It wasn’t long ago that Microsoft was spending billions of dollars to write off the major acquisition of Nokia, and retreat from the smartphone business. Since then, the tech giant has carved out a niche building apps for iOS and Android, and today it hit an interesting milestone.
RELATED: Esports star Ninja ditches Amazon’s Twitch, inks exclusive streaming deal with Microsoft’s Mixer
As of Friday morning, Microsoft had the top free app and the top paid game on Apple’s iOS App Store, as noted by reporter Brad Sams. Minecraft has long been a staple of the App Store’s upper echelon, but Microsoft’s Twitch rival Mixer shot up the free charts following a huge acquisition — not of a company, but of talent.
Mixer’s rise comes a day after Microsoft signed esports star Tyler Blevins, a.k.a. “Ninja,” away from Amazon-owned Twitch to stream games exclusively on Mixer. Blevins is a Fortnite star and one of the biggest names in video games today with 40 million fans. He was the most-watched streamer on Twitch last year.
The app store bump is an early sign that Ninja could draw a larger streaming audience to Mixer, justifying what is likely a big-money deal from Microsoft. Android users weren’t as pumped as iOS users were about Mixer, with the game streaming app clocking in at No. 92 on the Google Play store.
Streaming is still a young business, and it’s unclear whether the audience is more interested in the platform or the talent. Ninja’s decision to take his talents to Mixer will make for an interesting case study in the importance of a single player and whether Microsoft can mount a strong challenge to Twitch.
The $6.99 Minecraft app has been a hit for years, even before Microsoft acquired Mojang, the studio behind the popular franchise, in 2014 for $2.5 billion. Another Minecraft mobile entry is on the way, this one a free game: the highly anticipated Minecraft Earth beta went live last month.
That both apps have ties to Microsoft’s gaming arm shows that the division continues to make strides, even as console sales have fallen off significantly. The gaming side just capped up its second year in a row of more than $10 billion in annual revenue, with year-over-year growth of approximately 10 percent.