By Sean Jackson
Recently a deal between celebrity streamer Ninja and Microsoft helped the tech giant become a new contender against Amazon owned Twitch.tv’s dominance over the game-streaming industry.
Tyler Blevins, who goes by the name Ninja, recently began playing games exclusively on Mixer, Microsoft’s streaming platform. The move represents Microsoft’s first major poach from Twitch which has dominated the streaming space for the past few years. Blevins had been the biggest star on Twitch, pulling an average of 41,000 viewers on any day, but that all changed when his contract ended.
While the outline of Microsoft’s contract with Blevins is still under wraps, the company made the move to recruit streaming talent who will exclusively stream on their platform. The current video game market, which is currently worth $150 billion dollars a year, is continuing to expand as more people flock to watch their favorite gamers, as well as the advent of e-sports.
The recruiting of well-known influencers in the streaming market is important for drawing subscriptions and advertising money which now helps games, as well as platforms take off. Microsoft’s move to acquire Twitch’s largest star is for that exact purpose.
According to talent agents who work with online entertainers, Ninja’s contract most likely included a multi-year deal for Mixer, as well as a sign-on bonus most likely in the low tens of millions of dollars for around six years.
Although Microsoft has a large amount of video-game centric ventures in its repertoire, Mixer, which was known as Beam before being acquired in 2016, only accounted for 3% of the viewership in the livestream market. Twitch, which Amazon acquired in 2014 for $970 million, owns approximately 70% of viewership, while YouTube owns 20%. According to Twitch they accumulated 505 billion minutes of viewing time on their platform in 2018.
Ben Schachter, an analyst for Macquarie Securities suggests that the move from Microsoft is to help the brand solidify itself in the marketplace, stating, “Microsoft needs top streamers to establish Mixer as a true destination to compete with Twitch and YouTube.”
Marketplace pressure is on the rise, with Google planning to introduce a cloud-based gaming platform called Stadia in November with hopes to strengthen their position in the streaming industry. The video game streaming industry has quickly become a lucrative marketplace, with some streamers earning as much as $50,000 an hour by earning money from advertisers, viewers tipping them, and also paying to subscribe to their content.
While Ninja is best known for playing Fortnite, a game put out by Epic Games that quickly rose to the top in the battle royale genre, he is also expanding his brand outside of his gaming, earning sponsors with UberEats, Red Bull, and other brands. Ninja quickly became prolific in the streaming community, appearing on the cover of ESPN magazine, and even playing a game with rap star Drake. Blevins had more than 14 million followers on Twitch, which is double what the next most popular streamer has on the platform.