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The real reasons Microsoft is shutting down Mixer

The streaming community was shaken to its core as Microsoft announced that in just one short month, on July 22, 2020, it will be shutting down Mixer for good. The company is partnering with Facebook Gaming, and plans to move Mixer streamers and viewers to that platform over the course of the next month.

Microsoft is trying to cast the move in a positive light; a spokesman told The Verge that this is a great opportunity for Mixer partners to expand their audiences using Facebook's enormous reach. And at the very least, the two corporate giants are trying to make the transition as seamless as possible. Facebook is granting automatic partner status to anyone who was a Mixer partner, and anyone using Mixer's monetization program is automatically eligible for Facebook's Level Up program.

However, some of Mixer's biggest streamers have already refused the move, according to a tweet by Rod Breslau. Instead, big names like Ninja and Shroud forced Mixer to buy out their contracts for some truly insane amounts of money, and are once again free to stream wherever they like. This might not bode well for Microsoft's partnership with Facebook Gaming, since those superstars will almost certainly go back to Twitch rather than move to yet another new platform. 

Mixer had a pretty short lifespan, though it shook up the gaming scene pretty significantly in that time. It first launched in 2016, though back then it was called Beam. The new streaming service was almost immediately snapped up by Microsoft, and in 2017, Microsoft rebranded Beam as Mixer. Coming into a world where the streaming market was already controlled by Twitch, YouTube, and yes, even Facebook Gaming, the fledgling service had a rough road ahead.

Knowing that, Mixer didn't try to carve out a place for itself so much as it tried to usurp one. With Microsoft's clout and money behind it, Mixer signed exclusive deals with huge Twitch stars like Ninja and Shroud. In some ways, the newcomer was trying to buy its main competitor's greatest strength — its streamers. It seemed to be working, too. Following Ninja's move, for instance, Twitch's numbers began to drop off a little while Mixer's exploded. Locking in just that one streamer seemed to have given Mixer the leg up that it needed to break into an already crowded market. 

Then, following the age-old adage of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," Mixer continued trying to snap up the biggest names in streaming in order to secure its place in the market.

So what went wrong? Basically, even with the star power it bought, Mixer just didn't have the numbers to compete with Twitch and other streaming services with bigger built-in audiences. It was constantly overshadowed by older and larger companies and wasn't able to pull enough people away from those to be viable.

Game Theory's MatPat had — fittingly enough — a theory about what went wrong. In a June 22 tweet, he shared a screenshot of his two-part series about why Mixer signing Ninja was a mistake. In a summary, he mused that maybe "using that money to support smaller creators would have worked better than making [Mixer] 'top heavy.' " Basically, by putting all of its resources into big names like Ninja, Mixer made it too hard for newer, up-and-coming streamers to grow their own audiences. That might have ultimately led to Mixer's downfall when the superstars alone couldn't sustain it. From MatPat's perspective, Mixer's biggest power play was actually its biggest mistake.

Another idea says that this is a strategic move by Microsoft to pave the way for a huge expansion of its xCloud service. Project xCloud, which was first announced back in 2018, currently enables users to stream games to mobile devices on iOS and Android, and will support Windows PCs at some point in the future. By shifting resources away from Mixer, Microsoft could be better position to support this newer (and perhaps more important) venture.

Whatever the reason, the sudden announcement has left a lot of people hanging. Not only the streamers, who suddenly have to rebuild their audiences on new platforms — whether Facebook Gaming or Twitch — but consumers who had real money invested in the platform. Since they were only given a month's notice before the shutdown, many people won't be able to get everything they've paid for on Mixer. To that end, Microsoft has announced that anyone with outstanding Ember or paid subscriptions will get Xbox gift card credit to compensate them for what they spent on services that won't be delivered. Unfortunately, what Mixer can't give back to streamers and fans who invested in the platform is time.

More news will undoubtedly break on the closure of Mixer, so stay tuned.