About a year and a half ago I went over to Microsoft's swanky But the point of the arena was not to impress journalists, it was live streaming video platform games to challenge the likes of Twitch and YouTube.
Since then Mixer has grown to over 20 million active users. They are spread across Xbox and Windows 10 owners, where streaming just takes no extra work beyond a button press, and iOS and Android owners who download the app. We are hoping to find Mixers also to benefit from the Microsoft / Nintendo bromance. But with the overall potential streaming audience nearing two-thirds of a billion people, Microsoft wants to push Mixer even harder. And they recently showed me some of the new features they think will make this happen.
While part of making Mixer better involves tech improvements, it’s also a matter of letting players know more about service is already there. Mixer already boasts low-latency "Faster Than Light" streaming for better streamer / audience communication, as well as the ability for users to co-stream together, useful for, say, Apex Legends squads or a Fortnite coach. On the viewers ’end it’s easy to find the exciting games thanks to the HypeZone channel analyzing footage through a trained A.I. that doesn't care about celebrity.
But the more interesting Mixing features for me are the ones who are looking for something to look at. Ever since Twitch Plays Pokemon has been a way to get started with live streaming in a way that does not involve an illegal ROM hack. And on Mixer viewers can plug in a controller to influence or even straight-up play games like Minecraft and No Man’s Sky alongside streamers.
There are other ways in which the viewing experience has become less passive (especially compared to this sentence). Last year when Forza Horizon 4 launched players could earn in-game influence by streaming on Mixer. But now viewers can also gain a kind of influence by watching streams. Milestones, viewers generated in-game Sparks currency that pays off real money (and valuable engagement insight) for these personalities.
Viewers can also buy a premium Ember currency to support streamers even more, filling the screen with skills like GIFs and emotes like literal money trains for the whole audience to see. It’s like a free-to-play mobile game economic model where the product is an actual person’s livelihood, so it feels just a little more ethical. Microsoft can use these systems to reward positive player behavior, like using the currency to fund anti-harassment charities when players ignore bullies. And while this feature is coming later in “Mixer Season 2,” eventually players will be able to level their standing in a certain channel's community and receive rewards at the streamer's discretion.
I like watching video games, I think watching other people play them is painfully boring. I know if the streaming is going to keep the thing going. For more on streaming check out these streaming TV services if you are looking to cut the cord, and read the deep dive on the ongoing streaming on our sister site PCMag.com.