a check from mixer directly, from $50 all the way up to $1500. That was something exciting and new, with a lot of positive feedback. Communities could support their fav streamers without paying, just by watching and chatting. But in early 2019, they changed it so now partners, instead of getting payouts, they would just receive small bonuses based on the amount of embers they got in a week (the highest tier was "15% increase"). Which just wasn't very exciting. Some streamers were hit hard by this, as mixer was a small platform and they didn't have as much moneymaking opportunities as other platforms.
Mixer loot was an amazing idea as well, it worked like twitch drops, but you couldnt just watch streams and win stuff. You had to watch streamers perform specific tasks, like getting kills, using their ultimates etc, and then an AI would detect those happening on stream along w you watching these moments, and would grant you chances to win stuff. It brought an amazing element of interaction, making the whole process seem like a game instead of just leaving a stream open in the background and not paying attention. Sadly, it was only used a couple times, for apex legends in summer of 18 (to promote apex's season 2 launch), and halo 5, right before E3 2019.
Hypezone was also amazing, AI controlled channels that would scout the platform, detect streams that were close to winning a match in battle royale matches, like fortnite, apex, pubg etc, and then procced to host them. And just like that, it would bring often small channels in front of thousands (same w the 'up and coming' section in the frontpage, met a lot of great people in there!). But it just wasnt enough, same with allowing everyone to get access to be paid through embers on mixer, not just partners.
In retrospect, it all makes sense. In the blog about moving to Facebook gaming, Phil Spencer mentions that they are going to promote XCloud, using Facebook. Microsoft knew years ago that:
- It wanted to build a cloud gaming service.
- Both Amazon and Google were working in their cloud gaming services as well.
- Both companies were going to use their video platforms to push their cloud services. (Google with Stadia/Youtube, Amazon with "Project Tempo" next yeaTwitch).
But Microsoft didn't have any video platforms! So instead of making one from scratch, they buy one, that also conveniently is amazing with low latency (important for anything cloud-related). Mixer had amazing low latency, under 1 second, which was unheard of at the time. (For real, it was crazy. I would chat with streamers and it would feel like we were having an irl conversation)
And they hope that the platform get big enough in time for 2020, when XCloud hits the market. But:
- They add a lot of corporate managers on top of mixer, which slows down development on features and just makes things more complicated.
- They don't push the mixer app on more consoles (who knows, maybe bc Sony and Nintendo wouldn't allow xcloud on their hardware, the Xbox team thinks that there's no reason to push mixer there, because in their minds xcloud=mixer. That's just speculation.)
- The marketing for the service was just not good. There were weird/uninteresting ads and even appeared on a soccer team's uniforms as a sponsor. They made deals with rooster teeth and post malone for no reason, wasting tons of money in the process. It never felt like the marketing team knew what they were promoting. (Unfortunately, it seems like Microsoft has deleted all mixer ads from their YouTube channel. They weren't anything interesting though, with just a few thousand views each.)
- The 2 other players in the space, twitch and YouTube, are just too big. It wasn't impossible for mixer to grow to a healthy audience size, but for that to happen it would need tons of money (more that MS gave, and they gave a lot) and time. But Microsoft wasn't willing to give neither of those.
Mixer was in many ways revolutionary, but it just didn't have the full support that it needed to have. I'm afraid it was seen as the means to an end (xcloud), rather than its own unique, great platform. And it fucking sucks. The people at mixer had gone at great lengths to keep the platform positive and drama-free, while trying to think out of the box with some features like sparks, mixplay (a way to play games in the site along w streamers/audience) etc. But it never got the chance to prove its value.
I suspect that they saw many streamers contracts going up for grabs in 2019-2020 and thought that it was the perfect time to strike and grab a ton of people, starting with Ninja. BUT, the platform didn't have as many features as twitch/YouTube, and wasn't available on as many platforms as those two opponents. So, many people logged into mixer to take a look, and they just left. Ninja's viewership numbers fall, and now most streamers aren't sure about switching to mixer, choosing to stay with twitch instead or leave to YouTube, an established player in the space. Only a couple more streamers go to mixer, but it isn't the wave they hoped it would be. The platform simply wasn't ready yet. So Microsoft killed it.
It sucks. It sucks even more for streamers, their choices now are Facebook, YouTube and twitch. Neither of these companies are well-received in the public's mind, and for good reasons. They are used because there are no alternatives that can live up to these giants.
I wish things were done differently. I wish mixers dev team was allowed to work faster and better, and I wish these corporate managers on top of them were fired for their incompetence. But they aren't.
That's it. 2 small closing thoughts.
- The recent reveal about racist incidents that happened on mixer didn't make the situation better. But it's interesting to see that almost all of them had to do with the corporate executives, and not the actual team that was working
- Fun fact. On mixers 1st birthday, they changed their front-page UI to be a carousel-like page, with the ability to click left and right and see multiple mixer partners streams, along with discovering new streamers on a section below. However, they also kept the original front-page design if anyone wanted to use it, you just had to turn it on, in the settings. A couple months later, twitch completely copies their front-page design, with a carousel-like UI element and a "new streamers" section. You can still find all that on twitch's frontpage today. The day after twitch changed their ui, mixer disables the old UI, forcing everyone on their new one.
All that happened again, with sparks. A year after mixer added them, twitch copied them, dubbing them simply "points".
I guess the lesson here is that if you're the underdog and is trying to find new ways to grow and get to the top, just be aware that anyone that is on the top will be watching you, ready to copy every single move you make to keep you down. You just gotta be fast enough.
However, i don't think of the platform as a stupid, pointless experiment, not at all. It was a very positive influence, and I've met some great people in there, through hypezone (that was so cool!), and the 'up and coming' frontpage section. There was value in it, and I wish Microsoft could realize how important was what they had. If they cared about mixer and took care of it until it reached a respectable audience, they would have hit a goldmine.
Godspeed mixer. GGs.