Yesterday, global streaming sensation Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins announced that he has left Twitch to begin streaming exclusively on Microsoft’s Mixer.
This was considered a surprising move, as Blevins had been streaming on Twitch for almost eight years. Blevins’ streaming journey began back in 2011 with H1Z1, before switching to the battle royale genre in 2017.
Blevins picked up Fortnite in late 2017 which propelled him to unforeseen heights over the next six months. In August last year, he became the first Twitch streamer to surpass 10 million followers. His success carried over to YouTube, where he became the fastest non-music YouTuber to grow from one to 10 million subscribers.
From there, became the first professional gamer to front sports magazine ESPN. He also made TIME Magazine's 100 influential people 2019 list.
On paper, Blevins is an incredible bag for Mixer. He’s incontestably the biggest creator in the world right now and even the sheer mention of him has pushed Microsoft’s streaming platform into the spotlight.
However, Blevins’ growth spurt on Twitch was somewhat of a zeitgeist. The question that remains is whether the creator is still able to replicate even a fraction of the numbers he saw on Twitch. Is Blevins still worth as much as brands and platforms think? Or is that worth still calculated by a surge of popularity he or no other influencer can recreate?
Mixing it up
As of writing, Mixer’s app is currently the 14th most popular in the Apple App Store, as fans rush to follow Blevins. In less than a day, the Ninja Mixer channel has racked up over 250,000 followers and chatters are already congregating there waiting for his debut stream.
The influx of users is not just positive for Blevins, either. It’s created a window of opportunity for other streamers to push themselves. Mixer is still a tiny platform compared to Twitch, which means smaller streamers are often drowned out in categories.
Mixer will temporarily be in a sweet spot between being a small enough platform that streamers have an essence of discoverability, while also experiencing a popularity surge due to its new king.
For example, as of writing, the Rainbow Six: Siege category on Twitch currently has over 6,000 people viewing hundreds of different streamers playing the game. Over on Mixer, there are 180 viewers spread over less live channels. If a viewer searches for a game, a smaller amount of live streamers playing that game means a viewer is more likely to stop at one, which encourages growth.
While Blevins’ success in the streaming world seemed to skyrocket overnight, the creator is not an overnight success. His career in professional gaming spans over 10 years and the careful planning around his brand reflects that.
The Ninja brand has become a household name - numerous partnerships with retailers such as Walmart and Primark has seen the streamer’s merch appear in high street stores alongside the Fortnite brand that propelled him.
He’s also made countless television appearances on shows such as Ellen and Jimmy Fallon, pushing gaming and streaming into the mainstream in a way no creator has managed to do on such a level.
However, while Blevins’ mainstream popularity flourishes, numbers in the backend of Twitch have been decreasing dramatically.
While he was uncontestedly the most followed creator on Twitch, closing the door on over 14.7 million followers, his subscriber count has decreased dramatically since last year.
According to TwitchTracker, Blevins’ peak subscriber period was March 2018. He had amassed 250,055 subs, with 198, 974 of those being free Twitch Prime subs. By August, that count had shrunk by over 50 per cent to 106, 936, with 68,865 of those subs activated by Twitch Prime.
By January 2019, that number had halved again to 33,759 subs. In July 2019, his final month on Twitch, he had a total 14,956 subs with 10,401 of those aided by a Twitch Prime sub which costs viewers nothing.
While subscriber numbers alone are not an indicator of success, it’s worth observing that tangible support on Twitch has dropped at an astounding rate between August last year and now. This could be due to a few things - less incentive for people to renew their Twitch Prime subs, such as in-game rewards or loot, or the fact that Blevins has looked towards titles other than Fortnite since the turn of 2019.
This decline is also noticeable in Blevins’ overall views. While he was still leading the charge with followers, he wasn’t bringing in as many consistent views as other fast-rising streamers. Ninja is consistently competing with the likes of Tfue, Summit1g, LIRIK, Shroud, xQc, Asmongold and Sodapoppin for the top spot. +
Over on Mixer, Blevins is undeniably the top dog by a considerable margin once more.
The streamer cited the move as an attempt to “get back to the streaming roots”, which stacks up. This is not a senseless or ill-thought move from the Ninja brand. Blevins himself began his gaming career over 10 years ago as a professional Halo player. Now, he’s effectively the face of gaming and the Halo franchise over at Microsoft.
His seismic impact over the last 18 months means he will be the biggest and most valuable creator wherever he goes.
And he’s not just clinging to streaming and hoping for the best. Ninja isn’t a person now, it's an enterprise, almost a cultural movement separate from the man behind it.
Inbetween serious merchandising, appearances at events across the globe such as hosting the Fortnite World Cup and his NYE Times Square stream and a three-book deal, Blevins and Ninja can afford to see a loss of support in one area when it is propped up by another emerging pillar of growth.
Had his growth on Twitch stalled? Yes. Does that mean the Ninja name is fading into irrelevance? Not even slightly.
All things considered, Blevins’ sharp decline in paid subscribers means very little right now - his seismic impact over the last 18 months means he will be the biggest and most valuable creator wherever he goes.