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Ninja's Return to Twitch - Key Takeaways

As announced earlier this month, Tyler "Ninja" Blevins, the most popular gaming influencer in the world, has returned to his fanbase on Twitch. As part of a multi-year exclusive streaming rights deal, Ninja will be returning to the platform following his marked presence on Microsoft’s proprietary streaming platform ‘Mixer’. Ninja’s Mixer tenure was cut short earlier in 2020, when Microsoft decided to cease the platforms operation, resulting in many streamers, who had transferred to the burgeoning Twitch competitor, swiftly moving back to the Amazon subsidiary.

The Fall of Microsoft’s Mixer

Mixer failed to gain a strong enough return for the investment it made in acquiring streaming talent. Ninja alone signed for between $20-$30 million, and when compared with the platforms estimated annual earnings of $200 million in 2019, the disconnect between revenue and investment becomes clear.

In addition, despite the significant investment that Microsoft made into the service, the viewership statistics were never in the same league as its competitors. This was partially due to the lack of community atmosphere enjoyed by the likes of Twitch, which has developed and matured alongside the gaming community. Twitch is not only a streaming platform, but a hub for the gaming community to meet, share ideas and talk about games, a position that has taken years for Twitch to cultivate, and one that Mixer was unable to generate through financial investments alone.

Whilst Mixer had some innovative features that separated it from its competitors, such as MixPlay which allowed viewers to jump into the streamer’s game and Co-streaming which allowed multiple streamers to broadcast together at once, the platform failed to gain scale in terms of both streamers (around 100,000 compared to Twitch’s 1.6 million) and viewers (10 million monthly active users vs Twitch’s 140 million).

The Importance of Platform Ambassadors

Ambassadors are a crucial element of the success of these platforms. With millions of fans watching content creators for multiple hours per day, streamers are ensuring that the platform gains a significant number of eyeballs on screens. This presents an opportunity to not only endemic brands who can sponsor streamers to gain airtime and even endorsements for their products, but brands who advertise on the platform directly, with adverts at the beginning or during video content. With advertisers and sponsors alike eager to benefit from these eyeballs through paid partnerships with viewing platforms, acquiring talent is one of the main focuses for the likes of Twitch, YouTube Gaming and Facebook Gaming.

Although individuals can be very influential (e.g. Chinese streamer PDD generating roughly 3%, around $30 million, of Chinese platform Douyu’s annual revenue), acquiring talent from a competitor does not guarantee the streamers fanbase will follow in its entirety. At its peak, Ninja’s Twitch channel had 14 million followers. However, when the streamer joined Mixer only 2 million of these fans followed him. Microsoft was likely hoping that acquiring top tier talent would also attract a longer tail of streamers, both popular and emerging alike, which would in theory enable the platform to gain a critical mass of streamers and become the new go-to access point for gaming and esports content, ahead of Twitch. However, Ninja’s departure from Twitch was clearly not the signal for other streamers to likewise jump ship and instead created a power vacuum enabling others to gain a larger following. An example of this is the Fortnite streamer Tfue, who had around 6 million followers at the time of Ninja’s departure and is now approaching 9 million as of August 2020.

Whilst fans are undoubtedly loyal to streamers, there is also a loyalty to the platform, social networks and other streamers to consider, with Twitch having developed its community over the last decade into a thriving network of gaming enthusiasts.

Influencers as Key Targets Beyond Gaming

The streaming industry is attracting substantial attention from advertisers and brands, as younger consumers spend more time online and less time engaging with traditional media. Total streaming platform revenue is estimated to have generated $6 billion from advertising in 2019, with private influencer sponsorships adding to this total, typically for an undisclosed (but likely sizeable) fee. Airtime and endorsements from streamers carry significant weight to streamer followings, and brands are willing to invest heavily to ensure their product is in the limelight.

Ninja’s Adidas and Red Bull sponsorships are key examples of companies recognising that there has been a step change in the interests of their target consumer base. Young consumers are spending much more time watching streamers online than they are consuming traditional media, so product placement and streamer endorsements are guaranteed to gain widespread exposure and consumer interest. The market is clearly responding to this shift in consumer interest and it is expected that more of these collaborations between consumer brands and gaming stars will emerge.

Futuresource’s most recent Kids Tech consumer survey found that 58% of 3-16 year olds in key markets watch gaming content online, with over half of these respondents saying they consume online gaming content at least three times per week. With interest in gaming snowballing, particularly amongst younger age brackets, there is growing opportunity for brands across consumer electronics, entertainment and FMCG industries to leverage the gaming industry in fostering brand awareness amongst the high spending consumers of tomorrow.

To view our range of Entertainment-focused reports, including our recent Kids Tech survey and ‘Global Gaming Unwrapped’ report, please contact Kailash Morjaria at kailash.morjaria@futuresource-hq.com

About the author

Morris Garrard

About Us

Here at Futuresource Consulting we deliver specialist research and consulting services, providing market forecasts and intelligence reports. Since the 1980s we have supported a range of industry sectors, which has grown to include: CE, Broadcast, Entertainment Content, EdTech and many more.