TikTok wants to gauge its users’ appetite for mobile gaming with the launch of “mini-games” that can be played within the social video app and discovered through creators’ videos. TechCrunch has learned and has now confirmed TikTok’s new gaming pilot, quietly launched just weeks ago with various new partners including game developers Vodoo, Nitro Games, FRVR, Aim Lab and Lotum.
The launch follows reports earlier this year that the social video app maker was looking to expand into HTML5 gaming after first testing the waters with gaming giant Zynga last November. The two companies then teamed up to release a TikTok exclusive title, Disco Loco 3D, which was similar to Zynga’s (via acquisition) successful game High Heels.
At the time, TikTok said it was engaged in discussions with other game makers about similar deals, telegraphing a larger game expansion to come. The move, if successful, could one day position TikTok as a home for sloppy mobile games that make the rounds of Apple and Google’s app stores — and potentially their cut of future gaming revenue.
The list of new mini-games can be found in the TikTok app when you post a video on the platform. On the final screen before publishing, creators can add hashtags, description, location, and more, and optionally link to other content. Previously, tapping the Add Link button allowed users to add links to various other experiences through TikTok Jump, a third-party integration tool built into the TikTok app. Creators can link to content in other apps, such as Whisk recipes, BuzzFeed and Quizlet quizzes, Breathwork breathing exercises, Rotten Tomato ratings, and more. We understand that the new games are not part of the TikTok Jump initiative as they are a first-party initiative. However, they are located in this same section.
Now when a creator posts a link to one of the new games available in this section, it appears as an anchor above the username in the resulting video. From there, viewers can click through to the game when they land on the video.
At launch, HTML5 game titles include the following games:
- FRVR Basketball (by FRVR)
- Touch the Difference (by Lotum)
- Peek a Who (by Nitro)
- Pride Run (by Voodoo)
- Influencer Run (by Voodoo)
- Space Destroyer (from Nitro)
- Mr. Nightmare Aim Lab (by Aim Lab)
TikTok hasn’t officially announced the launch of its mobile game pilot, but a spokesperson confirmed that the effort began testing in various global markets a few weeks ago.
“We’re always looking for ways to enrich our platform and regularly test new features and integrations that bring value to our community,” a TikTok spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch. “We are currently exploring bringing HTML5 games to TikTok through integrations with third-party game developers and studios.”
They said the initiative was in the very early stages of testing and could not comment on the terms of the deal with individual game makers. However, none of the games are currently monetized through ads or in-app purchases, we’re told. For now, the pilot is only looking to determine if and how TikTok’s existing gaming community interacts with these games and to what extent users will create content around the titles. Of course, in the longer term, things could change – if TikTok wanted to go in that direction.
TikTok told us that these new mini-games are a separate work from the games developed for TikTok LIVE, which allow creators to interact with fans when they go live.
App intelligence firm Watchful.ai noted that the games were recently listed in the “Add Link” section under the “MiniGame” heading, but Zynga’s game Disco Loco 3D was still listed separately. Saw the supplement recently launched in Southeast Asian markets. However, we found the mini-games available in that same menu here in the US
TikTok isn’t the first tech giant to expand beyond its primary focus in mobile gaming. Google, for example, embraced HTML5 gaming with the launch of the GameSnacks gaming platform, which it expanded to the new Google Chrome tab in markets such as India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Kenya last year. Facebook also entered cloud gaming last year with the launch of Facebook Gaming on the web and Android. Meanwhile, Netflix has made free mobile game downloads part of its subscription.
There is some irony here that TikTok is building a platform for casual games, and that its first partner in this effort was Zynga. The gaming company initially built its business on the back of Facebook, using the social network’s growing user base to attract players to its titles. This helped it become one of the biggest social gaming companies and led to its eventual IPO. These days, however, Facebook has taken off among younger people, while TikTok is the best app in the world. Meanwhile, Zynga is no longer a stand-alone company. But mobile social gaming could grow again if TikTok’s pilot project proves successful.