When Tyler Blevin, AKA Ninja announced his move from Twitch to Mixer, the entire gaming world sat up and took notice. For years, Twitch was the undisputed “King” of the video game streaming “Hill.” And Ninja, with his 14 million followers, was the jewel on its crown.
The Internet has a strange way of choosing its champians but in August 2019, the Microsoft-owned Mixer platform was able to convince the 28-year old streamer to switch camps for good. While a rival of Twitch, Mixer had struggled to make a dent in the latter’s dominance ever since its launch in 2016.
Celebrity streamers like Ninja were one of the main reasons for this. They gave Twitch a head start which was hard for its rivals to replicate. His move to Mixer is important for several reasons.
Ninja is no ordinary streamer
As of 2018, there were over 2 million unique content streamers on Twitch. Of these, 150,000 are “Affiliates,” streamers with relatively smaller or niche audiences. The special status gives them a chance to earn small revenue streams on Twitch, based on the number of visitors they have.
Above them, 27,000 streamers are “Partners,” which is Twitch’s name for people who have profitable streams. Only streamers who have huge audiences that come together to watch them live can aspire to reach this relevant status on Twitch.
The partners are the elite among Twitch’s content creators. And Ninja was the biggest of them all in terms of audience and income earned as well. He earns income from his 50,000+ subscribers who pay him a minimum of $5 per month. By his own admission, Blevin made around $10 million last year from sponsorships and other deals.
Even more importantly, his stature had grown beyond Twitch – he was mainstream. Ninja has been on the cover of ESPN, a guest on Ellen, and has even played with singer Drake. He also has his own line of merchandise at Target – toys and clothing line.
He is a central star in a game that has caused a social frenzy and phenomenon like no other in gaming history – Fortnite Battle Royale.
And Fortnite No Ordinary Game
Video games are a bit like butterflies – attractive and enchanting to look at, but fragile and with really short lives. And their target audience is a bit like those kids chasing butterflies – with poor attention span and always distracted by new arrivals.
In this industry, Fortnite’s relative longevity and massive popularity feel like a deviation from the norm. The game, or rather, its more popular Battle Royale mode has been around for exactly two years now.
That is not a very long time, considering the life of World of Warcraft – which is practically an institution now, 11 years old and still kicking! But if you go by the frightening numbers involved, and the sustained frenzy generated by the game and its each subsequent upgrades (“seasons”), you would see that Fortnite Battle Royale is no ordinary video game.
$4 billion is the revenue it has generated for Epic Games, the developer/publisher, in just 24 months. Not only is this game a pop-culture staple now, but it is also incredibly lucrative. So any change, however minor to the status quo, could have great implications down the line.
Mission Accomplished for Mixer?
A sudden move from an established platform like Twitch to a newer, less popular one like Mixer is a very risky proposition. But in the case of Ninja, it seems to have paid off. Not only did he receive a reported $50 million for crossing over, but it also doesn’t even look as if he is losing steam (or subscribers).
In fact, he continues to draw more viewer, adding 1.5 million new subscribers in just five days at Mixer. Granted, a lot of that is down to Microsoft footing the bill for new subscribers as part of a promotional offer.
When that offer ends after two months in October, probably, a huge chunk of those followers will also melt away. So is this another disaster in the making for Microsoft. Not really, because the move has probably achieved what Mixer could not do since 2016 – create a buzz and hype in the wider gaming community.
Millions of gamers did not even know what Mixer was before this. Most of them knew Twitch, Youtube – and that was it as far as streaming was concerned. Now, that has changed with Ninja putting Mixer firmly on the map. Now the trick for Microsoft and the Mixer team is in figuring out how to make that hype stick around.
Mixed Fortunes for Twitch & Fortnite
Twitch has not really taken a mortal blow or anything following Blevin’s departure. Minor missteps involving their ex-stars now dormant account aside, they have not been adversely affected by the loss of their biggest star.
Viewing figures indicate that Blevin’s old viewers have not left the platform en masse – they have indeed stuck around, watching other streamers instead. But Fortnite has taken a hit on the platform in recent weeks, at least partly due to Ninja’s move.
Then another huge Fortnite streamer, Turner “Tfue” Tenney, signed out indefinitely, citing the need for a break from streaming. He had 7 million followers. As a result, the game fell from the top spot on the Twitch popularity charts after many months.
But it is still well within the top five at Twitch, and it is not going anywhere soon. New streamers will come up to fill the void. The recent winner of the Fortnite World Cup, Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, is a good example. Since his win, his viewership has skyrocketed from 40 and 50 to well over 20,000.
What it all Means for Video Gaming
Gone are the days when gaming was all about, well, playing games. E-sports and streaming have turned the medium into a spectacle and passive entertainment, like watching sports on TV, or movies in theatres.
Esports contests regularly attract online crowds that rival the Super Bowl. And just like in sports, betting on has taken off, especially in games like Fortnite. Viewing platforms like Twitch and Mixer will only continue to grow in importance as time goes on.
The poaching of Ninja by Mixer could be the start of a new trend in gaming. Just like pro-athletes and movie stars, streamers and social media influencers will become part of this massive marketing arena.
Above all, the move shows just how far gaming has come in the last 15 years or so. It is no longer a niche market aimed at kids and adolescents. This is serious business, with billions of dollars at stake.