When Mixer partner UnicornGaming found out Microsoft was killing Mixer, he was watching a friend's stream. He'd built up more than 35,000 followers since 2017, and with no warning, the whole platform was suddenly about to disappear. He likened the announcement to "being dumped over text." The news came as a nasty surprise, leaving him feeling so bitter that in his final Mixer stream he didn't even want to continue playing games on his Xbox. "You just see it there and it's like being kicked in the stomach. You've just lost everything that you've worked for."
Last week, Mixer—Microsoft's streaming platform—announced that it would be shutting down operations and partnering with Facebook Gaming. The news was abrupt, to say the least, first tweeted by the official Mixer Twitter account with a link to a blog post outlining how Microsoft plans to migrate users over to Facebook's streaming service.
Mixer Partners, streamers, and community - today, we've got some very big news for you.While we’ve decided to close the operations side of Mixer, we're officially partnering with @FacebookGaming and we're cordially inviting all of you to join.📰 https://t.co/E1eMDvjYQb pic.twitter.com/554hHAXfaBJune 22, 2020
Despite having signed multi-million dollar exclusivity deals with popular former Twitch streamers like Tyler 'Ninja' Blevins and Michael 'shroud' Grzesiek less than a year ago, Mixer will cease all online operations by July 22, 2020. High profile partners are now free agents, and they'll easily secure contracts elsewhere. The same might not be true for the rest of the Mixer community, which is now in a precarious position.
Smaller streamers have spent months or even years building up their audiences, only to find out via a tweet that their platform is dying. However they react, they'll have to do it quickly.
In our interview last week, UnicornGaming suggested that a notice period before the announcement "would've been an easier transition for communities." Other Mixer partners have echoed similar feelings towards the closure. s0apy had been streaming for ten months, as well as studying full-time and balancing a part-time job.
"I actually quit my job just one or two weeks before this because streaming was going so well and I thought I could invest more time in it," she said. "It's such a poor way to handle [the situation], not giving us any time to transfer, or branch, or even the chance to start something up somewhere else before we have to abruptly end."
While the news was a major shock for Mixer's partners, it was also seemingly a surprise for Microsoft employees, too. "You can tell the staff had no idea," said partnered variety streamer KarimCheese, who had been organising a Mixer creator challenge for the end of the year. Those plans were still in motion just three days before the closure was announced. "They wouldn't be working tirelessly, helping us in getting ready and prepping all of these things for nothing."
Mixer program manager Tara Voelker Wake reaffirmed that staff were very much out of the loop in her tweet last week:
Just so you know HOW MUCH we didn't know this was coming, last week they asked me to send in my picture for our town hall to celebrate my 3 year Mixer anniversaryJune 22, 2020
Communication channels between Mixer and its streamers appear to have been very limited, even after the announcement. An email sent out to partners outlined the details of the Facebook Gaming partnerships that would be extended to each of them. Information was also posted in the Partner Discord channel. "It would've softened the blow if it was delivered with more of a heart," UnicornGaming said.
"They basically put us in a garbage bag," KarimCheese said. "And, you know, Facebook was a garbage truck coming down the block to take us."
Microsoft has stated that Mixer Partners will be granted partner status with Facebook Gaming, attempting to honor and match previous agreements as closely as possible. However, the three partnered streamers I spoke to are all currently in the process of moving their communities over to Twitch.
"I feel like the gesture is kind, but the contract—I've read it over, they've posted it on social media—the contract does not seem right," KarimCheese highlighted. As tweeted by esports consultant Rod 'Slasher' Breslau, the new contract allegedly offers "a one time $2,500 signing bonus for Mixer partners who choose to move to the Facebook Gaming Creator Program and stay for 90 days (and fulfill obligations)." Maintaining CCV (concurrent viewership) for Facebook Gaming is reportedly one of the conditions that partners will have to meet in order to secure the signing bonus.
sources: Facebook is offering a one time $2,500 signing bonus for Mixer partners who choose to move to the Facebook Gaming Creator Program and stay for 90 days (and fulfill obligations)June 22, 2020
While the process is inconvenient, popular streamers moving to another platform should hypothetically take a sizable portion of their community with them. The whole point of building an online community is to create a permanent space for viewers. People that genuinely want to continue being a part of it will usually follow. In practice, retaining this pool when hopping over to a different platform is far from guaranteed. Mixer's plans for growing its platform by banking on big streamers clearly never worked as intended. Both Ninja and shroud saw viewership decrease dramatically after departing Twitch for Mixer.
s0apy said the Facebook Gaming offer is "better than nothing," but many Mixer streamers are transferring to Twitch instead. "You don't want to invest all of that time, again, into a platform that you didn't even believe in from the beginning just because you have partner status," she said. "Coming from a small platform like Mixer that you believed in, that you chose, and you did not choose to leave … you don't want to be on another platform that closes down."
"My issue with Facebook, personally, is I see it as a social media platform and only a social media platform," said Unicorn Gaming. He and s0apy both noted its interface is lacking compared to dedicated streaming platforms. Setting up a stream is quick and simple because Twitch has been focused on live streaming for so long. The service has also made efforts over the years to reduce the delay between streamers and their chats, and improved its UI.
Twitch had a long headstart on Mixer, so why did these streamers choose Mixer to start building their communities to begin with? Twitch may be miles ahead as the largest platform, but it also has the fiercest competition for budding streamers.
The right mix
s0apy said there were "just good vibes all over Mixer," which ultimately drew her to it. She started streaming around the time Ninja joined and was confident that Microsoft "really believed in their platform and wanted to grow it." She envisioned herself growing with it.
Some of Mixer's communities ran far deeper. UnicornGaming started as a viewer back when it was known as Beam, following another streamer over from Twitch. From watching his favourite streamer to moderating on their channel, he became invested in the community.
Discoverability also played a major factor in KarimCheese and s0apy's decisions to start streaming on Mixer. "I chose Mixer because I was an Xbox gamer at the time," said KarimCheese. "I would stream from my Xbox and I was a success story … I streamed on Mixer from the very beginning. I didn't go the Twitch route because I knew I would get buried in the directories."
If you've ever scrolled to the bottom of the page in a popular category on Twitch, you'll likely see tens of streamers with low viewer counts, or in some instances, no viewers at all. It's easy to get overlooked, and time invested in streaming doesn't necessarily equate to success. Until now, the gamble of going with Mixer over Twitch had clearly paid off for some streamers. These creators all managed to achieve partner status, and were able to rely on it as a source of income. Doing that full-time is a dream that very few people manage to realise, yet it was possible for some on Mixer, if only for a short period of time.
Despite being forced to leave a platform they had carefully chosen for themselves, all three partners are hopeful and determined to continue growing on Twitch. "I still have those little moments where I'll have a little cry. It's a lot of work that's suddenly gone down the drain, but I'm not disheartened," said UnicornGaming. "It's going to get me down, but I'm already seeing my follower count go up a lot."
Starting fresh on Twitch means that former Mixer streamers will have to work through Twitch's affiliate program before their viewers can begin subscribing and donating bits. Gaining affiliate status usually takes at least seven days, and streamers are required to meet specific criteria around average concurrent viewers, minutes broadcast, and number of followers.
The bar for reaching affiliate level will feel low for former Mixer partners, but the week wait for affiliate status, plus the time it takes for Twitch to payout earnings is still a delay. There's an urgency for streamers to switch platforms as seamlessly as possible and resume their regular hours. When I spoke to KarimCheese, he mentioned that he hadn't slept the night before as he was busy transferring everything over and preparing assets for his Twitch channel. It was a taxing week, with little time for them to dwell on their loss.
While I didn't speak to anyone who's chosen to quit streaming altogether, UnicornGaming said that the news has "killed the passion for a lot of people," including some of his friends who have chosen to retire from streaming.
Even as Mixer shuts down, this likely isn't the last we'll hear about it. Other topics are still fresh in its users' minds, like recent reports of Mixer's management team using racist comments. Visiting Mixer's homepage feels oddly hollow now, too. Many of its featured streams are just live feeds advertising that the streamers have joined Twitch, redirecting viewers to their new channels. For now, those that have built up communities are trying to ensure everyone moves with them as they continue to establish themselves elsewhere.
The partners I spoke to said that the experience of moving to Twitch has felt mostly welcoming so far. Other streamers and viewers have shown their support in greeting newcomers to the platform, and Tyler and Jessica Blevins even began donating money to Mixer streamers shortly after the announcement. Since our interview, UnicornGaming has also been invited to join the Twitch Partner Program, a huge achievement considering that he's been streaming on the platform for just under a week. While Mixer dissolving has been stressful for its streamers, it's nice to know that there are genuine opportunities for them to continue growing at Twitch, and potentially be even more successful.