TW: one mention of rape, sexual assault, and animal abuse/non-graphic
Gamergate 2020. The gaming industry has taken that largest hit that we may have ever seen in our lifetimes. Aside from next gen console reveals, new game announcements, and calling out the lack of diversity in the industry, this past weekend has also seen multiple allegations regarding rape and sexual assault.
It’s been long known that the juggernaut of streaming platforms, Twitch, has been home to some controversial streamers and scandals. From Alinity’s on-air acts of what can be perceived to be animal abuse, to various streamers such as Ninja using the n-word and getting a slap on the wrist for the slur, to the sudden onslaught of DMCA strikes which forced long-term users of the platform to delete an exorbitant amount of clips and VODs.
Those who were fed up by Twitch’s lack of follow-up to legitimate claims of harassment and diversity issues had a choice to fall back onto Mixer at one point, but that option has now been flushed down the toilet.
MIXER HAD BETTER FEATURES, BUT NOT ENOUGH STAR POWER
As with any company that tries to compete with Youtube, Beam (which would become Mixer after the acquisition by Microsoft) was born out of the need for another streaming platform for gamers, but never really became a household name. It was fan friendly and wasn’t oversaturated, unlike Twitch. Viewers in the chat could interact with the streamer and influence gameplay in a way that Twitch audiences couldn’t.
Mixer was also the first platform that allowed co-streaming, which Twitch would later adopt for partners only. Another feature Twitch would adopt are “channel points”, in which a viewer could collect a certain amount of points depending on an action that a streamer sets – such as 500 points for participating in a raid, or 50 points for every 10 minutes you are watching a stream. Those points can be redeemed for rewards set by the streamer.
Although Mixer was straight forward, had an easier interface for streamers, and a seemingly less toxic community, what Mixer didn’t have was star power. That would change in 2019.
THE MAJOR ACQUISITION OF ONE OF THE BIGGEST STREAMERS IN THE INDUSTRY
There’s not a name more synonymous with Fortnight in the e-sports world than Tyler “Ninja” Blevins. The blue haired streamer who had amassed over 14 million followers on Twitch announced his departure from the platform July of 2019. Ninja reportedly received a $30 million two year contract to exclusively stream on Mixer. This sent shockwaves through the industry, and drew ire from Twitch.
His wife and manager Jessica Blevins stated that the contract with Twitch had encumbered his ability to “grow his brand” outside of gaming, and that his interest in streaming had been deteriorating due to the perceived “toxicity” of Twitch’s community. Twitch is notorious for the iron clad and unfair contract that Partners have to agree to for not much of a payout. It seemed as if Mixer wanted to show the world that they valued their Partners, smaller streamers, and their fanbases.
In October of that same year, Mixer would scoop up another streamer with a lucrative contract. Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek would only receive a third of Ninja’s deal for the same term length, but this was still a major get for Mixer who felt like these were major investments that would pay off. However, they would soon learn that Twitch was still a force to be reckoned with.
ANOTHER CASUALTY OF COVID-19
There are going to be long term effects from this pandemic, not just from those who have fallen victim to the virus itself, but for the economy as well. It’s going to be felt well beyond this year and 2021. While streaming companies such as Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and Twitch had seen a rise in viewership during the days of worldwide shutdowns, other companies weren’t so lucky.
By now you’ve probably heard about the crash and burn of Quibi, and HBO Max’s lukewarm reception, but Mixer has also failed to generate any kind of rise in viewership. As with Quibi, they went all in with the investment of big names, and it proved to be a bad decision. In April, viewers watched 37 million hours of gaming content on Mixer to Twitch’s 1.5 billion and YouTube’s 461 million, according to data from streaming analytics company Arsenal.gg.
MIXER GETS CALLED OUT FOR RACISM AND HAS AN ILL-TIMED RESPONSE
Former Mixer employee Milan Lee began what he thought would be a life changing job back in 2018. However, he would find that Mixer wasn’t the progressive, community based workplace they marketed themselves to be. Lee would experience every black person’s nightmare in a corporate environment:
I was one of the only black people working at Mixer during my tenure. While at a conference I was pulled aside and told that the only reason I was hired is because I am “street smart”. The first thing that popped into my head at the time was affirmative action. I believed I was only hired to meet a diversity goal because I was black. Anyways I decided to brush it off and let it go.Milan Lee, June 2020
He would further go on to report how one of his managers used a racist analogy calling herself a “slave master” and describing Mixer streamers as “slaves”. This occurred during a company meeting with Lee in attendance. He would immediately confront the manager, and then proceeded to report the incident only to learn that it never made it to HR.
Eventually, an investigation was opened, and the verdict was not made until well after Lee’s voluntary departure. Mixer would use the “I can’t be racist because I have a black friend excuse”, and that was that. With Lee’s post came Mixer’s response in the wee hours of June 22nd:
Later that day they would make an announcement that would shock the gaming community.
MIXER MERGES WITH FACEBOOK CREATING SHOCKWAVES IN THE STREAMING COMMUNITY
This was how millions of people learned that Mixer was being acquired by Facebook Gaming in a move that is seen as dated and tacky. How can Mixer and Microsoft make this deal with a social media site that is under fire right now for apparent right winged actions and alignment? That’s certainly not within the message of inclusivity.
Not only was that a low blow of a move, but apparently every partner and streamer under Mixer’s umbrella only learned of this merger when everyone else did. People are rightfully angry that this is how Mixer decided to respond to Lee’s statement, and they are rightfully angry about the misplaced Partners of the site. There is speculation that both Ninja and Shroud who have exclusivity contracts with Mixer were made aware of this merger ahead of time, but both have declined to make the shift over to Facebook Gaming and would need time to evaluate their next moves. This is the case with every Mixer Partner.
There was a reason why these streamers chose Mixer over Twitch and YouTube Gaming. People are falling off of Facebook every day, and it’s looking like it will soon go the way of Myspace. Would it be worth “starting over” on Twitch or exploring YouTube Gaming, the latter of which hasn’t made a big splash in the gaming sphere either? Both Twitch and Facebook Gaming have offered automatic partnership status for Mixer Partners should they want to make the transition to either platform, but will most of these displaced streamers quit streaming entirely? One thing is for sure, we need more options as streamers.
Mixer will officially shuttered operations on July 22nd, 2020. The url will automatically redirect you to Facebook Gaming’s site. What do you think about the news and how this was handled? Should they have waited to make the announcement? Let us know in the comments.