It should come as no surprise that, if there’s a game out there that someone’s playing, there’s an audience that wants to check it out. While Twitch might be the current king of the livestreaming market, Microsoft’s Mixer brings with it a host of exclusive and powerful features that make it a real contender for Twitch’s crown. One of Mixer’s biggest features is a massive benefit to both broadcasters and viewers alike: the FTL protocol. While there’s a lot of technobabble behind how exactly FTL works, the simple explanation is that it allows the broadcasting of content in a livestream with virtually no lag. Usually, when watching a stream, there’s a buffer of five to ten seconds or more between when something happens and when viewers actually see it (and vice versa). This can make for awkward interactions in things like live chat. With Mixer, though, instant interactions open up a host of new possibilities. Audiences can even take part in interactive streams where they can have an impact on the gameplay in real-time. This also allows for some other unique functions, such as split-screen co-broadcasting support for multiple players. It’s one thing to watch a one person in squad vying for control of a battlefield, but it’s something altogether different to see four members of a team working as a cohesive unit onscreen all at the same time.
The Mixer app serves as a massive hub for livestreaming content. Through the app, audiences can follow all their favorite channels and get notifications when those channels go live with new material. They can also check to see which games and programs are trending, and even participate in interactive chats. Viewers earn “Sparks” by both broadcasting and by viewing streams, which can in turn be used to buy “Skills,” fun effects like fireworks and animations to share in the chat. Using these Skills doesn’t just add an extra layer of interactivity to the chats, but also shows support for the channel and can even generate extra income for the broadcaster. And Microsoft is constantly adding more new features to Mixer to enhance both the broadcasting and viewing experience. Still, Mixer isn’t without its issues. For starters, navigating through the deluge of content can be a mess. Between trending channels, recommended channels, followed channels, and the like, it’s sometimes hard, especially in the mobile app, to tell what is what. And even though channels might have content descriptions or ratings, there’s not much to stop a younger viewer from stumbling into a channel that might be broadcasting footage from a more Mature-themed game, or into a chat that might not necessarily be age-appropriate. While these are issues that face almost any livestreaming platform, it’s definitely means that parents with younger kids should keep a close eye on exactly what those kids are watching and/or following.