TikTok's trying to get into games in a big way

tiktok on phone screen
(Image credit: Pixabay)

TikTok is gigantic—the video-sharing app, particularly popular among the younger demographic, has more than one billion active users and is forecast to turnover around $11 billion this year. The app is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese firm, and was initially launched in 2016 before a re-branding and global launch in 2017, since when it's exploded in popularity to the extent that some days it challenges Google as the world's most popular website.

Now ByteDance is looking to build-out what TikTok does, and one aim is a big push into gaming. As first reported by Reuters, TikTok has been testing games on the app in the Vietnamese market, with plans to roll out its gaming elements more widely in Southeast Asia by the end of the year. Chinese TikTokers have been able to play games on the service for a while now.

I'm really getting some Newgrounds vibes here, because the nature of TikTok—short videos, video replies, loops and virality—feels like such a good fit for a particular style of game. Because of my age I'm going to call them Flash games, but you know what I mean: those two-minute experiences you noodle away at, the bitesized play session.

TikTok already has a few isolated games floating around: Zynga's Disco Loco 3D was the first HTML5 game to be developed for the platform, and has been soft-launched. "We see a tremendous opportunity to reach new audiences across the globe through TikTok’s massive and unparalleled user base," said Bernard Kim at the time, president of publishing. "Zynga has a rich history of creating games that utilize platforms’ unique user experiences to bring fresh and fun concepts that resonate with players wherever and whenever they get their entertainment."

Another obvious source for games will be ByteDance itself, which has dabbled in making more 'gamey' apps like Party Island (think: casual Sims) in the past. The developer acquired gaming studio Moonton Technology last year, and its push into games follows the route many social media companies have taken.

The takeaway here isn't that TikTok is going to be doing games—after all, it's been doing that in its home market for years. It's that the company behind it sees games as one of the big ways it can engage and retain its enormous playerbase on the platform. It won't be producing stuff that will challenge your RTX 3090 but, with this audience and the platform's instantaneous nature, these will become some of the most-played videogames in the world.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."