Mixer co-founders depart as Microsoft’s game streaming service battles Amazon’s Twitch


Matt Salsamendi. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

Mixer has lost both of its co-founders as the Microsoft-owned streaming service looks to mount a challenge to the incumbent power in the market: Amazon’s Twitch.

Matt Salsamendi, who co-founded the streaming service originally known as Beam at the age of 18, tweeted about his departure late last week. He wrote that the first seeds for Mixer were planted when he was 13, and now he is ready to pursue a new idea. It involves lasers and EDM shows.

The announcement of Salsamendi’s departure from Microsoft and Mixer came a little over a week after fellow co-founder James Boehm revealed he was leaving the company. Both co-founders noted they will continue streaming through the platform and stay close with the community.

We’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment on the departures and we will update this post if we hear back.

Together, Salsamendi and Boehm brought their idea to life, became members of the TechStars Seattle 2016 class and got the service acquired by Microsoft a few months later. Mixer sought to distinguish itself from comeptitors early on with features like the ability for up to four broadcasters to stream to a shared chat experience and ways for viewers to interact with games as they’re streamed.

Microsoft made its splashiest move yet with Mixer this summer, when it brought in esports superstar Ninja to stream exclusively on its platform.

About a year ago, Microsoft unveiled a slate of updates titled “Season 2” that were designed to help people playing games connect with their audiences and get paid for that interaction. And viewers got more options to express themselves and become a bigger part of the action.

“It’s all about continuing to help foster that very community-oriented experience even, I guess the word might be in spite of the growth, because it can be hard, as communities grow, to keep things feeling connected, keep people feeling united around this goal of making streaming interactive,” Salsamendi said at an event in 2017.

A recent report from Streamlabs and Newzoo shows that Mixer is starting to catch up with Twitch and YouTube. The report notes that the number of hours streamed on Mixer passed YouTube Gaming in the third quarter, however, the number of hours watched on Mixer remains much smaller than Twitch or YouTube.

In addition to the departures of the Mixer co-founders, Microsoft’s gaming division took another hit last week when Mike Ybarra, corporate vice president of Xbox Live, Xbox Game Pass and Mixer, announced plans to leave after 20 years with the company.

The departures come at a time of transformation for Microsoft’s gaming division. Microsoft is focusing heavily on expanding its audience by meeting gamers where they like to play, whether that is their smartphone, console or PC.

Microsoft is gearing up for public trials later this month of one of its most ambitious gaming initiatives yet. Powered by specially designed servers built from Xbox components in Microsoft’s network of Azure data centers, Project xCloud will let gamers play high-powered Xbox titles like Halo on their smartphones.

Microsoft earlier this year announced its next-generation game console, set for release during the 2020 holiday season. A console refresh could provide a jolt to the company’s gaming division, which saw a 10 percent year-over-year decline in revenue last quarter, driven by a 48 percent decrease in Xbox hardware sales.

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