On August 14, 2019, our Gaming & Esports Manager, Vincent Minichiello, made a prediction about Microsoft/Mixer’s acquisition of Ninja that just came true. Read more below.

Why is Microsoft/Mixer’s acquisition of Ninja so important?

First and foremost, for those that may not keep tabs on the world of gaming, this announcement is just as big as it would be if Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid and joined the MLS.

While Ninja was still the face of Twitch (and all of gaming, for that matter), his viewership had been on a steep decline in 2019. In May of 2018, Ninja had over 250,000 subscribers, which dropped to 22,787 subscribers between January and July of this year. During his last month of streaming on Twitch, he had 14,956 subscribers. This is likely due to the amount of competition rising on Twitch with talent such as Shroud, Dr Lupo, CouRageJD, and TimTheTatMan – not to mention content fatigue on Ninja’s part. If you play the same game every single day (Fortnite) for viewership – and especially if the game makes decisions that upset the community (aka Season 10 animosity towards the B.R.U.T.E [Mechs]) which caused Ninja and other big name streamers like Dr Lupo and TimTheTatMan to boycott the game entirely, then your viewership might also take a hit.  

With all of these problems compiling for Ninja, Microsoft saw an opportunity to leverage his influence in the gaming space. They offered Ninja the opportunity to own a platform with very little competition (there aren’t any huge Mixer streamers…yet), and what better way to reinvent your brand than by going back to what got you started in gaming in the first place? Ninja began his career as a competitive Halo player in 2009. Who publishes Halo? Microsoft!

It also just so happens that Microsoft was looking to reinvent their most popular and successful franchise with the release of Halo Infinite next year. I can’t think of a better win — Ninja gets to go back to his roots with the franchise that started it all, while Microsoft gets to capitalize on the most popular influencer in the world to market the game’s refresh. That’s just one example of how important this relationship is for Microsoft.

On top of Halo, when any future Microsoft title is released, they have Ninja locked and loaded, ready to promote and play to his millions of fans. Gears of War 5, another one of Microsoft’s longest and most successful franchises, launches next month, and it will be interesting to see what sort of marketing campaigns and initiatives Microsoft develops around the news. My guess is that we’ll see Microsoft lean heavily on to Ninja to stream Gears 5 ON MIXER. Moving forward, this could be the trend for the rest of Microsoft’s exclusive titles.  

This acquisition is so much bigger than just bringing Mixer up to a level to directly compete against Twitch. This is about vertically integrating Microsoft’s value chain. Microsoft is recognizing the marketing shift that the gaming industry has created through influencer marketing, and they’re taking advantage. It’s a win-win for both parties. Influencers get to provide their fanbase with fresh content, while the game developer is able to garner real-time feedback and genuine reactions from the audience they’re looking to market to.

Game developers are using this influencer marketing strategy right now on Twitch, but it looks like Microsoft is taking it to the next level to compete with Sony and Twitch/Amazon. Microsoft now owns a streaming platform and the top tier talent to drive viewership, and they get to use it to market the games that they are publishing. They own the whole value chain! This is a side of the conversation that is only just now being had.