Ninja, the most popular player on Amazon’s gaming-focused livestreaming service Twitch, announced today that he will now be playing games like Fortnite exclusively on Mixer, a competing streaming platform owned by Microsoft.
“I just feel like I’m going to get back to the streaming roots, and that’s what it’s all about,” said Ninja (whose real name is Tyler Blevins) in a brief video posted to Twitter. “Obviously, streams are just going to be the exact same.”
The next chapter,https://t.co/lvn9KBjEYq pic.twitter.com/tljVgyM3bG— Ninja (@Ninja) August 1, 2019
As of June, Ninja was far and away the most popular streamer on Twitch, with a reported 14.37 million followers. That’s more than twice as many as the next most popular Twitch streamer, though far fewer than PewDiePie’s (real name: Felix Kjellberg) more than 98 million followers on YouTube.
Details of the contract have not been released, so it’s unknown how much is mixer paying Ninja. But it’s a safe bet that Microsoft has cut Ninja some sort of advantageous financial deal to jump ship to Mixer. This talent-poaching highlights shifting dynamics in the streaming world, with platforms proliferating rapidly and top talents increasingly valued for their ability to attract viewers. Kjellberg himself recently made a similar switch, making his live streams exclusive to a blockchain-backed platform called Dlive, though his edited videos are still posted to YouTube.
Mixer is primed to make the most of Ninja’s switch, currently offering a free subscription to Ninja’s channel on its homepage. Notably, Mixer memberships and subscriptions are tied to a user’s Microsoft account, meaning Ninja’s arrival could draw new users into an ecosystem that also includes Xbox Live, Skype, and Office365.
By the same token, it’s possible Ninja’s departure from Twitch could have a meaningful impact on other Amazon services, such as its Prime subscription service, which includes Twitch Prime integration.
Successful streaming platforms will also have a privileged position in the broader gaming industry, which is expected to generate $152 billion in revenue this year—50% more than the film industry. Game publishers increasingly look to streaming to promote games. Ninja himself was reportedly paid $1 million to play the new game Apex Legends when it was launched, and platforms, much like more traditional entertainment broadcasters, sell advertising to run alongside the frenetic action.
But as intriguing as the ecosystem implications might be, game streaming is quickly becoming a field worth fighting over in its own right. An appearance by rapper Drake in 2018 pushed simultaneous Twitch viewers to a then-record of over 1 million, a very healthy number in an era when some of the most successful (and expensive) broadcast television shows draw around 6 million viewers.
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