TikTok wants to gauge its users’ interest in mobile gaming by introducing “mini-games” that can be played within the social video app and discovered through creators’ videos. TikTok’s new gaming pilot, which TechCrunch has now confirmed, was quietly launched just weeks ago with a variety of new partners, including game developers Vodoo, Nitro Games, FRVR, Aim Lab, and Lotum.
The announcement comes after reports earlier this year that the maker of social video apps was looking to expand into HTML5 gaming after first testing the waters with gaming behemoth Zynga in November. The two companies then collaborated to launch Disco Loco 3D, a TikTok-exclusive title that was similar to Zynga’s successful game (via acquisition) High Heels.
TikTok said at the time that it was in talks with other game developers about similar deals, hinting at a larger gaming expansion to come. If the move is successful, TikTok could one day become a home for casual mobile gaming that avoids Apple and Google’s app stores — and, potentially, their cut of future gaming revenues.
When you upload a video to TikTok, you’ll see a list of new mini-games inside the app. Creators can add hashtags, a description, a location, and more on the final screen before publishing, as well as an optional link to other content. Previously, users could add links to a variety of other experiences via TikTok Jump, a third-party integration tool built into TikTok’s app. Creators could include links to content from other apps, such as Whisk’s recipes, BuzzFeed and Quizlet quizzes, Breathwork’s breathing exercises, Rotten Tomatoes ratings, and more. We understand that the new games are not part of the TikTok Jump initiative because they are a first-party effort. They are, however, in the same section.
When a creator shares a link to one of the new games in this section, it will now appear as an anchor above their username in the resulting video. When they come across the video, viewers can then click through to the game.
The HTML5 gaming titles available at launch include the following:
- FRVR Basketball (by FRVR)
- Select the Difference (by Lotum)
- Take a look at Who (by Nitro)
- Run for Pride (by Voodoo)
- Run for Influencers (by Voodoo)
- Destroyer of Space (by Nitro)
- Nightmare of Mr. Aim Lab (by Aim Lab)
TikTok had not yet officially announced the launch of its mobile gaming pilot, but a spokesperson confirmed that testing had begun in several global markets a few weeks ago.
“We’re always looking for ways to improve our platform and regularly test new features and integrations that benefit our community,” a TikTok spokesperson said “Right now, we’re looking into bringing HTML5 games to TikTok through partnerships with third-party game developers and studios.”
They stated that the initiative is in its early stages of testing and that they could not comment on the terms of the deals with the individual game developers. According to our sources, none of the games are currently monetized through ads or in-app purchases. For the time being, the pilot is only interested in determining whether and how TikTok’s existing gaming community interacts with these games, as well as how much content users will create around the titles. Of course, things could change in the long run if TikTok chose to go that route.
TikTok informed us that these new mini-games are distinct from the games being developed for TikTok LIVE, which allows creators to interact with fans while livestreaming.
The games were recently listed under the “Add Link” section under the heading “MiniGame,” according to app intelligence firm Watchful.ai, but Zynga’s game Disco Loco 3D is still listed separately. The update was recently rolled out to Southeast Asian markets. However, we discovered the mini-games in the same menu in the United States.
TikTok is not the first tech behemoth to branch out into mobile gaming. Google, for example, embraced HTML5 games with the launch of the gaming platform GameSnacks in markets such as India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Kenya last year, which it scaled across Google Chrome’s new tab page. Last year, Facebook entered the cloud gaming space with the launch of Facebook Gaming on the web and Android. Meanwhile, Netflix has included free mobile game downloads as part of its subscription.
The fact that TikTok is developing a casual gaming platform with Zynga as its first partner is somewhat ironic. The gaming company initially built its business on Facebook, attracting players to its titles by tapping into the social network’s growing user base. This helped it become one of the largest companies in social gaming, eventually leading to its IPO. However, Facebook has fallen out of favor with younger people, while TikTok is the world’s most popular app. Meanwhile, Zynga is no longer a separate entity. However, if TikTok’s pilot is successful, mobile social gaming could grow again.