Last week we learned from head of Xbox Phil Spencer that on the 22nd of July the Mixer streaming service will be shut down. On the face of it it looks like a massive failure for Microsoft and the announced partnership program for Mixer streamers to migrate to Facebook Gaming was met with scepticism and the usual concern peddling from online commentators.
After giving a few days for the story to breathe, let us go through this is some more detail and discuss the ‘why’ as well as the outlook for both Facebook Gaming and the remnants of the Mixer team and service.
Let’s start with the provably false before putting on our armchair CEO letter jackets, shall we?
- Microsoft will introduce a Facebook style partnership to Series X where your streaming account need to be tied to Facebook.
While on the surface this could seem true given the titles for articles used by some media sites, this has proven false by a Q&A on Reddit from Larry Hyrb – AKA Major Nelson. “If you are asking if the current Mixer integration in the dashboard is just going to become Facebook gaming. The answer is no.”
2. Microsoft has fired the Mixer team for no reason which is bad for the employees.
In reading the press release from MR Spenser and other reporting the Mixer technology like FTL streaming protocols and interactivity Features will be absorbed into Microsoft Teams, a service which has exploded in popularity due to the work from home changes brought on worldwide by the COVID-19 pandemic. >I have seen reporting that the mixer team will be absorbed into the MS Teams team to make this work as seamlessly as possible but am still waiting a source from MS.
So, the big 2 talking points are out of the way. Lets discuss why this happened and the future of Microsofts ambitions in streaming.
Reason #1 : Mixer had a lot of streamers but not enough of an audience.
Mixer accounted for 17% of streamed hours published last quarter but only accounted for 2% of hours watched. This tells us a year on from the big purchases of notable streamers like Ninja and Shroud there was simply not enough interest to drive viewership to the platform. Given this current climate where people are home more often and consuming more stream hours, this does not instill confidence in the service from an executive perspective. We have also seen streamlab reports that in the previous 12 months the growth rate of Mixer was only 0.2% which is extremely poor considering the growth of double digits by all other competing services.
Reason#2 : Facebook gaming provided the easiest transition for mixer partners.
It is unfortunate that mixer is shutting down because there were hundreds of home grown streamers on the service who were making a living doing the thing they liked to do. Unfortunately there is no silver bullet to fix a failing service and given that they had issues previously trying and failing to grow an audience, but what do you do with these affected streamers post July 22? The answer is to find them the best deal on a competing service. Microsoft looked around and asked facebook to give their mixer streamers partener status on facebook gaming allowing their streams to be monetised. This is the best outcome as while we never know how far talks with twitch or youtube gaming went I cant imagine such favourable terms being given to mixer partners from there.
Reason #3 : the Facebook deal provides an avenue for X-cloud in the future.
In Mr Spensers blog post he says “Key to this vision is our Project xCloud technology, which we see delivering games to all kinds of screens and windows in your life, including those on Facebook. Gaming is already part of our social fabric, and Project xCloud can take you from discussing a new game – whether it’s a funny in-game moment posted by a friend, an ad, or an ongoing stream – directly to playing it. In the future, through the power of Xbox Live and Project xCloud, we see there being just one click between “I’m watching” and “I’m playing.” “
Facebook and Instagram have over 2 billion active user accounts, putting Gamepass and X-Cloud streaming in front of them is a big win for Microsoft. Removing the barrier to entry from $500 box or $1000 PC to $10/month stream pass opens the market to a wider variety of gamers and can grow the dynamics of the industry and allow more certainty for Microsoft in their marketing and publishing budgets, smaller games are not as risky and there won’t be a requirement to meet x amount of bloated gameplay hours when the $60 tag is removed from the game box. Its now up to Microsoft to make the X-Cloud a service that is an easy thing for the casual audience to understand.
Overall I think that the move is a disappointing one for the passionate employees of the mixer team and the many streamers who made mixer their home. Unfortunately, this was a foretold conclusion from around a few years ago when mixer failed to make an impact on the streaming market and also never really maintained relevance. Microsoft has done their best to salvage the best deals out of a bad situation. I am optimistic about the future that Microsoft is chasing here.
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