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Ninja’s Gears 5 exclusive stream exposes the messy ethics of his Microsoft and Mixer deals

What’s the proper disclosure in these types of situations?

Image: Ninja

Tyler “Ninja” Blevins raised some eyebrows yesterday when he announced an exclusive first look at Gears 5’s campaign. The game is published by Microsoft, and Blevins has a contract to stream exclusively on the Microsoft-owned streaming platform Mixer.

Critics and other streamers wondered if playing the game was an additional paid sponsorship, part of Blevins’ existing contract, or just special treatment as a result of his success on Mixer. Mike Futter, a journalist and games industry analyst, tweeted that even if Blevins wasn’t receiving additional payment for streaming Gears 5, “if it’s part of his contract, viewers should know.” In a tweet, Blevins said he was “partnering with Microsoft” for the stream.

A Mixer representative told The Verge that Blevins “received a complimentary copy” of the game, but they implied that he wasn’t required to stream it. The details of Blevins’ exclusivity deal with Mixer are undisclosed, making it difficult to know if there are any other commitments beyond using the platform.

Mixer partners are compensated for streaming to the service but they choose what content to stream and when,” the representative said. “Mixer partners are required to comply with FTC guidelines on endorsements and testimonials.”

Members of the gaming community said the exclusive stream left “a bad taste,” as YouTuber Jon from Many A True Nerd, tweeted. Although it makes sense that Microsoft would use Blevins, who has amassed more than 2 million followers on Mixer less than one month after joining the platform, to promote its game, Jon argued that a “well-known Gears lets-player would have made more sense.”

“It’s another example of streaming platforms helping to further boost already huge communities,” Jon tweeted.

It’s hard to divorce that Blevins was given the chance to exclusively stream a campaign of a highly anticipated Microsoft game on a Microsoft-owned platform. Blevins has played Gears of War games in the past and started his career playing Microsoft’s Halo series, but critics of the stream doubted whether Blevins would have been given the same opportunity with the game if he were still streaming on Twitch.

“As streamers start signing deals with Mixer, this is something we’ll need to keep an eye on,” Futter tweeted. “The Microsoft relationship means that additional attention to disclosure is going to be important.”

There are bigger questions about whether Microsoft will continue to do this for some of its other big upcoming games, like Halo Infinite. Will streamers on Mixer get exclusive early access to Microsoft-published games ahead of Twitch streamers and YouTube creators? Microsoft’s spokesperson didn’t comment. The Verge has reached out for additional information.