TikTok aims to capture its users’ appetite for mobile gaming by introducing “mini-games” that can be played on the social video app and discovered through creators’ videos. TechCrunch now learned and confirmed TikTok’s new gaming pilot, which quietly launched a few weeks ago with a host 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 gaming after first testing with gaming giant Zynga last November. The two companies had then teamed up to launch a TikTok exclusive, Disco Loco 3D, which was similar to Zynga’s (through acquisition) hit game High Heels.
At the time, TikTok said it was in talks with other game makers for similar deals, and telegraphed an even bigger gaming expansion. If the move is successful, it could one day position TikTok as the home of casual mobile gaming that makes its way around Apple’s and Google’s app stores — and potentially its share of future gaming revenue.
The list of new mini-games can be found on the TikTok app when you post a video on the platform. On the final screen before publishing, creators can add hashtags, a description, location and more, and optionally a link to other content. Previously, by tapping the Add Link button, users could add links to a variety of other experiences via TikTok Jump, a third-party integration tool built into the TikTok app. Creators could link to content in other apps, such as For example, 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 it is a homegrown effort. However, they are in the same section.
Now when a creator posts a link to one of the new games available in this section, it will appear as an anchor above their username in the resulting video. From there, viewers can click through to the game when they come across the video.
At launch, HTML5 gaming titles will include the following games:
- Basketball FRVR (from FRVR)
- Touch the Difference (by Lotum)
- Peek a Who (by Nitro)
- Pride Run (by Voodoo)
- Influencer Run (by Voodoo)
- Space Destroyer (by Nitro)
- Mr. Aim Lab’s Nightmare (by Aim Lab)
TikTok hadn’t officially announced the launch of its mobile games pilot, but a spokesperson confirmed 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 gaming to TikTok through integrations with third-party game developers and studios.”
They said the initiative is at a very early testing stage and cannot comment on the terms of the contract with each game maker. However, none of the games are currently monetized through ads or in-app purchases, as we’re told. For now, the pilot is just trying to determine if and how the existing TikTok gaming community will interact with these games and to what extent users will create content around the titles. Of course, things could change in the long term — if TikTok wanted to go in that direction.
TikTok informed us that these new mini-games are a separate effort from the games being developed for TikTok LIVE, allowing developers to interact with fans while live streaming.
App intelligence company 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 is still listed separately. The supplement was recently introduced to Southeast Asian markets. However, we did find the mini-games available in the same menu here in the US
TikTok isn’t the first tech giant to expand beyond its core focus into mobile gaming. Google, for example, has embraced HTML5 gaming with the launch of gaming platform GameSnacks, which has scaled to markets like India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Kenya via Google Chrome’s new tab over the past year. Facebook also got into cloud gaming last year with the launch of Facebook Gaming on the web and for Android. Netflix, meanwhile, has made free mobile game downloads a part of its subscription plan.
It’s ironic that TikTok is building a casual gaming platform and that its first partner in that effort was Zynga. The gaming company originally built its business on Facebook and used the social network’s growing user base to attract players to its titles. This helped it become one of the largest companies in the social gaming space and eventually led to its IPO. However, Facebook is now passé among younger people, while TikTok is the world’s top app. Zynga is no longer an independent company. But mobile social gaming could grow again if TikTok’s pilot proves successful.