March 2018 is a big month for Microsoft. It’s a proving ground of sorts, that Microsoft is capable still of delivering high-quality, first-party software. Sea of Thieves is the big game coming this month, and a lot is riding on that game’s success. It’s not just the Xbox One either. Microsoft is really leaning on Sea of Thieves, and is incorporating both Xbox Game Pass and Mixer into the strategy. Mixer, of course, it Microsoft’s streaming platform, meant to compete with the likes of Twitch. Mixer has its own unique features, and the backing of Microsoft. But can it hang?
On March 13, 2018, a career stuntman was launched out of a 34-foot cannon into a giant trampoline pad and a new Guinness World Record. That cannon had Sea of Thieves written along its barrel, and the event was streamed on Mixer. This wasn’t just some stunt from a wacky, young Twitch streamer, this was a huge publicity event that was broadcasted for free, from a major console publisher. That’s kind of a big deal – usually you only hear about these bizarre media hype events, but are only lucky enough to see them in person if you’re industry, local, or in the press (maybe). But with things like this, it’s trivial to get it out to everyone, especially if you have a game and service to sell.
Microsoft is also incorporating Mixer as a huge part of its presence at E3 2018. First of all, the company is bucking tradition (as E3 itself has), and is hosting its major E3 festivities outside of the Los Angeles Convention Center. The company is using, well, the Microsoft Theater, and not only hosting its press briefing there, but also running most of its hands-on demos, Xbox FanFest and more. It’s still an event associated with the ESA and E3, but as the event is now open to the public, Microsoft using its own space makes that much more sense.
But Microsoft will also be in the Convention Center. Microsoft, in announcing the above, also confirmed that it will have a new booth, one that is “completely dedicated” to Mixer. E3 attendees will be able to come to this adjacent booth, and play games, but also get hands-on with Mixer and stream in some capacity. Basically, Mixer is going to be in your face at E3 2018, and it won’t just be dudes handing you branded hand sanitizer gimmicks like last year. I mean, I’m sure there was more to it than that but that’s all I saw.
Anyway, this is definitely two parts of a whole, the whole being a massive push by Microsoft to get people to pay attention to Mixer. But it won’t be easy. Twitch has its own big presence at E3 as well, and has for several years. Much of the activity outside of the legendary show floor is occupied by non-gaming companies, such as Twitch, which has its own area as well as several spots to sit and watch content if you somehow have time to rest. Twitch is massive, and everywhere. But it’s also crowded.
Mixer could be exactly what the gaming community, and especially the Microsoft spaces within that community, needs. Twitch is great, and big, and profitable, but it’s also getting crowded. Mixer offers opportunities to get in at what still feels like the ground level. It’s growing, and we’re on the cusp of a huge push that could see the service get real traction. Sea of Thieves has a lot of interest building up, and its use to boost Microsoft’s other initiatives could have a chain reaction-like effect that boosts all of the above higher than before.