You're streaming the Sims to your loyal Twitch followers when suddenly, a fire ignites in the middle of your virtual home. As you scramble to put out the fire before the Sim firefighters arrive, another flame appears out of nowhere. In the Twitch chat, your fans are giggling -- they have caused quite the ruckus in your Sim neighborhood, but as a creator, you get the last laugh. You just got paid.
With support for more than 100 popular games, Crowd Control changes the way that streamers engage their fans, while also unlocking fun new ways to make money. By reverse engineering these games, Crowd Control has created user-friendly apps and plug-ins that let fans pay to trigger an event on a creator's livestream. So, as a fan, you can summon enemies in Minecraft, spawn a rare, shiny Pokémon in Pokémon Emerald, or make the creator's avatar tiny in Resident Evil 4. You could use your micropayment to make a creator's gameplay more difficult, or if you're nice, you can give them a boost to help them out of a sticky situation.
Over 70,000 creators have already used Crowd Control, which started out as a Twitch-only app. Now, with the release of its 2.0 beta, the app is available on YouTube, TikTok, Discord and Facebook Gaming.
"It's been a long road of technical hurdles and experiments," CEO Matthew "Jaku" Jakubowski told TechCrunch. "We have a really cool solution that just will work on just about any platform."
Jaku founded Warp World, the parent to Crowd Control, after leaving his job as director of cybersecurity at Uptake. Warp World has developed other wide-reaching video game projects like Turnip.Exchange, which was all the rage when Animal Crossing: New Horizons was at its peak popularity, but Crowd Control is by far its largest technical undertaking. So far, Warp World has raised a round of pre-seed funding.
An obvious risk for any startup that iterates on other platforms is getting rendered obsolete by those platforms themselves. Linktree, for example, was valued at $1.3 billion last year, but now the company might be sweating: Instagram rolled out support for up to five links-in-bio. Even though Crowd Control doesn't have any of its technology patented, Jaku doesn't think other companies could catch up.
"For someone to build a similar sort of service at the speed that we have, and the library that we have...It will take some time," he said. "I think we're in a good spot where we've established ourselves in the field for over four years."
If a game is not part of Crowd Control's library, developers can now implement fan-controlled interactions in their games with Crowd Control's developer plug-in, which is compatible with any game built on Unity, Unreal Engine, GameMaker Studio and other engines.
"With the developers building out this sort of stuff, it means reaching thousands of creators pretty much instantly," Jaku said. "Increasing replayability is always huge for gamers or developers -- they want that screen time." He said that a typical Unity developer could probably make their game compatible with Crowd Control within a few weeks, but he's also seen developers pull it off in a weekend.
As of now, Crowd Control keeps 20% of fans' payments to creators, which is the standard split for Twitch plug-ins. But now, as a multiplatform app, Crowd Control seems to be getting around Twitch's cut through a coin system. Other creator platforms like Fanhouse have taken similar steps to circumvent App Store fees and maximize creators' profits.
"So, $100 is $100 of coins," Jaku explained. "Instead of those coins only being available on one channel, that viewer will now have $100 worth of coins that they could spend on any channel."
Crowd Control only has a team of ten, but most of them have been creators themselves at some point. Jaku himself started streaming Super Mario Maker on Twitch in 2015 and climbed the ranks to become a Twitch Partner. Then he built the software that inspired Crowd Control to spice up his Borderlands 2 streams in 2018.
"We're a passionate team," Jaku said. "Everything we do is for the creators."