Microsoft’s Re-branded Streaming Platform, and What It Means for the Streaming Landscape

Roughly this time last year, Microsoft acquired Beam, an up-and-coming streaming platform dedicated to interaction between the gamer and his or her viewers. The service has offered innovative ways for the audience to control what they see on stream, with the most prominent example of this being the Interactive Soundboard creators can use to enhance the viewing experience.

However, Microsoft are rolling out a plethora of new changes to the site, the largest of which is a changing of brand. Henceforth, the platform has been designated the name “Mixer”, suggesting the casual, multi-party vibe Microsoft are aiming for. To fit this name, one of the other major features pushing live soon is the ability for multiple people to stream on the same channel using a split-screen design. For teams and groups of friends who like to play together or podcasts that incorporate multiple members in their discussions, this could potentially be a means of enhancing their production value, especially on the XBox console line, where the service will be fully integrated in the coming months. Furthermore, users will be able to utilize a new app for streaming directly from one’s mobile device. While this all certainly is revolutionary, the first question that must be asked is: “Will this keep Mixer in the black?”

The market leader, Twitch.TV, will be turning six on June 6. After the shutdown of major competitor Own3D.TV, the Amazon subsidiary has been the largely uncontested top dog in the streaming realm and has even signed an exclusivity deal with Bandai Namco to be the partnered platform on their new Tekken 7 World Esports Tour. Over the years, multiple platforms have sprung up, looking to have a seat at the table. Hitbox TV and YouTube Gaming are the two most prominent competitors in recent history, but even they pale in comparison to the numbers consistently held by Twitch.

The root of the issue is actually quite simple: in order to maintain a thriving streaming service in today’s market, you must be willing to invest heavily in bringing well-known talent to your platform. A lack therein has led to Hitbox nearly shutting its doors and YouTube Gaming becoming just a backup for most channels that already stream on Twitch. Unfortunately, trying to run a grassroots platform is (as showcased by the named examples) almost certainly futile as a vicious cycle begins to emerge. In order to convince consumers to use your platform, viewers must be able to find their favorite players or streamers on your site. However, high-profile streamers often make their living off of their streams, so to convince them to move from Twitch to a given platform, there must be a high number of viewers to boost their donations and ad revenue. Furthermore, this cycle does not take long to plague most services. It is heavily advised that any competitor looking to stake their claim must launch with numerous content creators from a plethora of games or they will immediately face irrecoverable losses.

Even after Hitbox invested in striking a deal with the most prominent western DotA 2 team at the time, OG, the team ended up returning to Twitch months later simply due to not receiving nearly as much money as they had been making on Twitch. Having amazing features such as monetization for small streams and newer servers also mean little in the face of this downwards spiral. Thus, while Microsoft certainly has funds to make a run for the top of the streaming services, they may already be too late to put a scratch on Twitch’s strong reputation.

Overall, while Mixer certainly is pushing the boundaries of what is possible for streamers everywhere, it remains to be seen if Microsoft is willing to allot the service a large enough budget to recruit the biggest names in esports and gaming that will surely determine whether it makes waves in the market or simply becomes another service reserved for niche users and creators