Beam is dead, long live ‘Mixer’ - the new name for Microsoft’s live-streaming service to rival the likes of Twitch and YouTube gaming.
According to the company, the new name marks the next generation of the service, but for many it will feel like a sign that the service has been struggling to make headways against the dominance of Twitch despite it’s recent arrival onto the Xbox One platform as part of the Creators Update.
It’s a struggle that will be familiar to many fledgling services who’ve gone up against an established community. Mixer might have some pretty impressive tech, but when the draw of a service is its diehard fanbase, it nevertheless has a hard road ahead of it.
The next level in multiplayer streaming
And that’s a shame, because Mixer’s new co-streaming functionality is genuinely pretty cool. The feature allows up to four streamers to group together to offer a new take on multiplayer streaming.
Using co-streaming, for example, a team of players in the multiplayer game PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds could all stream simultaneously. Viewers can then easily keep track of multiple players, switching between them to view the best bits of the action from each of their machines without having to have multiple pages open.
As Mixer’s co-founder Matt Salsamendi explains, “the idea is that you can get multiple friends, multiple channels, all joined together on the same page … where all of your streams can be watched at the same time. So essentially you get multiple perspectives, all your chats are merged together, and you can have a social experience with all your friends that are streaming the same game, or even different games“.
Such functionality has existed before through the spectator modes of various multiplayer-focussed games, but this is the first time the functionality has been integrated into a streaming service directly to allow it to work with any game, which should be fantastic for smaller games that aren’t set up to be massive eSports titles.
Co-streaming will be available for all Mixer users at launch.
Outside of co-streaming, Mixer is also introducing a couple of other features that it’s no doubt hoping will draw people away from Twitch.
First up is Mixer Create, which will be launching in Beta on Mobile devices. At the moment functionality is limited to a Periscope-like service that’s meant to allow people to keep up with their favorite streamers when they’re away from their gaming machines, but this could also be combined with co-streaming to offer a live-action multiplayer streaming experience.
“One thing I personally want to try is an airsoft fight where all the broadcasters have phones strapped to their Nerf guns...they’re running around and you can see all their different perspectives [as they play],” the service’s co-founder, Matt Salsamendi, muses.
In the future the app will also see the addition of the ability to stream gameplay directly from a phone, perfect for a game like Pokemon Go, and if we see any other breakout hits this summer this functionality could be a boon for their communities.
Finally, Mixer will introduce a couple of new ways to find the most popular content on the service, firstly through a moderated channel of content called ‘Channel One’ and secondly through a new page on the Xbox One Dashboard.
The right tech for the job
Monopolies are never a good thing, but the critical mass of users that Twitch has amassed has made taking it on a formidable challenge.
In spite of this, Mixer seems to be on the right track by offering a number of interesting technologies that you can’t get anywhere else. From its pre-existing latency advantage over other services (which should help as interactive streams become more and more popular), to new features like co-streaming, the service is working hard to justify its existence.
But with Microsoft committed to letting Mixer and Twitch live on side by side on the Xbox platform, this is a battle that’s nowhere near over.