"A community that plays together, stays together."
As we began our first look at the new streaming platform Noice during its closed beta preview yesterday, this straightforward slogan summarised perfectly what the platform is all about. Noice is built with streamers, viewers and developers in mind, and it seeks to bolster engagement and immersion through active audience participation rather than passive watching.
The idea for such a platform germinated in the mind of Jussi Laakkonen, the former executive vice president at Unity and now Noice’s CEO. His lightbulb moment came way back in March 2019 while watching a Counter Strike stream on Twitch, immersed but "disappointed", wanting to contribute to the experience instead of just spectating.
Over four years later, Noice has entered its closed beta phase as a livestreaming platform that hopes to remedy the problem.
More than watching
Laakkonen believes a "core" part of watching a gaming livestream is predicting what will happen next - what the streamer will do and what will happen to them - and so gamifying this innate viewer inclination became a fundamental part of the Noice experience - what they call "playing the stream".
In essence, the Noice platform is a reimagination of livestreaming where viewers play a predictive card game overlaying whatever game is streamed. Correct predictions accrue points for players and at the end of a game, the winners’ avatars show up on-stream to celebrate their victory. Naturally, an engaging streamer will celebrate with them, giving viewers recognition and making them more likely to come back for more in the future.
Viewers can also befriend fellow chat members and form teams, working together to accumulate points, form strategies, and even try to influence the streamer’s in-game actions via the chat. After all, Noice is an interactive platform where streamers and viewers can communicate in a similar way to Twitch, so viewers can always try to game the system by making bold predictions and asking streamers to make them reality - that’s part of the fun.
In its current form Noice is geared towards battle royales, with our first look being at a Fortnite stream by partner creator Quinn. We had a selection of cards to choose from, predicting what he would do next, and teams formed two camps in the chat: some hoped he would collect bricks, while others sought to gain from a growing wood collection.
Forming teams also adds new layers of strategy, with boosters available to increase points earned for correct predictions. These boosters can be applied to a viewer’s own card or a team member’s, and teams can choose whether to all predict the same thing in hopes of winning big, or to diversify for a better chance at winning something, but with smaller gains.
Choosing a victory card, for example, can net a load of points if the streamer wins the game within a set time from said selection - so a team might all gamble on this card at once for a huge surge in points if the win comes quickly, or viewers might take it in turns to maximise the time, communicating via the chat throughout.
The monetisation model
Raking up unlocks new prediction cards, as does purchasing limited-edition Creator Cards specific to each streamer. These cards represent extra predictions and use footage from a previous livestream either of gameplay or the streamer’s camera, meaning Creator Cards could even focus on a streamer’s loyal cat if they so choose!
Buying these cards supports the streamer in a 70/30 split with Noice, the platform’s cut going towards its streamer support and product team services. And unlike Twitch’s different tiers of revenue split based on a streamer’s size, Noice isn’t playing favourites.
With viewers engaged in their own game while the streamer plays, working together with a team in the chat, and cooperating on a range of strategies, Noice believes audience retention rates will be that much higher; and returning audiences are more likely to financially support a streamer over time, able to do so via donations and subscriptions.
Streaming with innovation
"I admire Twitch," said Laakkonen, expressing intentions to contribute to the streaming industry - to innovate and make it a better place: that’s what Noice is about; it’s not just looking to compete with existing giants and doesn’t ask its streamers to use Noice exclusively either.
"We don’t believe in that," he continued. "Platforms should win by the merit of what they do for creators and players, not by the size of their chequebooks."
The platform’s cooperative experience is at the core of that innovation and merit, built towards the audience as much as it is the streamer, unlike YouTube and Twitch where content creators take priority. Noice hopes this will boost engagement and be a "win-win-win" for players, streamers and developers.
"The more gamers engage with creators who love your game, the more those gamers will play your game!"
Investors certainly see potential in Noice, with the platform having raised $5 million by the summer of 2021 and more than quadrupling that since; as of November 2023, Noice has further raised a huge $21 million with big contributions from Bitkraft, F4 Fund, Supercell’s co-founder Mikko Kodisoja and CEO Ilkka Paananen, and many others.
Mobile on the way
Notably, most Noice investors have come from the mobile games space, but Noice doesn’t currently feature any mobile games on its platform. This isn’t an intentional exclusion, but the games supported with predictive cards are all battle royales for now and happen to come from PC and console.
Support for further titles will be based on community interest with Laakkonen noting competitive games work best. After all, card predictions would be too easy in a story-driven game but too hard in an open world where anything could happen. Esports and tournaments are also expected to be supported down the line.
"I think there are fantastic mobile games," Laakkonen added, "and we’re intrigued at the idea of bringing Noice to some of the most beloved mobile games."
We got a glimpse of what viewers can get up to between games on Noice, too. There's avatar customisation, a spot to build teams with friends, and of course somewhere to search for streams to join. Viewers can see their customised avatars in a range of waiting hubs known as Arenas, where they hang out with the streamer and other avatars in the downtime between rounds; it keeps the avatars present and does a lot to aid Noice’s community feel. These Arenas are also distinct to the genre of game being played - battle royale, fantasy etc - with room for developers to give their games some personality.
Handily, players can adjust a stream’s quality to a good degree too, able to tailor the experience to whatever works best with their device.
Any content creator can apply to join Noice’s closed beta, and those accepted into its limited access can then invite their fanbases to jump aboard. There isn’t any time limit for the beta either - the full release will be ready when it’s ready.
In his closing thoughts, Laakkonen shared: "The livestreaming business has been contracting since covid highs - there’s less watch time and a lot of creators are struggling. What we hope to contribute through Noice is something that can help grow some of that watch time back.
"We’re small. We aspire to be big. We think about how we can innovate, and if we do a good job at that, we believe great things will come for our creators, players, and game developers who choose to work with us."
All in all, Noice shows great promise as a new platform to tap into gamers' eagerness to get involved with what they watch, and winning points will certainly sound like a tried-and-tested formula to many a player. As for whether Noice becomes the next Twitch, only time will tell, but there's no doubt it's doing something new, interesting, and innovative.