Being a (pure evil) business developer – Well, I do have regrets about Mixer, Phil!

Hello dear readers, I hope my post finds you in good health!

Now, this particular blog post will be dedicated to poor Mixer streaming platform, which started and ended with a bang.
As you may know, our development studio was just one of a few cherrypicked specifically by Microsoft to create a Mixer-dedicated video game and that’s how Halls of Horror was born. Mixer was on everyone’s lips at least couple of times: when it launched, when it changed its strategy of development and switched from games to Twitch celebrity influencers and when it wrapped up.
For us at Draw Distance working with Mixer was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The technological challenges during Halls of Horrors’ development was huge and we hit the wall with technical problems many times, thinking that this particular issue has no solution, only to overcome all the obstacles at the end of the day. And damn, Halls of Horror performed like crazy on Mixer with more than one million unique users in a week since the game launched!

I’m perfectly certain I already expressed my positive feelings regarding Mixer experience and what it meant for us as an indie studio – this experience opened a lot of doors for our company, as I’m 100% sure there would not be Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York and Shadows of New York without our previous Mixer – dedicated project. Basically, our fully licensed VtM products started as Mixer ideas! Unfortunately (oh, and maybe on the contrary, really?) Mixer was changing its profile at the time we started pitching the idea to Microsoft and as a result, this switch made us start cooperation with Paradox in a more traditional way.

Mixer was first and foremost a group of very talented developers from around the world, a dedicated team of Mixer employees, who did their best to turn Mixer into a serious Twitch competitor and millions of users, who streamed, played and watched content. Everything seemed to be on the right track at the beginning.
Therefore I was very sad when I heard for the first time that Mixer is going down. And I was amazed couple of days ago, when I read an article on Gamesindustry.biz, in which head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, says, he “has no regrets about Mixer”, right here: https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2020-07-13-phil-spencer-i-dont-have-any-regrets-about-mixer
If you decide to spend a few minutes and read the article, you’ll learn and understand the huge scale of operations and investment Mixer devoured. And nothing expresses my opinion about Mr. Spencer’s words than the one and only comment you’ll find under the article. Let me please quote it here:
“I dont understand the phrase <<no regrets>> about a multi-billion dollar write off, mass job losses and other significant losses. I mean sure, I understand there have been positives and he should be open about and celebrate them (like he does), but the term ‘no regrets’ seems to frame this as mutually exclusive – like he cannot acknowledge any loss or failure as it would compromise the successes or what worked.

He also uses language like <<not being afraid of disappointment>> which is ironic given that he seems to be afraid of admitting any disappointment of Mixer failing.

Great big corp speak though.”
I do understand how the corporate world works, I was part of it myself for several years before I understood that I belong to smaller indie entities. So I get the tone, even if it’s rather harsh considering how many people lost their jobs and how much money was spent. I’m not naïve, I understand that not every project is a success (in the indie world, it’s really the opposite – rarely a project appears to end up successfully). So it’s not like I’m especially angered with what Mr. Spencer said. I just believe that everyone interested in Mixer’s story deserve a different perspective – a developer’s perspective.
From our point of view, Mixer development studios and the Microsoft team were like one big family. We communicated constantly, no matter the time difference, we chatted with other devs, shared feedback, played each other’s games and boy, these were some awesome games! Our feelings while working with Mixer were truly similar to those expressed by Tim Schafer, Brian Fargo and other industry legends, leaders of studios acquired by Microsoft in the last years – we had a total creative control, we had every possible support, both in terms of tech and marketing, we had great meetings and parties together and we really felt Mixer cares about us every minute.

I want to pay my great respects to some of the key people we worked with, a group of dedicated professionals, who helped us go through the development: Sarita Viramontez, an amazing business developer; James Lewis, one of the best producers I ever met in my life and Sebastian Grinke, a tech guy who new Mixer in and out. It’s an honor for me to be able to call them colleagues.
All in all, what’s most important is the we had a partner relationship, smoothless communication, and a great level of freedom, as Microsoft understood that Halls of Horror was our game. I wish all developers had this kind of cooperation with their publishers and investors.

Hence, contrary to Mr. Spencer I do have regrets about Mixer, because I understand first-handedly the amount of work everyone involved had to put into turning this ambitious project into reality. In my humble opinion all these talented and hard-working people really deserve to express their feelings and point of views about Mixer for us to get the whole picture. Phil Spencer’s corpo-like quotes are far from enough and Mixer-dedicated games need more attention, as they brought attentions of millions of fans on the most innovative and interactive streaming platform ever created…
That’s all for today! I hope my post gave Mixer a little more justice and managed to show a different perspective. I wouldn’t like Mr. Spencer’s words all that’s left.

Thank for reading and see you soon!
Best regards,
Jacek

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