Microsoft renames Beam as Mixer in quest to challenge Amazon, Google in livestreaming

Microsoft's Mixer service runs on a range of devices, including the company's Xbox video game console. (Microsoft)

Microsoft offered its first clear look at the company’s strategy to counter rivals Amazon and Google in the market for livestreaming. Specifically, the company rebranded Beam—a livestreaming startup Microsoft acquired less than a year ago—as Mixer, and concurrently Microsoft detailed a range of upgrades to the platform including the ability to stream four feeds at once.

“Today marks a big evolution of our interactive livestreaming platform and a new name for the service: Mixer. But, more than just the name, we’re launching several of the features that you all have been asking for. Features that will unlock a whole new world of possibilities for social streaming, and help viewers find the content they’re looking for across the service,” wrote Matt Salsamendi on Mixer’s blog. Salsamendi founded Beam and navigated the company to its sale to Microsoft; today Salsamendi is the head of engineering for Microsoft’s Mixer business.

Much like Google’s YouTube Gaming and Amazon’s Twitch, Microsoft’s new Mixer service is geared toward video game enthusiasts, allowing them to watch other people playing games and to broadcast their own gameplay. Alongside the ability to watch four concurrent livestreams, Microsoft said Mixer will receive a top-level position in its Xbox navigation menu. Mixer will also offer Channel One, which Microsoft said will be an “always-on, moderated channel of content that lets you see what’s happening across Mixer. We’ll highlight a wide variety of content, including big title releases, livestream events, tips and tricks, esports updates, and more.”

Interestingly, Microsoft also unveiled Mixer Create, an app for iOS and Android smartphones that will allow users to broadcast video from their phone, as well as mobile gameplay. That service is notable considering Facebook recently announced it will hire fully 3,000 new employees to monitor live broadcasts on its own platform for violence, hate speech and child exploitation; that action comes shortly after a string of high-profile livestreams of murders and suicides on livestreaming platforms including Facebook.

But Microsoft’s target with Mixer is clearly video gaming, at least initially. The company pointed to game maker Telltale Games, which Mixer said will use its platform to offer a “crowd play” feature that will allow “an audience to choose what happens at story moments and determine the trajectory and outcome of the adventure.”

Importantly, Microsoft said such a service is only possible thanks to the low latency speeds provided by Mixer.

“While other platforms leave you waiting 10-20 seconds, our streaming protocol delivers content with less than one second of latency. It makes game streams so fast, clear and easy that streamers and viewers are practically in the same room together,” Mixer boasted of its “Faster Than Light” technology on its website.

The market for livestreaming continues to catch fire. Indeed, early last year market research firm Newzoo reported that over 470 million gamers globally watch online gaming content on a regular basis, a figure that accounts for 56% of all gamers across North and Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific. As noted by Fortune, Newzoo reported that YouTube dominated the livestreaming market for video games by a 2:1 margin.

In the United States, YouTube commanded 50% of the market, while Amazon’s Twitch recorded roughly 21% of the market.