Believe it or not Mixer is already heading into its full second season. The service originally went live back in early 2016, but it took Microsoft a while to really build up the content and functionality. Now that it's rocking and rolling, Microsoft has stepped up the monetary offerings when it comes to streamers having options to make money.
Over on the Mixer Blog, there's a brief rundown about how the team has been taking the community feedback into account and that includes new features and functions for how streamers get paid. One unique new way for streamers to make a bit of side-cash is through the Sparks.
The Sparks patronage has been added to the monetary line-up right now, and it's designed for viewers who want to support their favorite streamer but are short on actual cash. You can earn Sparks just by watching the livestreams, and then you can spend the Sparks on skills that can be used to help support a partnered channel. The Sparks can also be used to help the streamer reach a milestone achievement, which in turn can then allow them to cash out with real money returns.
You can also spend real money on what's called Embers, which are a virtual currency that you can use to purchase high-value skills, which also pays out higher rewards and actual monetary value for the Streamer. You can think of it like Sparks being silver currency and Embers being gold currency. The Embers for Mixer aren't available just yet but they are coming soon.
Both versions of the crystal gems tie into the more elaborate skill system. The skill system is exactly what it sounds like. You'll have a variety of skills you can utilize on your account by unlocking them through various activities in Mixer.
Microsoft refers to skills as a form of expression, and these include sending stickers, utilizing GIFs, launching special effects such as confetti or fireworks, or interacting with the channel by unlocking the new skills. It's similar to the audience reaction GIFs you can use on Twitch, and the more you use the different skill sets, the more the partner channel is supported financially.
There's also going to be an all-new progression system set to arrive in Mixer starting in early 2019. The whole point of the progression system is to disrupt the two-tier subscription model, which usually relies on viewers either being a full subscriber or not. Instead of simply leaving it at a basic subscription model, the progression system will give the opportunity for viewers to level-up their engagement within the streamer community and Mixer as a whole, unlocking new skills, participating in the chat feature, and earning new abilities, whether you're using Mixer as an app on a mobile device, on PC, or your Xbox One.
What this means is that even if you don't subscribe to a Mixer channel, you might be thoroughly engaged by using a lot of the community features, and thus you might have a higher progression level than a subscriber.
On the tech side, the team is also working on improving FTL for a broader array of streaming support, and turning on automatic bitrate switching to create a smoother experience depending on the user's connection. The team is also adding more report functions for when viewers come across video issues and need to get tech support on the case ASAP. While the progression system is still a ways off, you can dive into the skills and Sparks system right now.