Mixer, the video game streaming site acquired by Microsoft in 2016 to expand its digital footprint, will be shutting down, transitioning its community of streamers to Facebook Gaming, a rival platform, instead.

This is unsurprising news to watchers of the streaming industry. Of the four big streaming services available, Mixer only saw 0.2 percent growth in viewership year-over-year as of April this year, according to StreamElements, a site that analyzes streaming trends. Facebook Gaming, YouTube and Twitch viewership all saw substantial increases in traffic. (Twitch is owned by Amazon, whose founder Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)

But it’s still a shock, particularly since Mixer was the service that kick-started last year’s trend of signing video game streamers to lucrative exclusivity deals. Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, once the most popular Twitch streamer, signed an exclusive deal with Mixer in August 2019. This led to a host of other sites and influencers making similar moves. Ninja reportedly received up to $30 million for the contract.

Now, it’s being reported that Ninja and other streamers and esports athletes signed to Mixer are free to stream on any platform, The Verge reports Monday. In a tweet posted after Microsoft’s announcement, Ninja commented that he has “some decisions to make.”

Announcing the move, Microsoft said that it “became clear that the time needed to grow our live-streaming community to scale was out of measure.”

Xbox boss Phil Spencer told The Verge in an interview that the move is to support the Xbox’s upcoming cloud gaming service, currently called xCloud. It’s a competitor to Google’s Stadia console service. Spencer told The Verge that partnering with Facebook Gaming would help Xbox reach its ambitious goal of connecting 2 billion gamers to xCloud.

The Xbox brand has been positioning itself to be about more than just the console experience. The Netflix-like Game Pass service and its seamless compatibility with PC gamers has won praise from the industry. Mixer was the weakest link in this strategy, which despite providing a high quality experience, became a running joke of the streaming industry thanks to its low viewership numbers. Ninja’s audience shrank by 33 percent, and the name recognition he carries never translated to growth for Mixer overall.

The shutdown news comes on the heels of a former Mixer employee, Milan Lee, publicly accusing managers at the company of using racist language and enabling it as ongoing behavior. Lee’s allegations, tweeted on Sunday, caused unrest among Mixer’s streamers, some of whom canceled planned streams on the platform.

Partners on the streaming platform were blindsided by the news. “We are heartbroken,” wrote Melissa Howard and Justin Hudspeth, Mixer partners who ran a creative comedy channel named Goldilocks & The Bear, in a direct message to The Post. “The way they broke this news so suddenly and casually is perplexing and shocking.”

Mixer’s closure was likely long in talks before any of these issues surfaced. Microsoft appears to be shifting much of the community management work over to Facebook, the 2.5-billion-user social networking app that’s become the world’s biggest battlefield in the war over misinformation, toxicity and abuse.

On July 22, all Mixer sites and apps will redirect users to Facebook Gaming. Mixer partners will be granted partner status with Facebook Gaming, and Facebook says it would honor all existing agreements as closely as possible. Mixer viewers with Embers (the platform’s form of currency) or outstanding channel subscriptions will get an Xbox Gift Card as compensation.

Asked about their intentions to take up Mixer on its offer of partnership status with Facebook gaming, the comedy duo expressed their uncertainty. “We would consider Facebook Gaming but are unaware of their intentions to grow that part of their platform,” wrote Howard and Hudspeth. “So for now, it seems like Twitch is our only option.”

Mikhail Klimentov contributed reporting to this story.

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