This weekend, Cory “King Gothalion” Michael became the latest massively popular Twitch streamer to depart the platform for Microsoft’s competitor, Mixer. In a video posted to Twitter on Sunday, Michael called his decision to leave “easy-peasy.”
“It just made sense to have a partnership like this one, where I get to have the potential of having, you know, platform-level input, as well as the backing of one of the biggest names in gaming,” Michael said. And he’s a big name himself: before his departure from Twitch, the Destiny streamer had amassed just over a million followers on the platform. (At the time of this writing, Michael’s channel had just over 32,000 followers on Mixer.)
Michael joins Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek and Tyler “Ninja” Blevins as the third popular streamer to leave Twitch for Mixer. Blevins and Grzesiek both have exclusive deals with the platform, and Michael probably does, too. (At press time, Microsoft hadn’t returned a request for comment about whether Michael had an official deal.) And it wouldn’t be surprising to see other big names depart one platform for the other. People are underestimating Mixer — and the data shows the live-streaming platform’s plan is working.
While it’s true that Microsoft’s streaming platform doesn’t have anywhere close to the audience numbers Twitch does, the platform has recently been experiencing hockey stick-like growth. Citing various analyst data, The Motley Fool reported earlier this month that Mixer more than doubled its number of hours watched annually to 90.2 million (vs. Twitch’s 11 percent increase to 2.55 billion), and its number of hours streamed just about tripled — Twitch’s, on the other hand, only rose 4 percent.
What this all suggests is that Mixer is becoming a much more attractive proposition for streamers. As Michael pointed out in his video, he’s going to listen to his viewers’ ideas for ways to make the service better for streamers and their audiences. Everything that goes into streamer deals — money spent on exclusive contracts, etc. — means it’s not unreasonable to assume that Michael has Microsoft’s ear, and that they’ll listen to and accommodate his needs. In short, Microsoft knows that it needs to talk to the pros and take their advice for how to better their service.
Because if Mixer manages to become a streamer-led platform, one that offers the kind of flexibility and institutional support many streamers want, it will explode in popularity among the people it relies on for content. That means more eyeballs, more growth, and more revenue. While Microsoft hasn’t disclosed how much Mixer accounts for in its gaming budgets, the games division, which is mostly Xbox, brought in a healthy $11.4 billion last year — a full 9 percent of the company’s revenue.
Twitch is where the streaming audience is, at least for now. But the technical differences between going live on Twitch and going live on Mixer are negligible; and for streamers with communities large enough that they don’t necessarily need new fans, starting over on a new platform with their most dedicated — and biggest spending — audience might begin sounding like an attractive proposition.
At a certain level of live-streaming fame, audiences are tuning in more for the broadcaster than for whatever that broadcaster is doing on camera. It’s a bit like having a favorite TV channel: even if you don’t like everything HBO is programming, you trust them to produce shows you’ll love.
Add all of that to the millions Microsoft is spending to lock down exclusive rights and the answer, for many bigger streamers, becomes obvious. Or as Michael might say: easy-peasy.