Mixer’s Poaching of Twitch’s Big Names Just Doesn’t Move the Needle

First it was Ninja. Now it’s Shroud. Mixer is trying to build momentum by buying big names — but can it translate to views?

Image: Chris Stokel-Walker

It’s been a big year for single-name personalities and platforms. Months after Mixer, the Microsoft-owned streaming platform, managed to woo Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, at the time pretty much Twitch’s only streamer with mainstream appeal, they’ve done it again with another big name: Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek.

The deal Mixer has brokered to poach Shroud from Amazon-owned Twitch is billboard news: 20 minutes after it was announced on Shroud’s Twitter feed, the video was watched 400,000 times, and industry watchers and insiders rippled with excitement. But there’s little evidence from Mixer’s previous big-name signing that the deal to nab Shroud will do much to build a long-term audience.

The number of hours watched on Mixer didn’t increase significantly after signing Ninja, according to data compiled by live streaming platform StreamElements. While Twitch increased its market share by 3% in the last three months, Mixer saw a 0.2% increase.

However, it did have a broader impact — one that may be felt in the longer run. It built brand awareness.

“Mixer is making some bold moves, first with Ninja, now with Shroud, two of the most popular personalities on Twitch,” says Doron Nir, CEO of StreamElements.

“We’ve learned from Twitch that building a successful streaming platform is a long slow process, so whether or not these signings immediately move the needle in terms of hours watched should not be the litmus test for whether or not Mixer is making sound strategic moves. It could take years to see how everything plays out. One obvious benefit is Mixer has quickly put their name on the radar of everyone who is following the live streaming scene which is an important step in the growth process,” says Nir.

“It’s in no way surprising that Microsoft is looking to bring more big name talent to their platform. Ninja was signed in August, it led to a big surge in search traffic for Mixer and got a ton of news attention,” says Travis Shreffler, founder of Bottlespark, a company that connects streamers and advertisers. “It also brought in a bunch of streamers from Twitch to Mixer and they started making their content there.”

But what it didn’t do was make viewers stick around. “Mixer’s problem isn’t that nobody is making good content on their platform. Their problem is that people aren’t watching it,” says Shreffler.

How to fix that is another question entirely. Microsoft hasn’t been shy in trying to promote Mixer — doing more, arguably, than Amazon has done in the five years it’s owned Twitch since buying it for $970 million. It has shifted preview streams of Xbox games to Mixer from Twitch, which had a short-term boost that didn’t translate into long-term benefits. It’s built out an on-platform currency that tries to boost loyalty — with little seeming impact.

“It’s very reminiscent of the Chinese and Korean streaming services out there, but I think those micro-transaction heavy services for entertainment don’t translate well to Western audiences,” says Shreffler.

Sometimes it’s hard to pry away audiences, particularly if everything, from the streaming setup to the way microtransactions are handled to the fact that there’s no alternative to dark mode, isn’t conducive to what your audience wants.

For now, Microsoft seems willing to gamble big on spending to bring over some of Twitch’s biggest names, hoping they’ll bring over their audiences. But the best bellwether of people’s perceptions about the big-name signings Mixer are making can be found from their latest hot addition.

When Ninja signed with Mixer, Shroud was streaming at the time. He was asked by a fan for his thoughts. “Who cares?” he replied.

“Everyone who has a healthy viewerbase on Twitch, tread carefully,” Shroud added. “That is a very, very difficult decision, and if you commit to something like that, who knows what the fuck is going to happen. Think for a second before you jump the gun to another platform. Think about how it was to start on Twitch. Now you’ve got to do it again.”

(For what it’s worth, Ninja’s manager and wife, Jessica Blevins, has since said that her husband’s move to Mixer was due to unhappiness at licensing opportunities off Twitch.)

On the same stream, Shroud also said he wouldn’t move to Mixer for $10 million. “I am in a position where I don’t really have to go anywhere,” he said.

However, there were hints at unease. “Am I content? No,” said Shroud to his audience. “I’m always trying to improve; move forward.”

Shroud called the Ninja move a great decision for the gaming community. “No we just wait and see what happens,” he said back in August. “It might be a couple of months until we see anything happen.”

FFWD

Chris Stokel-Walker

Written by

UK-based freelancer for The Guardian, The Economist, BuzzFeed News, the BBC and more. Tell me your story, or get me to write for you: stokel@gmail.com

FFWD

FFWD

Getting you up to speed with the world of online video

Chris Stokel-Walker

Written by

UK-based freelancer for The Guardian, The Economist, BuzzFeed News, the BBC and more. Tell me your story, or get me to write for you: stokel@gmail.com

FFWD

FFWD

Getting you up to speed with the world of online video

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