TikTok wants to whet its users’ appetite for mobile gaming by launching “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 a few weeks ago with a number of 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 games after initially testing the waters with gaming giant Zynga last November. The two companies then teamed up to launch a TikTok-exclusive title, Disco Loco 3D, which was similar to Zynga’s (via acquisition) hit High Heels.
At the time, TikTok said it was engaged in discussions with other game makers about similar deals, telegraphing greater gaming expansion still to come. The move, if successful, could one day position TikTok as a home for mainstream mobile games that circulate through Apple and Google’s app stores — and, potentially, their cut of future gaming revenue.
The list of new mini-games can be found within the TikTok app when you post a video on the platform. On the final screen before publishing, creators can add hashtags, a description, a location and more, and optionally add a link to other content. Previously, tapping the Add Link button allowed users to add links to a variety of other experiences via TikTok Jump, a third-party integration tool built into the TikTok app. Creators can link to content in other apps, like Whisk recipes, BuzzFeed and Quizlet quizzes, Breathwork breathing exercises, Rotten Tomato reviews, and more. The new games are not part of the TikTok Jump initiative, we understand, as they are a first-party effort. However, they are found in the 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 play when they come across the video.
At launch, HTML5 game titles include the following games:
- FRVR Basketball (by FRVR)
- Touch the Difference (by Lotum)
- Peek a Who (from Nitro)
- Pride Run (by Voodoo)
- Influencer Run (by Voodoo)
- Space Destroyer (from Nitro)
- Mr. Aim Lab’s Nightmare (by Aim Lab)
TikTok had not 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 is in the early stages of testing and could not comment on the terms of the deal with individual game creators. However, none of the games are currently monetized either through advertising or in-app purchases, we’re told. For now, the pilot is only looking to determine if and how the existing TikTok gaming community interacts with these games and to what extent users will create content around the titles. Of course, in the long run, things could change – if TikTok wanted to go in that direction.
TikTok told us that these new mini-games are a separate effort from the games being 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 under the “Add Links” section under the “MiniGame” heading, but Zynga’s game Disco Loco 3D is still listed separately. He saw the addition roll out recently in markets in Southeast Asia. However, we have found the mini-games available in the same menu here in the US
TikTok isn’t the first tech giant to expand beyond its primary focus on mobile gaming. Google, for example, embraced HTML5 gaming with the launch of its GameSnacks gaming platform, which it expanded to the Google Chrome New Tab page in markets like 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. Netflix, meanwhile, has made free mobile game downloads part of its subscription.
There is an irony here that TikTok is building a casual gaming platform and that its first partner in this endeavor 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 companies in social gaming and led to its eventual IPO. However, these days, Facebook has become passable with the youth while TikTok is the best app in the world. Meanwhile, Zynga is no longer an independent company. But mobile social gaming could grow again if TikTok’s pilot proves successful.