More than just another Twitch clone, Microsoft's Mixer service stands out from the pack by letting viewers become just as big a part of the broadcast as the streamer.
Whether you're looking to broadcast on Mixer or are just curious what you should watch there, here's everything you need to know.
What is Mixer?
Formerly known as Beam, Mixer is a Microsoft-owned livestreaming platform for gamers. Its big defining feature is interactivity -- you won't just watch people play games, you'll also get to play alongside them in some cases. Beam broadcasters have the option of offering controls to their viewers, which allow fans to do everything from controlling in-game characters to voting on important story choices.
Mixer also prides itself on offering virtually zero-latency streams. When you watch a streamer on Mixer, you'll more or less be watching them in real-time as opposed to the "10 – 20 second latency you typically get on other platforms," according to a Microsoft blog post.
Other standout Mixer features include co-streaming, which allows up to four streamers to combine their broadcasts onto a single page for viewers to enjoy. This way, if you and your buddies are teaming up in Gears of War 4 or going at it in Injustice 2, viewers will get to see everyone's point of view.
The service will even let streamers share their controller with a viewer as part of a forthcoming update, allowing broadcasters to get some help from fans during a tough boss fight. Mixer has been introducing exciting, experimental features like this on a near monthly basis, making it a fun place to both watch and play games.
How do I broadcast to Mixer?
Mixer is integrated directly into the Xbox One as well as the Windows 10 Xbox app, allowing you to go live from either platform in a matter of seconds. If you have a bit more technical know-how, you can stream just about anything to Mixer via your PC streaming app of choice, using the same general steps that you would to stream to Twitch from your computer.
There's also a Mixer Create app on iOS and Android that allows you to go live from your mobile device, whether you want to do some real-life vlogging or broadcast your favorite mobile games.
What games take special advantage of Mixer?
Mixer streamers already have the ability to program their own viewer controls for their favorite games, but developers are also coming onboard with official support.
Mixer takes advantage of Telltale Games' Crowd Play feature, which allows the audience to vote on story choices in choose-your-own-adventure games such as Guardians of the Galaxy, The Walking Dead and Batman.
According to Microsoft, the Minecraft team is currently toying with official Mixer integration to complement the variety of user-generated tools that are already out there for the popular world-building game.
How does Mixer compare to Twitch?
To put it simply, Mixer is more experiential and interactive, while Twitch is still the most robust livestreaming platform out there.
Twitch has the largest community of livestreamers, with users spending over 292 billion minutes watching its 2.2 million unique broadcasters in 2016. It's constantly getting new channels and features, can be watched on just about any device, and can be instantly broadcasted to from the PS4, Xbox One and a variety of PC programs. Twitch continues to encourage non-gaming content, from airing its own Mister Rogers' Neighborhood marathons to allowing streamers to broadcast themselves making music, drawing and even eating.
Both Mixer and Twitch allow fans to subscribe to their favorite channels for a few bucks a month, usually in exchange for exclusive emotes and other benefits. However, Twitch has a more robust ecosystem thanks to Twitch Prime, which allows Amazon Prime members to get free channel subscriptions and tons of monthly goodies such as free games and in-game content.
Will Mixer dethrone Twitch as the definitive streaming platform for gamers? Probably not. But it offers a uniquely interactive experience for both streamers and viewers, and is well worth checking out for stream junkies looking to try something new.
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Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.