I’m only beating this horse in order to remain relevant in the moment but I had my say yesterday on Twitter so I won’t go over the sarcastic responses again. Instead, we need to consider how bad this is for everyone, regardless of your opinion on Mixer, Twitch, or Facebook.
Mixer started out as “Beam” at the start of 2016, and their claim to fame was three-fold. First, it was aiming for low latency. This would allow more of a real-time interaction between a streamer and his or her audience so that there could be more exciting engagement. Second, they offered a type of integration with some games that allowed viewers to trigger events in the games they were watching. Third, they were a potential rival to Twitch. Up until Beam showed up, Twitch owned live-streaming. Twitch had been acquired by Amazon just two years prior, which had made the juggernaut even more powerful. By the end of 2016, Microsoft acquired Beam and eventually renamed it Mixer. With Microsoft’s money behind it, Mixer had a bright future if it could break the gravitational pull of Twitch and get users and streamers to take it seriously.
Mixer’s more recent newsworthiness wasn’t that it was doing anything stellar to improve on the livestreaming formula, but that it had paid supposedly massive amounts of money to lure top-tier streaming personalities from Twitch to its platform in the hopes that viewers would follow. By all accounts some viewers moved with their favorite celebrities, but Mixer grossly overestimated how loyal viewers were. Rather than follow Shroud or Ninja or several others to Mixer, Twitch users raised the flag of Twitch, and cried that they’d never watch anyone on Mixer.
Mixer also suffered from a perception problem. Being a Microsoft property, many people believed that Mixer was an Xbox-only streaming platform. There’s some level of truth to that, as it would be foolish for Microsoft to not pimp Xbox streams on their own service, selling two birds with one stone, but with the help of a third party device from Elgato or similar manufacturer, the Xbox could stream to any service. Mixer had to clear misconceptions in the PC market, but I don’t think they did a good job of disabusing people of their prejudices.
Mixer’s writing was on the wall, as they had let go of their entire internal content team in mid 2019. I’m no accountant, but a move like that would seem that money was being shifted to more important things, like keeping the lights on. As a rank-and-file Mixer user, I received no notice that the service was being handed off to Facebook; I learned about it the hard way: by piecing together Tweets that only had vague allusions to the situation, and a healthy dose of Google-fu. Although it seems that this is a spur of the moment decision, things must have been dire at Mixer HQ for the past year or so.
Should we blame their streamer buying spree for this? If they were in a good place financially then I suppose that such a move wouldn’t have dented their ability to remain afloat, so I can only assume that they thought that if they had the talent, people would start to take them seriously. Let’s call a spade a spade, though: Mixer bribed the talent in the hopes of artificially boosting their user count, and all they got was an empty wallet for their troubles. Their move was akin to buying followers on Instagram. Mixer gambled, and Mixer lost.
What’s worse is that Mixer sold out to Facebook. Facebook is literally the community of last resort for geeks. Facebook has so few redeeming qualities as a community overall that once again, it seems that Microsoft didn’t get the memo. With no prior communication to it’s users, Microsoft must have assumed either that Mixer users would go where they were sent, or would drop off the radar. At any rate, that problem now belongs to Facebook, and Microsoft — never one to enjoy glowing public opinion — can wash its hands of the whole thing.
What about alternatives?
The Noteworthy @Dusty_Monk posted this in one of our Discord servers yesterday, showing that in the grand scheme of things, Mixer was at the bottom. There’s not a lot to cry about when we look at these numbers, but merging the bottom two — Mixer and Facebook — leaves us with Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook.
Twitch is the “easy mode” because it’s the Kleenex of live streaming. Any “getting started” guide out there will tell you how to stream to Twitch, although no “getting started” guide will tell you how to get noticed on that service, which amounts to finding a lost button in the ocean. When people think about watching a livestream, it’s probably Twitch that they go to first.
YouTube’s numbers are pretty nice according to the above chart, and the service is to pre-produced videos what Twitch is to livestreaming, so if you can stomach the kinds of comments you get on a static YouTube video in real time, then it might be an option. Truly, though, I never consider YouTube for livestreaming needs, although I might be in a minority there.
Facebook…well, that’s where we are now, isn’t it? Facebook’s audience is so specific, and so specifically not gaming. Although their growth percent is mindboggling, I cannot see any future where Facebook becomes the de facto choice for new streamers. I do not want to be a part of a future where that happens, because if it does, that means we’ve all lost.
There are a few up-and-comers like Medal, but their business model is completely different, focusing more on short clips of games and not livestreaming with interaction. If Mixer’s market share is where it is, then Medal’s doesn’t even chart.
Is there anyone else on the horizon? I can’t think of anyone, and even if there were, today’s news would be a cold fish-slap in the face. If Microsoft-backed Mixer can’t make it, and can’t even buy it’s way to widespread acceptance and relevance, what chance does anyone else have? The only behemoth company out there right now who isn’t in the streaming business is Apple, and Apple isn’t known for supporting anything other than it’s own devices.
Livestreaming is now a shrinking market with Mixer rolling up into Facebook. At one point, Mixer might have forced Twitch to innovate, but only if Mixer had been a bigger success than it was. Even it’s mere presence was a bulwark against Twitch sliding further into a streaming dystopia because it gave streamers and viewers an option of somewhere else to go that wasn’t “the place that spawned the ‘don’t read the comments’ meme” or…ugh…Facebook. If it ever came to pass that Twitch got so bad that someone wanted to move to nicer fields, Mixer could have been that place. But YT and Facebook come with their own, unique baggage that make leaving Twitch because of a bad experience a potentially lateral move. Beyond that, if there’s no “scrappy up-and-comer” who can actually innovate in the field of livestreaming, what impetus will Twitch, YouTube, or Facebook have to fight that fight? There won’t need to be anything better than “good enough” when the answer to any request to improve is “no, because where are you going to go?”