TikTok is looking to gauge its users’ appetite for mobile gaming by launching “mini-games” that can be played within the social video app and unlocked through creators’ videos. TechCrunch has learned and has now confirmed a new TikTok 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 gaming after first testing the waters with gaming giant Zynga last November. The two companies then teamed up to launch a TikTok-exclusive game, Disco Loco 3D, which was similar to Zynga’s (via acquisition) successful game High Heels.
At the time, TikTok said it was in discussions with other game makers about similar deals, telegraphing a larger game expansion still to come. If successful, the move could one day make TikTok home to mainstream mobile games that run through Apple and Google’s app stores — and potentially cut into their future gaming revenues.
A 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, a description, location, etc., and optionally add links to other content. Previously, clicking the Add Link button allowed users to add links to a variety of other features using 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 ratings, and more. As far as we understand, the new games are not part of the TikTok Jump initiative as they are created by a first party. However, they are in the same section.
Now, when an author posts a link to one of the new games available in this section, it appears as a link above their username in the resulting video. From there, viewers can jump to the game when they come across the video.
At launch, HTML5 game titles include the following:
- FRVR Basketball (by 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 has not officially announced the launch of the mobile game pilot, but a spokesperson confirmed that testing in various global markets began a couple of 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 considering bringing HTML5 games to TikTok through integration with third-party developers and studios.”
They said the initiative is 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. At this point, the pilot is just trying to determine if and how the existing TikTok gaming community interacts with these games, and to what extent users will create content around the games. Of course, things could change in the long run — if TikTok wanted to go in that direction.
TikTok told us that these new mini-games are separate from the games being developed for TikTok LIVE, which allow creators to interact with fans during live streams.
App development company Watchful.ai noted that the games were recently listed under the “Add Link” section under the “MiniGame” heading, but Zynga’s Disco Loco 3D is still listed separately. This add-on has recently been released to Southeast Asian markets. However, we found mini-games available in the same menu here in the US
TikTok is not the first tech giant to branch out from its core business into mobile games. Google, for example, has embraced HTML5 gaming with the launch of its GameSnacks gaming platform, which it expanded to a Google Chrome New Tab page last year in markets such as India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Kenya. Facebook also entered cloud gaming last year with the launch of Facebook Gaming for 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 Facebook, tapping into the social network’s growing user base to attract players to its games. This helped it become one of the biggest social gaming companies and led to its IPO. However, these days Facebook has become unknown to young people, while TikTok is the best app in the world. Meanwhile, Zynga is no longer a separate company. But mobile social gaming could take off again if TikTok’s pilot project proves successful.