Mixer vs. Twitch
“Should I leave Twitch to stream on Mixer?” “Will my community follow me?” “Do I have a better chance to be noticed?” “What about making money?” “Am I dooming my career?”
These are all questions streamers have been asking since the rise of Mixer, Microsoft’s live-streaming platform alternative. They’re important questions too; Twitch’s monopoly over live content has ended, and Mixer is establishing itself as a formidable new challenger. It’s a modern-day underdog story; the titanic struggle between Microsoft’s David and Amazon’s Twitch Goliath.
Mixer has long been derided as the platform for Twitch ‘rejects’ and castaways; the home for streamers who “can’t make it” on Twitch. Well.. those slights don’t seem to carry much weight today. Mixer silenced the critics in 2019 by signing some of Twitch’s top talent (including Ninja, Shroud, and Gothalion) to exclusive contracts. The spotlight was on Mixer, and doubters were being proven wrong.
Today, more and more creators are eyeing Mixer, wondering if there are greener (or bluer) pastures on the other side. Many are contemplating a move, discouraged by low view counts and Twitch’s lack of discoverability for smaller streamers. Others, frustrated with Twitch’s inconsistent policies and competitive environment, have already made the switch.
More than ever before, creators are asking themselves, “Should I move to Mixer?”
Well, we’re not here to give you an answer to that one. Why? Because there is no one answer; it all depends on your unique situation. What type of streamer are you? What are your career goals? What do you value in a platform?
What we will do is put all the facts on the table, so you can make the right decision for your brand. It’s all here: side-by-side comparisons of ALL the important factors that will weigh into your choice. From monetization to latency and stability to community toxicity. What is most important to you?
Editor’s Note: Luckily, both Twitch and Mixer are constantly improving their services. As new updates roll out, we’ll adjust the information below. We’ll also be comparing Twitch vs YouTube and Twitch vs Facebook Gaming in the near future, if you’re considering other alternatives.
Let’s get started with one of the most important considerations. Viewers and Competition.
Part One: Viewers, Competition, and You
There is a widespread belief that finding success is ‘easier’ on Mixer than Twitch. These people assume that because Mixer is a smaller, lesser-known platform, there is less competition for viewers among streamers. This would imply that it’s easier to ‘get noticed’ and find an audience, potentially breaking through and becoming a streamer great.
This is only partly true, and in many ways can be misleading. Let’s break it down.
This one is no surprise. As the largest live streaming platform in the world, Twitch viewership dwarfs Mixer’s. And it’s not even close.
According to this annual report by Streamlabs and Newzoo, Twitch users watched a total of 9.8 billion hours in 2019. Compare that to Mixer’s 357 million hours watched in 2019. That’s just 3.7% of Twitch’s total.
A similar story unfolds when we measure concurrent viewership (CVV), the average number of viewers watching live content at a given moment. In 2019, Twitch averaged 1.12 million concurrent viewers. Meanwhile, Mixer clocked in at just 40.8 thousand, 3.6% of their Twitch rivals.
Again, no surprise here. As new kid on the block, Mixer has a LOT of ground to make up before they can start challenging Twitch’s numbers. It is encouraging however, to note that Mixer more than doubled its hours watched in 2019 versus 2018. Much of this can be credited to the signing of Ninja and Shroud to platform-exclusive deals, bringing an influx of new viewers.
Unfortunately, much of Mixer’s progress was lost in Q1 of 2020. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Twitch saw explosive growth (+17% hours watched vs Q4 2019; 20% growth in average concurrent viewers), reaching new audience records. Meanwhile, Mixer saw a decrease in both hours watched and concurrent viewers (-7% and -5%, respectively).
For most creators, this isn’t exactly new news. While an upward trajectory in viewership is obviously welcome, nobody moves to Mixer hoping to tap into an enormous audience pool. Many however, join Mixer assuming that there are fewer streamers on the platform, and thus less competition for viewers. And this is where many would be surprised.
So just how many creators are actually streaming on Mixer? The number is higher than you’d expect. In 2019, Mixer averaged 2.7 million unique channels. Compare that to Twitch’s 4.4 million and you’ll find that Mixer’s creator community is already 61% the size of Twitch’s. That’s a lot of streamers for a ‘new’ platform with such a (relatively) small viewer audience!
There are two ways to read these numbers. On the one hand, it clearly shows that Mixer is doing something right to attract streamers to the platform. On the other, it shows a lot of streamers ‘fighting’ for a piece of a small audience pie. Let’s dig deeper into those numbers.
When we compare unique channels and viewership totals, we find that Twitch averages 26 viewers per channel. Meanwhile, Mixer averages just six viewers per channel. Yikes! Should we be rethinking the assumption that it’s easier to get noticed and ‘break out’ on Mixer?
Well first, don’t panic, Mixer streamers. These numbers don’t paint the whole picture, and are a bit skewed (as we’ll see below). However, they definitely paint a revealing (and imbalanced) picture, and may make you pause and think twice before switching. Let’s explore.
Behind the Numbers
It’s worth noting that part of Mixer’s creator-to-viewer ratio is due to the high number of casual console streamers. Due to the Xbox One’s built-in Mixer support, it’s SUPER easy to turn on your console and start recording. This naturally leads to a large number of casual gamers streaming from their couch – often without webcams and just a simple headset – to ultra-low (or no) viewer counts.
For a professional streamer, these users don’t pose much of a competition threat. But they do skew the numbers slightly, so factor that into your consideration.
On the other hand, Twitch’s numbers are imbalanced due to the popularity of its top-tier creators. Streaming giants like Summit1G, XQC, and Asmongold rope in tens of thousands of viewers, which weighs platform-wide statistics unevenly. These top creators form an ‘upper class’ of sorts, soaking up audiences like a sponge – and distributing viewers unevenly across the platform. In fact, a 2019 StreamElements report showed that the top 5,000 channels account for a whopping 75% of Twitch’s viewership.
That leaves little behind for the remaining ~4.4 million unique Twitch channels. So while Twitch may average 26 viewers per channel, new and small streamers can hardly expect this audience. In reality, the average viewer-per-channel ratio is far lower for these creators – oftentimes close to one, or even below! For every Twitch superstar, there are thousands of creators streaming to a handful of viewers, or none at all.
What Does it Mean for You?
Discoverability has always been an issue on Twitch, and luckily the platform is making promising changes (as we’ll see below). The ‘top-5,000’ community is expanding, as demand for live content grows and new creators rise.
However, at this point, the average Twitch viewer knows what they like to watch, and – more importantly – know who they like to watch. They’ve invested time into the platform, have built a list of favorite creators, and rarely venture beyond this circle.
Whereas on Mixer, a newer platform, that still remains very much to be decided. The platform is still awaiting its ‘greats’; viewers are looking to fill their regular rotation. With the exception of newcomers Shroud and Ninja, that ‘upper tier’ of high-quality creators has yet to fully form. There are communities up for grabs and niches waiting to be filled.
And this is good news for a professional streamer looking to get noticed. Creators find it’s often easier to build an early community on Mixer, attracting those first 10 – 30 viewers while their Twitch counterparts are streaming to just a handful.
But now for the bad news. If you’re considering Mixer, you should know that your ceiling for financial, career success is quite capped – at least for the moment. With such a small audience base (3.7% of Twitch’s), peak view counts are substantially lower. Even Ninja and Shroud have seen their concurrent viewers drop to about 5,000 each, down from the tens of thousands they averaged on Twitch.
Smaller audiences means fewer subscribers and fewer donations. It is also a red flag for potential brand partners (a valuable source of income for top streamers), who want to promote their goods to as many eyes as possible. Currently, Mixer’s largest creators are dwarfed by their Twitch counterparts, both in terms of following and financials (barring exclusive contracts). The rewards are just not there (yet) to incentivize top creators. If you’re looking to ‘make it big’, Mixer is probably not for you
Compared to Mixer, the ceiling on Twitch is sky-high. While the odds of ‘breaking out’ are against you, the rewards of entering that upper tier are massive. Streamers can ‘go viral’, amassing huge audiences in mere days. And those audiences bring real monetization options and fame. If you’re willing to put in the hustle, it could pay off big with a reliable, full-time career.
So what type of streamer are you? Are you looking to make it big and pull in some serious cash? Or would you prefer a more casual, friendly experience streaming to a loyal (but smaller) core audience? Only you can answer that.
Still can’t decide? Let’s step away from the numbers and start exploring a second major consideration: monetization.
Part Two: Monetization
Twitch’s Affiliate Program was designed as the first step towards monetization for creators. Generally, the requirements to qualify for Affiliate status are easy to reach, making it a low barrier to entry for new and small streamers. While there are no hard numbers as to how many Twitch Affiliates there are, it is assumed to be in the hundreds of thousands.
Prior to reaching Affiliate level, there is no way for streamers to earn revenue, aside from third-party donations (or sponsors). Once you’ve hit Affiliate, you can begin monetizing through subscriptions, bits, and advertisements. We’ll explore each of these below.
Mixer on the other hand, does not have an Affiliate program. Rather, most monetization options are locked until you qualify for Partner. Luckily, Mixer makes up for this by having easier Partnership requirements (explored below) than Twitch.
New and small Mixer streamers do have other opportunities to raise revenue, albeit less than their Twitch counterparts. In addition to third party donations, non-Partners now have the option to enable Embers (equivalent to Twitch Bits) on their channel. You’ll need to sign up and apply, but Embers offer one way for viewers to support your channel directly, as you progress towards Partner status.
Since most Twitch monetization options are unlocked at Affiliate status, hitting Partner doesn’t change much on the financial front (an exception being that Twitch starts covering payout fees). It does however, unlock a host of engagement and branding tools such as more emotes, unlimited transcoding, squad streams, priority support, etc.
Requirements to enter the Partnership Program are quite high; the most challenging being that streamers must average 75 concurrent viewers to qualify. Many streamers spend years trying to reach this mark. Based on current estimates, there are just over 40,000 Twitch Partners.
For Mixer creators, the Partner Program is where monetization action really begins. Once qualified, Partnered streamers can begin earning revenue through Subscriptions, Embers (if not already activated) and ad revenue.
Luckily, the road to Partner status is somewhat easier on Mixer than it is on Twitch. Instead of requiring a concurrent viewer benchmark, potential Mixer Partners must reach 2,000 channel followers. Generally, followers are easier to obtain than active viewers, especially if you score a lucky host or spot on Mixer’s HypeZone (more to come on that later).
Now let’s take a look at subs, the meat of most broadcasters’ revenue. How do they work differently on each platform?
On Twitch, you need to be either an Affiliate or Partner to qualify for a sub button. Luckily (as shown earlier), the barrier to entry for Affiliate is low, so most anyone can get this perk with a bit of hustle. Creators earn 50% of subscription revenue, with the other half going to Twitch. Twitch subscriptions come in three tiers ($4.99, $9.99, $24.99), meaning you have the potential to earn more than the base $4.99 level.
Affiliates and Partners also are eligible to receive Twitch Prime subscriptions, a monthly gift for viewers with an Amazon Prime membership. Twitch Prime subs are essentially ‘free’ monetary support for streamers, and are a major advantage Twitch has over Mixer.
Twitch viewers can also ‘gift’ subs to others, essentially paying for another user’s subscription. These subs can be ‘mass-gifted’ in larger quantities; for example, 10-gifted subs, 100-gifted subs, etc. This is an important feature for larger streamers, as these mass gifted ‘sub-bombs’ can result in large revenue influxes.
Mixer, on the other hand, restricts sub buttons to Partnered-streamers only. Luckily, Mixer has announced that it plans on unlocking subscriptions for all channels in the near future, no matter their size. Until then however, new and small streamers will miss out on valuable subscription revenue.
In October 2019, Mixer reduced the price of subscriptions to $4.99 per month, matching Twitch’s base-level subscription cost. Unfortunately, Mixer subscriptions do not have separate tiers, meaning creators don’t have the opportunity to up-sell to higher sub levels (earning more money). As with Twitch, creators receive approximately 50% of subscription revenue, with Mixer receiving the rest.
Additionally, Mixer does not currently allow ‘mass-gifting’ of subscriptions; only single sub gifts. This is a missed revenue opportunity for larger streamers, since viewers are less likely to gift multiple subs when they need to process each one individually.
There is some good news, however. In an effort to compete with Twitch Prime, Mixer recently announced that viewers can unlock free, one-month subscriptions by redeeming Microsoft Rewards. Users can earn Rewards by playing games, completing Xbox Game Pass Quests, searching on Bing, and more. It remains to be seen how large of an impact this will have, and there are concerns since Microsoft Rewards are generally less-understood and less-used by the average gamer than Amazon Prime. Regardless, it’s an important step forward – offering creators the chance to receive ‘free’ sub revenue.
Bits vs. Embers
Twitch Bits and Mixer Embers function very similarly. Both are platform currencies that can be purchased to support your favorite creators. Think of them as direct donations, without the need to use third-party apps. However, there are a few notable differences.
Twitch streamers can begin earning Bits once they reach Affiliate status. Each bit is worth one penny for a creator; 100 bits are basically a $1 donation. Twitch takes its cut by charging checkout fees for viewers. For example, 100 bits cost $1.40 to purchase; $1 for streamers, 40 cents for Twitch. As a creator though, 100% of your bit earnings go directly to you.
Viewer bit donations – known as ‘Cheers’ – appear as animated displays within chat (and sometimes as larger overlays over gameplay). These animations – called ‘Cheermotes’ – grow larger and more exciting as bit quantity increases. As viewers cheer more and more bits, they unlock exclusive chat badges and emote rewards – marking them as a top channel donator. Both affiliates and partners can upload custom cheer badges and emote rewards for their channel, while custom cheermotes are restricted to partners-only.
Mixer’s equivalent of bits is called ‘Embers’. Unlike Twitch, Mixer allows all creators to receive Embers – no matter their size or partnership status – as long as they’ve applied and been accepted into Mixer’s monetization program. Embers are valued the same as Twitch bits; each ember is worth one penny for a creator, meaning 100 embers is valued at $1. And just like Twitch, Mixer takes its cut when a viewer originally purchases Embers – not from the streamer receiving them.
Viewers can spend Embers to unlock special ‘Skills’ on your channel. These ‘premium’ skills are similar to Twitch’s cheermotes; eye-catching visual displays that build hype and draw attention to the donor. On Mixer, they usually take the form of animated stickers (special emotes) or full screen effects.
One major difference between bits and embers is that Mixer Partners are actually rewarded with more ember revenue if their audience is highly-engaged. What does this mean? Well, viewers earn a currency called ‘Sparks’ by watching and interacting with your stream. They can redeem these sparks to use skills in your channel, like stickers, animated effects, chat rallies, and more. The more sparks your channel receives, the more ember revenue you could potentially rake in.
It works like this: each Partnered streamer has monthly spark milestones. For each milestone you reach, you receive a percentage increase in the embers earned that month. For example, let’s say 10 million sparks increases your ember earnings by 5%. You pass this milestone, collecting $1,000 in embers along the way. Well at the end of the month, your Mixer payout would actually be $1,050 (since 5% of $1,000 is $50)!
It’s a powerful tool that incentivizes highly-engaged communities. You can always check your milestone progress by clicking the pink rocket ship next to your follower count.
Next up, advertisements. In particular, pre-roll and ad-breaks. What sort of ad revenue control do streamers on Twitch and Mixer have?
Twitch’s ad program has been in action for a long time, and is generally more advanced and customizable than on Mixer. As of October 2019, Twitch Affiliates can now join Partners in receiving pre-roll and ad-break earnings. Ads are no longer shown on channels that haven’t yet qualified for Affiliate.
Twitch pays out creators based on their CPM, or cost per 1000 impressions (views). CPM rates fluctuate based on a number of factors, although your average streamer can expect a dollar range between $3.50 and $5.
Twitch Partners can enable ad-free viewing for subscribers, a useful tool that adds a bonus incentive for viewers to subscribe. Ad-free viewing decreases the number of viewers seeing channel ads however, so Partners should expect a slight decrease in ad revenue (if they choose this option).
Ad-breaks can be managed from your Twitch dashboard, and are run in :30 second increments – with a maximum ad-break length of 3 minutes. Twitch’s new Picture-by-Picture ad-break experience removes full-screen ads, so viewers won’t miss out on the action. Running regular ad-breaks allows Affiliates and Partners to temporarily disable pre-roll ads. For example, a 30 second ad-break disables pre-roll ads for the next 10 minutes, while a 90 second ad-break disables pre-rolls for 30 minutes.
Advertisements are a much newer phenomena on Mixer. Understandably, the platform lags behind Twitch in a number of ways. Many Mixer creators prefer it this way; they’d rather as ad-free an experience for their viewers as possible. Unfortunately, these streamers are in for disappointment. Not only do modern platforms rely on ads to turn a profit, but Mixer has shown its commitment to expanding ads over the past year. The days of an ‘ad-free’ Mixer are long gone, presenting a new revenue opportunity for creators.
Pre-roll ads were introduced to Mixer in late-2019. Currently, creators do not earn any revenue from pre-rolls, with 100% of profit going back to the platform. Luckily, Mixer has acknowledged that it eventually wants creators to benefit from pre-roll ads on their channel. There are reports that Partners have begun testing out a new pre-roll program, although there is no ETA for wider release at the moment.
Mixer also announced a new ad-break program in early 2020, which would allow Partners to control and earn revenue from mid-stream ads. At the moment the program is only in Beta, and is reportedly available for testing by partners. It’s unclear what sort of CPM model Mixer is offering streamers, but those details should start emerging soon.
Viewers can remove ads on a particular channel by subscribing, or platform-wide by signing up for a Mixer PRO monthly subscription.
Part Three: Features and Characteristics
We’ve covered viewership and monetization, two of the biggest considerations for streamers choosing a platform. But what if neither are what’s most important to you and your brand? What if you value technical performance, community, and branding tools above all?
If that’s the case, then this section was made for you.
Performance is often overlooked by new streamers, but it has a huge impact on your channel. There are some major technical differences between Twitch and Mixer that every creator should be aware of.
In many ways, Microsoft is winning the technology war. In fact, one of Mixer’s biggest selling-points is its ‘Faster-than-Light’ (FTL) streaming protocol. FTL allows for near-instantaneous communication between streamer and viewer – often at sub-second, ultra-low latency. The results are mind-blowing, allowing streamers to have real-time chat discussions with almost zero delay. FTL truly needs to be experienced to fully-appreciate, and it’s an incredible tool for streamers looking to keep chat engagement up.
Best yet, FTL can be controlled to optimize your broadcast. Viewers on slower internet speeds can easily disable ‘low-latency’ mode to prevent performance issues. In addition, Mixer Partners have access to Live Transcoding, which automatically adjusts your stream quality to match viewer internet speeds.
However, Mixer’s breakthrough FTL technology presents certain drawbacks. FTL is very sensitive to unstable connections, so instability issues are not uncommon. Crashes, stutters, and freezes do occasionally occur on both desktop and mobile. Savvy viewers can adjust their bitrate or resolution to compensate, but this obviously hurts the audience experience. Given FTL’s young age however, we consider these issues merely ‘growing pains’ – the technology remains industry best-in-class.
Twitch, meanwhile, has been scrambling to compete with FTL since its launch, and has found some success. In the past, creators had to deal with delays of anywhere between 5 – 30 seconds, which killed conversations and made real-time chat engagement next to impossible. Luckily, Twitch responded by proving Low Latency mode for all streamers, reducing delays down to 2-3 seconds. Not quite Mixer’s sub-second latency, but an improvement for sure. However, many argue that Low Latency is really only feasible for those with ultra-high internet speeds, leaving the remainder of Twitch creators in the dust.
Regardless, few can argue that the platform’s stability is anything less than stellar. Crashes and bugs are nearly nonexistent, providing a seamless viewer experience – despite the longer latency delays. Will Twitch be able to further close the gap between Mixer’s FTL in the near future? Time will tell.
What sort of community are you looking to encounter on your platform? Would you rather a competitive or cooperative relationship with your fellow creators? Can put up with chat trolls and stream-snipers on the road to success? It’s an important consideration, and one that sets the two platforms apart.
Finding success on Twitch can be a lonely road. The rewards for ‘breaking out’ are sky-high, which attracts many a creator seeking fame and fortune. Many of these are hoping to make streaming a full-time career, putting their livelihood on the line. As we’ve seen however, few viewers are interested in watching content from small creators, which means each pair of eyes is extra-valuable. In this atmosphere, competition between streamers is natural. It can be a dog-eat-dog world, with each creator focused on their own self-interests and survival. After all, failure for many could mean financial ruin; the end of a dream. As a result, success on Twitch is more often than not an individual journey.
Twitch chat can also be notoriously toxic. With so many viewers on the platform, trolls can be prevalent – each seeking their moment of internet fame. Edgy comments; stream sniping; racism… you’ll likely see it all at some point. Be prepared to unleash the time-outs and ban-hammers. And adopt thick skin.
Obviously the above does not apply to the entirety of Twitch’s community; nor even a majority! There are thousands and thousands of supportive, cooperative Twitch creators out there. Of all the viewers you encounter, trolls will be a small minority. But the fact is, competitiveness and toxicity are far more prevalent on Twitch, and this should be taken into consideration.
On the flip side, Mixer’s community is often one of its strongest selling points for creators. The platform prides itself in its supportive, friendly environment. Most Mixer streamers are under no illusion; with so few viewers to go around, they know the chances of ‘making it big’ are unlikely. In fact, some aren’t even looking to make it big! Many are part-time, casual streamers, going live for the joy of content creation and community-building. As a result, there is generally less of a focus on the ‘individual’, and more on the community.
With such low stakes, competition decreases. Generally, Mixer streamers are more apt to cooperate with their fellow creators. In fact, we often see streamers dropping into another channel’s chat to say hello, or helping a new creator adjust to the platform. It’s a welcoming, positive atmosphere that extends to viewers as well. Trolls and stream-snipers know they have less of a chance of being noticed on Mixer, so many don’t even bother.
But it’s not all rosy. Times are changing, and competition is on the rise. Ninja and Shroud brought the spotlight to Mixer, bringing an influx of new viewers and creators with them. Many of these creators have placed their bets; they expect the platform will one day rival Twitch, and they’re ready to compete for their piece of the pie. Should Mixer’s viewership continue to grow, the platform’s chilled, relaxed vibe may be under threat.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s all for now, but there’s more to come in the near future! Topics to be covered include: rules & enforcement, emotes, badges vs XP, clips, VODs, OBS support, Sparks vs Channel points, console support, analytics, and more. Stay tuned!]