In an unexpected announcement this week, Microsoft is closing Mixer, its live streaming service for games. The decision which left some gamers confused and angry as they found out live on their stream, comes as a result of Mixers inability to attract gamers away from rival platforms such as Twitch and YouTube.
Existing Mixer users are being urged to use Facebook Gaming, as the social media giant looks to increase its presence within online gaming and eSports in an attempt to rival Twitch. Owned by Amazon, Twitch is the most popular online gaming platform that allows users to live-stream from a variety of sources to their feeds as well as providing chat rooms for discussion. YouTube is an established video platform that has developed over the years to support gaming audiences but places less of a focus on live. The space left by Mixer could allow Trovo Live, owned by Chinese company Tencent a chance to expand into American and European live streaming markets.
Lockdown = more screen time
Despite being in lockdown and screen time increasing, Microsoft has made a decision to shut down its platform Mixer and team-up with Facebook. Mixer set out to provide the most engaging and interactive live streaming experience with its faster than light (FTL) streaming capabilities. Microsoft made the decision because the company didn’t feel it could meet its required standard with its current Xbox product. The viewership wasn’t high enough and the investment in the product wasn’t enough to compete with the established giants in the market. Microsoft had a few options, sell, invest with no guarantee or create a partnership. This new partnership with Facebook will accelerate the developments required to enhance the user experience, part of the upcoming Microsoft xCloud programme.
With this recent rise in eSports due to the pandemic it’s unsurprising that Microsoft would review their platform and strategy. Mixer has been struggling to keep up with competitors Twitch and YouTube despite signing some big names in the gaming community, including NINJA and Shroud to exclusively broadcast on their platform. The biggest challenges the Microsoft platform faced were audience reach and platform development. By teaming up with Facebook Gaming though, the potential audience size grows exponentially. As well as the increased audience size, Facebook also has increased development capabilities at their disposal having acquired 82 other companies. Based on the challenges experienced by Mixer the new partnership makes sense, however, the most important part of the platform is the users, will they want to move over to Facebook Gaming.
Facebook vs Twitch
Facebook is one of the largest social media conglomerates, also owning Whatsapp and Instagram, the company boasts a huge, diverse user base. One of the challenges will be moving users over. The fast and abrupt change to the platform will leave a sour taste for some, making their decision to move to Twitch easy. In the past few years, there have been concerns about Facebook’s security as well as some of their ethical practices. For some, it will be a decision based on the company itself rather than its capabilities. Perception is important in online presence, and Facebook’s multi-year dominance could be to their detriment with some gamers perceiving the platform as ‘archaic’, especially compared to the newer platforms like the popular video-sharing TikTok.
Amazon-owned Twitch is still the most popular video streaming platform. Users will often provide commentary and discussion alongside their streams as well as using a camera to film themselves. Twitch has a strong community foundation, with chat rooms allowing people to connect with each other as well as engagement features on their streams. Used by millions of people Twitch is going from strength to strength and there is no doubt that lockdown has supercharged this. The popularity of eSports increased during the lockdown, with fans either playing more themselves or watching eSports like FIFA20 to get their competitive sporting fix whilst waiting for live sport to return. The Twitch community is highly engaged as the platform delivers a low-latency high-quality service. As Facebook Gaming bolster their offering, Twitch will need to react to ensure they continue to increase their user base.
What else can Twitch offer?
Being owned by Amazon will almost certainly guarantee one thing, innovation. Over the past few years, Amazon has been renowned for its innovative style and continual development of products. With the return of Premier League football, Amazon is going to stream their matches on Twitch. These matches are usually included in their paid-for Prime product, the ones on Twitch will be available for free.
Embracing more than eSports fan-engagement, it will be the first Premier League football match streamed to Twitch. With increased viewership for matches returning since the hiatus during March and April, this could be a tactic to grow the awareness and reach of Twitch. Competing directly with YouTube for an interactive fan experience, Twitch will have some of the same features such as comments, engagements. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the format for live sports over the next six months, with fans attending and matches being played but could this be a longer-term move for Amazon.
The rise of Trovo and Tencent
Tencent has been testing streaming service Trovo Live in the US since March. The Chinese company is no stranger to gaming and eSports and currently owns Valorant and League of Legends developer Riot Games alongside stakes in Epic Games, Activision Blizzard and Ubisoft.
Trovo’s website boasts a similar design to Twitch – it has an almost-identical carousel that promotes streamers on the front page to the chat window on the right of the screen. You can stream on the platform using a third-party mobile or desktop broadcasting app.
Trovo has announced a Creator Partnership Program, which will ramp up in the coming weeks and reward creators with $30 million in payments over the next 18 months. Streamers can apply to the Trovo 500 program if they meet a certain minimum viewership requirement, have more than 50 followers and run high-quality broadcasts.
If Trovo can sustain growth and provide strong financial incentives for streamers to move to the platform, it could pose the most serious threat to Twitch out of all the other platforms.
The future of eSports
With the rise in popularity, the commercial opportunities in eSports have also increased. With more money being spent on the platforms, the players, and the technology, the presence of eSports has made an impact on the digital world. As new players enter the market, and other companies seek to avoid being left behind, the possibilities are endless. Twitch’s latest move to live stream football games as well as the pairing of Microsoft and Facebook Gaming makes the future very exciting. It could have a significant impact on fan-engagement and how brands interact with fans and users.