Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, one of the best-known streamers in the world, is leaving Twitch and moving to Mixer. It’s big news and a flashy headline. Sure, streamers like Shroud and Dr. Disrespect are huge, but Ninja has been on the Time 100 list. Ninja has been on the Ellen DeGeneres show. He has streamed with Drake and has sponsorships deals with companies like Red Bull. Ninja is, in every sense of the word, a celebrity, and he has infiltrated the mainstream further than any streamer who has gone before him.
Even his first stream on Mixer won’t be a regular-stream. He will be streaming from Lollapalooza. The announcement of the move to Mixer wasn’t just a tweet; it was a specially shot and scripted promo video with all the trappings. Even if the Fortnite bubble is deflating a little on Twitch, and even if all streamers eventually reach a peak and begin the slow slide into obscurity, Ninja is still Ninja.
Microsoft has been letting the industry know that a poorly performing Xbox One has done little more than focus their vision. They have shown they are getting serious about PC gaming. They have demonstrated that they have realigned their goals. Yes, consoles are essential to them, but engagement is everything, and they don’t seem to mind where that engagement takes place. They are working with Sony on streaming solutions, and are rumored to be working with Nintendo on other projects.
A Little Flex And Swagger
The mistake that Microsoft made for years was that one of the most valuable companies on the planet allowed itself to get sidetracked into building a fiefdom and forgot that it already owned a kingdom. With Phil Spencer leading the charge on the gaming front, Microsoft is once again acting like a leviathan with a lot of muscles to flex. Microsoft brought Mixer back in 2016, and since then have grown the platform, if not into a contender, then at least into something. Now they want us all to know they are serious about growing Mixer, and getting Ninja to stream on it is, in every sense, a coup. It’s almost like, for just a while, they forgot that they were Microsoft, and now are looking to remind everyone exactly how many plates they can keep spinning at once.
The thing about being in Time Magazine, or on the Jimmy Fallon show, is that Twitch gets mentioned. A lot. Now it’s going to be Mixer getting those mentions. Forbes, Reuters, TMZ, and the BBC have all had headlines over the last 24 hours, letting a largely oblivious world that Mixer exists. Normally, you cannot buy that kind of PR, but Microsoft just did.
There are other benefits. Ninja, and his main game Fortnite, are still a big deal. Exactly how many fans follows him to Mixer remains to be seen. Mixer are currently offering a free subscription to his channel to ease the pain of those who either recently subbed on Twitch, or have been building up those sub-badges for years. But, the history of streamers changing platforms shows us that there will be attrition. How much we can’t say, Ninja has been a game-changer in a lot of ways, so it’s interesting to see if this is another area where common sense rules just don’t apply.
But people will follow him, that much we know. And other streamers will be enticed onto the platform. I suspect Ninja will be the first such announcement over the coming year. For many people wanting to start a career as a streamer, Twitch is the way to do it. Twitch is where the audience is. If Mixer can continue the trend of increasing their number of hours watched, which is one of the main reasons they are bringing in Ninja, then Mixer becomes a viable place to grow a career from scratch. Mixer needs stars of its own because Ninja cannot stream all day, every day. The real impact of his move comes if people are pulled out of Twitch’s ecosystem and dropped down into Mixers, and stay there. If people finish watching Ninja, and start watching other people on Mixer, then the deal will have been worth any amount of money.
The Grass Is Actually Greener
For Ninja, the benefits are obvious; for the most part. Whatever financial deal is involved is obviously enough to make it worth his while, but even more than that, Ninja is a smart guy. You can’t succeed the way he has and not be. He is aware that Fortnite has a time limit on it, the same way that his streaming career does. Streamers die like stars, eventually burning up their fuel and just having nothing left to power the glare. Ninja is aware his day will come, and he can build a far more prosperous post-streaming career with Microsoft than he ever could with Twitch.
The final piece of the puzzle is Halo, a near 20-year-old series that is one of the best-known properties in history. Halo needs a streamer, and Ninja needs a game. The former Halo pro and Microsoft appear to be betting the house on Halo Infinite. The next installment in the story of Master Chief is reported to have cost a remarkable amount of money. Having Ninja, and all the people who wish to emulate him, behind the game is a solid move.
This is all great news for people who watch streams. Competition is good for consumers, and Twitch could be accused of resting on its laurels and a lot of inconsistency when it comes to actually controlling its community. For Twitch, the power position has always been that there is nowhere else to go. That no longer appears to be the case, or at the very least Microsoft are committed to trying to build the alternative . Twitch vs Mixer is basically a proxy war between Amazon and Microsoft, and people like Ninja are the ones best placed to take advantage of it.
While the news of the move was certainly a surprise, hindsight shows us that it also makes a huge amount of sense. How it plays out is where the real story lies, however.