Why Ninja’s Move To Microsoft Mixer Spells A New Era

Why Ninja’s Move To Microsoft Mixer Spells A New Era
Image: YouTube.com/Ninja

Ninja announced his move to stream exclusively on Microsoft Mixer, leaving behind the site that helped create his nearly 15-million strong empire of Twitch followers. At first glance it seems strange that Microsoft would spend a rumoured $US50 million on a single streamer. But with two-thirds of the population playing video games in Australia and global gaming revenue reaching into the billions, the move might be the most influential acquisition Microsoft has made this generation.

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Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, the patron saint of Twitch, announced today that he is moving his channel over to the significantly less popular streaming platform Mixer. News of the frankly shocking transition comes the day before Blevins’ Lollapalooza stream, which will now take place here on Mixer.

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Since Twitch has risen in popularity, other sites have developed products to take their slice of the streaming pie. While YouTube has always been a natural home for game reviews and playthroughs, Google launched YouTube Gaming in 2015 as a direct competitor after failing to acquire Twitch themselves.

YouTube has since closed it down as a standalone gaming hub but given the site’s wide appeal, and with 701.6 million hours of live streaming being viewed in the second quarter of 2019 according to StreamLabs, YouTube is Twitch’s closest competitor. It stills falls shy of Twitch’s 2.7 billion hours during the same quarter.

Mixer was launched by Microsoft over two years ago and while it’s had some success, it pales when compared to the soaring heights of Twitch and YouTube. While Twitch is said to own about 72 percent of the streaming market, Mixer is estimated to be around three percent. Ninja’s move to the site will boost it a bit, but one lone streamer is probably not enough.

But while Twitch maintains its hegemony over the streaming world, Fortnite‘s popularity, and subsequently Ninja’s, had begun to wane. Before announcing his departure from the platform, Ninja had already lost the title of the most-streamed Twitcher. Tfue, with nearly seven million followers, had superseded Ninja’s average viewer count with nearly 49,500 while Ninja was averaging around 43,500, according to Twitch Metrics.

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An obvious pairing

Long before the Drake and Travis Scott cameos on Fortnite launched Ninja into superstardom, Blevins played Halo and Halo: Reach professionally until around 2017. In his announcement video, Ninja referred to wanting to get “back to his roots.”

It seems only fair Ninja and Microsoft would team up due to his history but it doesn’t answer why a mega-corporation allegedly forked out a sum as huge as $US50 million on one streamer.

“[Ninja] is really that top fraction of a per cent that can land these types of deals,” Cam Rogers, a digital entertainment lawyer, said to Kotaku Australia.

“I think companies are starting to recognise the value, more so internationally, of influencers and how they can reach their audiences more organically compared to [traditional advertising].”

Ninja’s swaying power over his audience might not be enough to compel his audiences to purchase more Microsoft products, per se, but the power of audiences seeing him choose Microsoft might shape perceptions of the brand as more forward-thinking and supportive of the industry. And that’s what makes the deal worth it for them.

Rise of streaming, decline in gaming

Watching other people play video games has always been a popular pastime because for some people, it’s as enjoyable as playing the actual game without some of the stress. While the internet became a home for gameplay videos initially, watching live streams of other people playing has dominated in recent years.

But when you have that many people watching live streams, even preferring it, there’s no time left to actually play the games yourselves. This theory behind why the amount of time we dedicate to gaming has dropped in recent studies suggests we’re happy to sit back and let someone else deal with all the trouble. The escapism and social aspect is there but without the need to grow frustrated or disappointed with your performance in a game.

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The future is influencers

Ninja’s move to Mixer is already paying off for the streaming site. His debut stream has already clocked more than eight million views at the time of writing and his subscriber count has already exceeded his first million (it’s sitting at 1.5 million, in fact).

While Ninja’s departure from Twitch isn’t likely to do any obvious damage to his former streaming home, it’s clear his arrival at Mixer is likely to influence a lot of signups to the site. In mid-2018, there were approximately 10 million monthly users on the site so eight million views on a single video in less than a fortnight speaks volumes. The lure of a limited-time free subscription to his channel is only likely to amplify the FOMO.

Beyond streaming Fortnite, the partnership hints at something bigger. Influencers, such as streamers like Ninja, are in the sights of corporations and they’re willing to fork out big money for them.

Earlier this year, Ninja was reportedly paid close to $US1 million to play Apex Legends by EA Games. There were reports of other streamers like Shroud and CouRage being offered big amounts too to stream during the game’s initial launch.

Like traditional advertising before it, companies aren’t expecting immediate return of investment on these big deals with the world’s top streamers.

“Young people are getting their content from so many sources so it’s not good enough to whack an ad on the television and say ‘good job’ anymore,” Rogers said. “Influencers are allowing companies to tap into markets and reaching audiences they couldn’t previously reach.”

More deals between influencers and publishers in the gaming sphere are likely, even if they won’t be on the same scale as Ninja. Just like influencers on Instagram, they’ll allow gamers to attain a steady income stream while companies amplify their products to their preferred audiences.

For Microsoft, and perhaps Sony in the coming years, it’s about their reach over audiences and waiting for it to pay off as consumers begin to recognise, respect and trust their brand. Ninja’s younger fans from Twitch aren’t going to suddenly become Microsoft fans overnight, but as Ninja promotes more Microsoft products (whether explicitly Microsoft or not), the FOMO effect kicks in and a new generation will want to try out what they’ve got to offer.

Microsoft’s next-gen Xbox offering, codenamed Project Scarlett, is due next year and with Blevins on board, you’ve got one of the world’s best hype men. Something that’s surely worth $US50 million.

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  • There’s a lot of focus on Microsoft here but Mixer isn’t a Microsoft only streaming platform just like Twitch isn’t used exclusively for Amazon content. (Whatever that would be) Most people will only look as far as the streaming platform and while there may be benefits in having subscriptions to the service provided by the owner (eg. Amazon Prime and Live Pass) for the most part the two are distinct.

    The same goes for paid promotions. Microsoft can still pay people on Twitch to promote their things just as any other publisher can pay a streamer to promote their games, it just makes more sense to do it on Mixer because it encourages people to stay within the ecosystem. It’s similar to how Apple products provide more features when used together but don’t exclude you from using other products with them.

  • It’s a real shame and a total waste of money.

    I feel sorry for the streamers who have been with mixr from the beginning they are now going to lose their audience to this wanker.

    Do any adults actually watch this clown?

    • Do any adults watch this clown? It’s the children who drive the revenue by pester power for loot boxes, games, etc. Having an adult audience usually means they won’t open their wallets.

    • I feel sorry for the streamers who have been with mixr from the beginning they are now going to lose their audience to this wanker.

      It’s digital busking. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been playing your tune on that particular road. If someone better comes along you have to step up your act or loose your audience.

  • Pay Ninja all you want, it’s still not going to drive people to do things on Mixer except watch Ninja. Sure, you might make something back in ad revenue but it will never cover the cost. Once something is ingrained in the population as “the brand” it never disappears. You think burger, you think “McDonalds”. You think bandage, you think “Bandaid”. You think soft drinks, you think “Coke Cola”. Etc. In this case: You think streaming, you think “Twitch”. Ninja changing to Mixer won’t change that.

    Also, the whole “Influencers are the future” thing is a bunch of bullcrap. If it was true, then places like Kotaku would have been made redundant years ago. People still turn to traditional media for things like news and reviews. They turn to “influencers” for a look at the game in action because they either can’t be bothered playing themselves or the person has a personality they can enjoy, making the game irrelevant. I don’t understand why companies keep putting so much stock into people who only play something once, then just to the next popular thing in order to keep viewership up. Where’s the return on investment for that one? And don’t say it appeals to kids, because it doesn’t. Average gamer is in the mid-30s. Modern kids don’t care and spend more time watching streams than buying or playing games.

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