Microsoft’s Mixer fate is looking a lot like Windows Phone at the moment

Kareem Anderson

As the cinematic streaming wars begin to heat up, so too is the competition between game streaming services and right now, things aren’t looking good for Microsoft.

Six years ago, Amazon purchased game streaming behemoth Twitch for roughly $1 billion. Despite being the default aggregator of reposted game streaming content, Google decided to put its big boy pants on and rolled out its own dedicated YouTube Gaming experience in 2016. Bringing up the rear in terms of game streaming options comes Microsoft with its purchase of Beam Interactive in 2016 which ultimately became Mixer in 2017.

Mixer Anniversary

Since the acquisition and rollout dust has settled, it’s now crunch time for the services to churn viewership into revenue and similar to its situation with Windows Phone/Mobile, Microsoft finds itself in an untenable position in both the market and community zeitgeist.

After recently controlling the headline cycle with its acquihire of famed game streamer Ninja in 2019, Microsoft’s Mixer platform saw itself enamored with a handful of other former Twitch streamers coming to the platform and lending credence to the service by way of their varying degrees of industry celebrity.

Unfortunately, Mixer’s current market and mindshare trajectory are becoming eerily reminiscent of Microsoft’s Windows Phone/Mobile days, where systemic engineering problems and muddled community communications erode would-be platform intriguing moves.

Lumia Windows Phone

Over the past year, news continues to trickle out about gamers who stream on the platform, becoming ultimately frustrated and disenfranchised with their decision to either move to or create channels on Mixer.

In most cases, the disillusionment isn’t from blind fanboyism to Twitch, Google or any other service, but by the lack of competitive features which leads to a handicapped streaming experience that ultimately hurts the gamers’ viewership numbers and their bottom line payout.

Also mirroring some of the same narratives of Windows Phone are the inflated numbers (aka spark farms) being used to prop up the service while Microsoft scrambles to promote more flashy endorsement deals.

Senior Editor of Windows Central and gaming journalist Jez Corden took to Twitter the other day to consolidate a list of grievances some streamers are having with Mixer and the thread is a treasure trove of feedback, Microsoft may want to look at.

In particular, a tweet response from Keith “Shadowhaxor” Mitchell who points to a post on where author Parallax Abstraction offers a rather descriptive and informative breakdown of what’s wrong, missing and plain not working, from someone who’s been native to the Mixer platform since 2017.

Rather than exhaustively detail all of the concerns I and many others have, let’s just rapidly bullet-point a bunch of the common ones, in no particular order:

Parallax notes that the above list is only a “rough list of the most common issues.” Perhaps, the largest underlying frustration is that streamers on Mixer have been trying to use as many feedback channels as possible to address the growing list of issues, but most complaints go unnoticed.

Like all Microsoft products and services, Mixer has a UserVoice site, a place where the community can request features, comment and vote up the ones most important to them. In theory, this is supposed to help drive Mixer’s development priorities but Mixer hasn’t responded to anything posted there in at least a year if not more. Most of the top voted ideas haven’t even been acknowledged, must less actioned. This gives the appearance of at best apathy and at worst, disdain towards the needs of the community.

The sentiment has rings similar to what happened with Windows Phone development, where engineers and PR people were seeming stuck in a tug-of-war between trying to advocate for the product but keep certain release features a secret until formally announced.

During the interim, fans, users and journalists came up with their own homespun theories that littered the internet faster than Microsoft was willing to address, ultimately becoming the narrative the company had to chase rather than explain.

Often times, a company may go dark before a big release, but it’s been over a year since the community has heard any meaningful feedback or announcements from the Mixer team.

Further compounding frustrations are the NDA deals that continue to surface with no insight into the platform development, making it seem as though Microsoft is more intrigued by spending cash on a handful of names rather than investing in the smaller channels trying to flush out the service.

In the end, the strategy of spending millions to get Flipboard, Facebook and Instagram on the Windows Phone platform while ignoring API’s, codecs, and developer tools, didn’t help save Windows Phone and it looks like it’s not doing much to help Mixer.

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There may be things in the works that a select few brand ambassadors are privy to, but now is seemingly not the time to play favorites with information vital to the very people who want to help the platform stay competitive.

Unlike the Windows Phone era, Microsoft isn’t trying to wedge itself into a third-place option. Mixer has a chance to become a strong and thriving alternative to Twitch in the market, but as of right now, the company appears to be squandering opportunities.

Hopefully, there will be plenty of news and information coming to streamers in 2020 as the company lines up Xbox Series X, xCloud, and gaming content for the year, but if the situation continues to hold as present, it’s not that hard to envision Mixer’s future following that of Windows Phone, to nowhere.