With Ninja's permanent departure from Twitch, Microsoft's Mixer is the hot new platform everyone is talking about. While Mixer has been around for years, dating back to 2016 when it was called Beam, it has remained in relative obscurity in the streaming space while Twitch and YouTube reigned supreme.
Change is on the horizon, however, and Microsoft has been quietly toiling away on Mixer over the past 3 years to develop a legitimately robust platform. With Ninja now exclusive to Mixer and many other Twitch streamers soon to surely follow, tens of thousands will be getting their first taste of everything Mixer has to offer. Microsoft has developed a ton of features for Mixer; while some are gimmicky, many more are impressive mold-breakers that not only set it apart from Twitch but actually demonstrate why Mixer may very well be the superior platform.
It Pays To Watch: The Currencies Of Mixer
In November of 2018, Mixer upgraded their platform to what they're calling "Mixer Season 2" and introduced a ton of new features focused on viewer participation. One of which is a new monetization system called Embers.
Embers, and their little brother Sparks, are a currency used by viewers to buy Skills. Skills are different visual effects like stickers, gifs, overlay effects, and on screen mini-games called "Rallies." Sparks are earned at a rate of 50/minute and can be spent from the Skills menu on Skills-enabled channels. Embers, the premium currency, are used for a higher tier of Skills, which tend to be more flashy and unique. You'll also earn experience as you watch, 10xp every 5 minutes, which eventually unlock new skills to use.
The thought behind skills is to create a deeper sense of interaction between viewers and streamers than just the chat box. Text-to-speech can be used through third party sites like SpeechChat, but there isn't a native way to include TTS in Mixer. Microsoft is thinking beyond the chat box when it comes to audience interaction, and while skills may seem like a forgettable gimmick, the rest of the Mixer suite takes fan participation to a whole new level.
Get In The Game With FTL, Mixplay, And Co-Stream
The tech that drives Mixer is a streaming protocol called Faster Than Light. FTL allows for streams with latency of less than a second, which creates opportunity for real-time interaction between streamers and viewers.
To highlight the FTL protocol, Mixer has developed a feature called Mixplay that offers a huge variety of game integrations, allowing viewers to influence and participate in the game being played by the streamer. Several games have included features like this in the past, such as Kill The Streamer and Warhammer: Vermintide 2, which give viewers tools to influence what happens in the game. Mixer is putting this kind of integration front and center with Mixplay.
The extremely low latency on Mixplay means that streamers can do things like controller share with viewers and give viewers options for real-time influence over their games. There are also Mixplay rewards, which are the Mixer version of Prime Loot that reward you with in-game items and cosmetics for participating in select games.
There is also co-stream, which allows up to 4 streamers to combine their streams into one shared experience for co-op game play. This feature is one that has a lot of potential for both esports and the big streamers when they eventually make their way to Mixer. Cross-over and group streams will eventually be huge for Mixer because viewers love the IRL relationships between Twitch streamers, and seeing them stream together will certainly be very popular.
Streaming Has Never Been Easier With Mixer Create
Mixer Create is an Android and iOS app that allows you to live stream mobile games and IRL without any set up required. After downloading the app, users can start streaming on their mixer channel in seconds. Streamers can also interact with chat and co-stream all with the same low latency FTL protocol that PC streaming offers. You can also use Mixer Create as a second screen for you channel as you stream from a PC.
This ease of access is huge for IRL streamers that can pick up and begin streaming in an instant. The sound and picture quality were crisp and clear and the user interface was clean and free of clutter. It's a standout app on an already feature complete platform that will assuredly draw more streamers to the platform as time goes on.
Mixer vs. Twitch: Pros and Cons
While FTL, co-stream, Mixplay, and skills are all awesome features that help Mixer stand out, there are still a number of infrastructure and user experience advantages to Twitch. Number one by far is the clipping tool. Mixer has no way to natively clip section from someone's stream. While they did recently create an option for streamers to clip their own streams, the inability for viewers to clip and share streamers without the use of a third party app is detrimental to the growing platform. They need to have a way for viewers to easily share content and build the audience through Twitter and Reddit.
The other advantage Twitch has, and the big ol' elephant in the room, is their audience. There's no way to overstate how strongly Twitch has control over the streaming market. With 15 million daily active viewers, Twitch isn't going away anytime soon, and it's going to take a lot more high profile streamers moving off Twitch in order for Mixer to gain any significant portion of the market. Right now, no one is watching Mixer because no one is watching Mixer. They may have better tech, but Twitch already has the stars. So I encourage you: give Mixer a try, you might find your new favorite streamer there. Competition is better for everyone, and Mixer is primed and ready to put up a fight.