Earlier this week, Microsoft abruptly announced that its game-centric livestreaming platform, Mixer, is not long for this world. After paying lots of money to scoop up household names like Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek last year, Mixer will be no more as of next month. Suddenly, streamers who’ve staked their careers on the ocean-blue Twitch alternative are raftless, with even support from their own communities in question.
If you look at Mixer’s frontpage right now, the vast majority of people streaming are, in some way or another, advertising their Twitch channels. Some put URLs in their stream titles. Others display giant Twitch graphics. This is a bit of an odd sight, given that a giant banner on Mixer proclaims that the streaming platform is “transitioning to Facebook Gaming.” Many streamers and viewers, though, despise Facebook’s interface and real name requirements. Plus, everybody knows that Twitch is where the bulk of streaming viewers congregate. So it’s off to Twitch they go.
Mixer streamers were not planning to do this even a week ago, especially not those who’d made it into the site’s partner programme and managed to become relatively big fish in a small pond. Many partners did not find out Mixer was going under until Microsoft publicly announced it.
One Mixer partner, Lindsy Wood, found out while she was on a road trip with her parents.
“I only looked at my phone one time in all the hours that I drove, and that one time I had multiple calls and texts and a push notification from Mixer’s Twitter,” she told Kotaku in an email. “I had to pull over and have my mother drive so I could focus on what was happening. Once I realised my entire channel would be deleted, that the community I loved like family would be ripped apart, that two and a half years full of 80-hour stream weeks, that everything I loved and adored about Mixer would be gone in 30 days, I began to feel my life start to shatter beyond my control.”
“When I heard the news, I’d been up all night on a voice call talking to two very brave, very strong women about assault they’d experienced from men in this industry,” she told Kotaku in an email. “I had no prior knowledge, no warning at all. The whole thing caught me completely by surprise – and with everything so raw after that difficult, sleepless night, it was a surprise that came at the worst possible moment.”
Mixer streamer Gitsie said that, prior to the announcement, it did not feel like the end was nigh. It was business as usual right up until the last possible second.
“I found out when the tweet went out,” she told Kotaku in a DM. “I had absolutely no idea what was coming. In fact I had just had an email from a member of Mixer staff in response to a community spotlight idea I had, and they came back to me in a positive way that gave no indication of what was coming.”
Others thought something was coming in the wake of accusations of racism among Mixer staff, but they weren’t expecting a full-on shutdown. “People had a feeling Mixer was in a bad space over the last week with all of the internal chit-chat,” former Mixer streamer LuckyShots told Kotaku in a DM, “but nothing was confirmed.”
That made the looming prospect of losing everything they’d built all the more heartbreaking. “I cried a lot,” Mixer streamer Cubanees told Kotaku in a DM. “I lost something I worked so hard on. I just reached a big milestone... I hit 50k followers and wanted to hit way more amazing milestones. Now that [is] all taken away.”
Audiences, too, found themselves at a loss, in part because many viewers chose Mixer precisely in order to avoid Twitch – not end up with it as their main streaming platform. But it’s either that or Facebook for many Mixer users, and it seems like viewers are choosing Twitch.
“A lot of my followers chose Mixer because they didn’t wanna be on Twitch,” Mixer streamer ShadowKal told Kotaku in a DM. “Many of them reached out and commented that they refuse to go to Facebook. Almost all of them have already transitioned to Twitch. The main concern with Facebook for a lot of people is they don’t wanna be forced to use their real names or personal profiles to talk to people on stream. Essentially after talking to my community, it left me in the boat of either starting fresh on Facebook with barely anyone following me or going to Twitch where everyone else is going.”
Twitch has a reputation for toxicity, and while Mixer was far from perfect, many streamers felt like it was a little more manageable. “I left Twitch due to some homophobic toxicity I had to go through after being on the front page a few times,” said Gitsie. “It left me in a difficult place emotionally as I was 100% not ready for the change in my community after the front page streams.”
While some streamers cited features like nearly latency-free streams as the reason they went all-in on Mixer, most stuck around because they liked the other streamers and viewers they encountered there. “For me, Mixer was more than just a streaming platform,” said Foxyzilla. “It was a space for me to be me, to express myself and to build friendships. It was my therapy, my happy space. I knew when I clicked that ‘go live’ button that I would not be alone, because I had a group of wonderful people I call family to hang out with every single day.”
Though Mixer is still operational for now and will remain up until late July, most streamers are leaping off the sinking ship right now. They’re finding mixed success. Mixer is a small platform, meaning that the average Mixer partner is not as big as the average Twitch partner. Some Mixer streamers, however, had still turned streaming into a career and now require the perks that come with Twitch partnership (extra emote slots, other custom features, access to various money-making opportunities) to keep it going.
LuckyShots told Kotaku that he averaged around 300 concurrent viewers on Mixer, which – after he recently directed people to watch him on Twitch instead – has translated into an audience of around 70 concurrent viewers on the Amazon-owned platform, with a couple peaks that brought him up to almost 100. Still, that was enough to earn him Twitch partnership status after he applied this week. Other Mixer partners are applying as well, though it remains to be seen how those outside of Twitch’s standard partner viewership threshold (around 75) fare. Cubanees, also a Mixer partner, is in that boat. Her recent Twitch streams have maxed out at between 30 and 60 concurrent viewers. She applied for Twitch partnership this week, but has yet to receive it.
“The only thing I worry about is becoming a partner,” she said. “That is all I hope to see happen on Twitch to continue my streaming career.”
“I have literally put everything into this. I love what I do, and now to switch over to Twitch and basically hope that people follow me and want to continue doing what we are doing – it’s so discouraging and sad.”
Other Mixer streamers are facing a more particular problem: Twitch bans. Both Foxyzilla and Lindsy Wood are attempting to return from Twitch exile; Foxyzilla says she got banned four years ago after somebody fraudulently subscribed to her channel hundreds of times using stolen credit cards, and Wood lost her Twitch channel two years ago after unknowingly broadcasting with a streamer who’d been suspended and then, later, receiving two sexual content strikes.
When the Mixer news broke earlier this week, Foxyzilla thought she was done for. Facebook wasn’t an option for her because “an online alias is important to many of us for safety reasons, and there are just too many privacy concerns.” She figured her streaming career was over, so she posted a video about it to Twitter.
“I want Twitch to just hear me, just message me back on one of my appeals, just open a dialogue,” Foxyzilla said in the video, through tears. “Just give me another chance. I didn’t do anything wrong. Please. My whole heart is in this industry, my whole heart is in this community.”
After being picked up by several major figures in and around the streaming community, her video now has over 500,000 views. The next day, Twitch returned her account.
“I was lying in bed, overwhelmed with emotion when I got the appeal response via email,” Foxyzilla told Kotaku of the moment she got her Twitch channel back. “I immediately sat straight up, in shock, and started bawling and shaking. My heart felt like it was on the floor. I honestly could not believe it; I felt like I must have been dreaming. Then I simply got up, hopped in the shower, rinsed off my tears, washed my hair... and felt all of the difficult emotions turn to excitement.”
Initially, Wood, who picked up nearly two million total views on Mixer and got spotlighted by the platform as a streamer to follow just before the closure announcement, didn’t have the same luck. Until yesterday, her Twitch channel remained suspended.
“I never wanted to leave Twitch,” she told Kotaku in an email. “It was my first home.”
Wood disputes the sexual content strikes against her, to an extent. She says that in the case of the first strike, she was fully clothed but dancing in a way Twitch deemed “sexual.” As for the second time, she contends that the reports Twitch received from viewers weren’t even really about her. She believes that she was brigaded – that a group of people disingenuously mass-reported her.
“The person who had me brigaded did this to get back at one of my channel moderators for banning them from my stream for being inappropriate,” Wood said. “They then bragged about getting me shut down to multiple streamers. This person got their account banned because of it, but my case was never looked at again, to my knowledge.”
She asked for a second chance on the basis that “my time on Mixer has proven that I have learned how to abide by ToS and grow a strong, supportive community” and campaigned in support of it on Twitter. Yesterday, after a bit of an uphill battle, she got her channel reinstated.
“I did receive a bit of negativity from people who don’t know me or watch me,” she said of comments from people who told her to get a different job and made accusations about her past. “The people that do know me and are part of the Mixer community had so many amazing things to say. The outpouring of love and support was truly amazing to experience, and I can’t wait for my first stream at my new home.”
Streamers who’ve been able to make the switch to Twitch are doing their best, but they remain discouraged by the prospect of having to, in some ways, start over from square one.
“I’m not feeling very great about any of this,” said ShadowKal, who’s streaming on Twitch and Facebook for the time being. “I feel lost and unsure what to do. I see a lot of people making rash decisions instead of thinking about their future. I feel a lot of people are just following their friends instead of deciding what is best for them... Having to start over again is rough, and I just am so uncertain how everything will turn out or even what platform is the best platform for me at the moment.”
“This sucks, man,” said LuckyShots. “I have literally put everything into this. I love what I do, and now to switch over to Twitch and basically hope that people follow me and want to continue doing what we are doing – it’s so discouraging and sad. My heart is so heavy for those who may have just gotten partnered [on Mixer] or might have a smaller audience.”
Gitsie pointed out another downside: Mixer went out in a distinctly creator-unfriendly way, and with one fewer competitor pushing Twitch and other platforms to improve, they’ll feel even less pressure to treat streamers better.
“The biggest issue I think we have going forward is that now, Twitch has less real competition, and that could lead to standards slipping and progress being stalled,” she said.
Wood is trying to maintain an optimistic outlook.
“It is discouraging that I will basically have to start over,” she said. “But I am a hard worker. I put the time and effort in that is needed to succeed. I did it with Mixer, and I will do it again. This won’t stop me. The silver lining that I see is this: Twitch and other platforms now have a chance to show us that they can take care of us better than Mixer did. That they respect us as creators and want what’s best for us. We are not starting over from scratch, we are starting over from experience.”
Featured image: Lindsy Wood