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What is Mixer? Microsoft service picks up top video game streamer 'Ninja'

James Leggate

Microsoft’s Mixer jumped into the headlines this week when top streamer Tyler Blevins, better known as “Ninja” to gamers, announced he was switching to the platform from the Amazon-owned Twitch.

Many people hadn’t heard of Mixer before, but it provides the same basic service as Twitch. Gamers can stream themselves playing live. The audience can chat with each other and interact with the streamers. Viewers can pay to subscribe to channels they like, and both sites have their own version of tipping systems.

Live streaming games can be lucrative for popular streamers like Ninja. Streamlabs, which provides tools for streamers, said that it processed more than $141 million in tips donated to streamers last year.

There are some differences between Twitch and Mixer. Subscriptions cost slightly more on Mixer, $7.99 compared to $4.99. Streamers must also meet some milestones to qualify as a “partner” to monetize their accounts. They have to be active for at least two months, have 2,000 followers, stream 12 or more days per month and 25 or more hours per month.

Twitch does have some similar but easier requirements for its “affiliates,” requiring seven broadcast days and 500 total minutes with an average of three concurrent viewers in the last 30 days, plus at least 50 followers.

Microsoft’s Xbox team acquired Beam, which was later renamed Mixer, in 2016. The service lags behind Twitch in popularity, but as of June 2018 it had 20 million monthly users, a number that it said had doubled in six months, according to GeekWire. Twitch, as of February 2018, had 140 monthly users, according to businessofapps.com.

They’re not the only services in the game streaming world. YouTube and Facebook have also been courting gamers.

Streaming on a less popular service could actually be an advantage for Ninja and other popular streamers, according to The Verge. Competing with a larger number of gamers all seeking the audience’s attention means that Ninja puts in 12-hour days streaming. Any time he’s offline could mean losing subscribers. The longest vacation he’s taken was his six-day honeymoon, he told The New York Times last year, calling it “a calculated risk.”

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And while Mixer does have fewer users, Ninja’s announcement that he would stream there exclusively appears to have given it a boost. As of Friday morning, he’d passed 250,000 followers on the service before he’d even streamed anything, and Mixer had jumped to the top free app in the App Store.

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