Before the streaming platform Twitch was owned by Amazon and had many, many millions of users, it was called Justin.TV, and one of its early adopters was Tyler Blevins—better known as Ninja, now one of the most popular video game streamers in the world. As Twitch’s pond grew, Ninja became one of its biggest fish. But on Thursday, he announced he’s leaving for more intimate waters: a streaming platform owned by Microsoft called Mixer.
What is Mixer? Microsoft acquired the platform in 2016, when it was still called Beam. It’s a far smaller community that charges a little more than Twitch for subscriptions to paywalled content from streamers (at least $7.99 a month compared with $4.99). Presumably, Microsoft is making the leap worth Ninja’s while: He’s walking away from his 14 million Twitch followers and 14,000 paying subscribers on Twitch. So far Thursday, he’s brought more than 110,000 followers to Mixer.
It’s obvious why Mixer wants Ninja as a carrot. Microsoft reported 10 million monthly users last year, compared with well over 100 million on the 8-year-old Twitch. Video game streaming is a big-enough deal that every major tech platform has its own service, and Mixer falls below competitors like YouTube Gaming and Facebook Gaming. That Mixer managed to poach Ninja—just a few days after the heavily publicized Fortnite World Cup handed out $30 million in prizes and streamed to millions—suggests the competition between these services for fans’ eyeballs is getting more intense.
Can Microsoft take on Amazon in this space? Though Ninja almost got a large payday for making the leap, he told the Associated Press, “I wanted to be somewhere that empowered me to push the boundaries of gaming and achieve bigger goals within the industry. Mixer provides me with more ways to connect with my community.” Whatever that means, his move could lead other streamers to follow his lead and leave Twitch.
Ninja, who has said he makes $500,000 a month from streaming, which he does most days, told the New York Times that the longest vacation he’s taken as a professional gamer was his honeymoon—six days, which he described as “a calculated risk.” He added in that interview that even taking a couple of hours to talk to the Times or even just relax on his couch meant losing 200 to 300 subscribers each hour. Good thing he now only has 13.9 million to make up.