Fortnite has rarely been out of the headlines recently, mostly because of the inaugural World Cup that saw British teenager Jaden Ashman win nearly £1m as a runner up. However, attentions have now turned to Ninja, the game's most popular figure and one of TIME Magazine's most influential people, as he makes a big-money move.
Think of it as a football transfer. A club backed by heavy investment wants to sign a marquee player from a direct rival in an attempt to attract new fans. Luring Tyler Blevins, AKA Ninja, from the Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch may just be a masterstroke on Microsoft's part, with both set to benefit from the move.
Microsoft's streaming platform, Mixer, was launched in 2016 but has struggled to compete with the popularity of Twitch and Youtube's livestream function. By signing Ninja to an exclusive deal, Microsoft will gain access to a large proportion of his existing 14 million-strong audience while the player himself will benefit from a clean slate, having become a bit of a one-trick pony.
Most importantly, however, is how this ties in to the launch of Microsoft's new console, Project Scarlett, and flagship game, Halo Infinite. Halo was previously Xbox's magnum opus, selling 15 million copies of the franchise's third edition, and nearly 10 million copies of Halo 4. It's here that we point out that Ninja, the new face of Microsoft's streaming career, began his eSports career as a professional Halo player.
Ninja has previously spoken about wanting to explore new opportunities beyond Fortnite, and the new Microsoft deal looks to give him the chance to do just that. He will have the backing to try new things, while Microsoft gain access to a mammoth audience in time to launch their new game and console. Meanwhile, Twitch are unlikely to suffer any immediate effect, with their viewing figures from Q2 of 2019 far outweighing their nearest competitors.
By signing with Microsoft, Ninja has secured some financial stability and a clear role as the face of Mixer. Twitch will continue to grow with or without Ninja thanks to its massive audience, but Mixer will likely rely on Ninja to continue promoting the platform.