Mobile gaming is booming, driving developers, gamers and advertisers to keep their eyes peeled for the next big thing — and it may be coming from TikTok. Currently, users of the short-form video-sharing app with at least 1,000 followers can share live gameplay through mobile streaming. But the platform is looking to expand its offerings for the growing gaming industry. 

The rumors

Right before Halloween 2022, the Financial Times reported that TikTok was planning to add a dedicated tab, allowing users to access the games simply by clicking a button on the homepage. According to the Times, the dedicated tab would give users access to a channel of mobile games (featuring ads) and the opportunity for users to pay for additional content.

Within the week, TikTok denied the rumors, but on Nov. 2, 2022, the social media giant hosted its first global gaming event, “TikTok Made Me Play It.” No mention of the gaming channel was made, and after the event, a TikTok representative told Digiday that it had no plans to introduce the gaming tab within the platform. 

Considering a 2021 study found that 75% of TikTok gamers discovered new games on the channel, experts believe a shift toward gaming is coming. 

What we know

Despite TikTok’s denial about the dedicated gaming channel, there are other clues that the company is leaning into mobile gaming. Here are some of the newest developments:

1. New leadership

In September 2022, Assaf Sagy announced on LinkedIn that he would be taking over the role of Global Head of Gaming. 

Sagy served as host for the “TikTok Made Me Play It” event, which was attended by streamers, developers and creators. Branded with the hashtag #GameTok, the educational session focused on the gaming community, brand advice, and input from some of the world’s leading gaming publishers. Speakers at the gamified summit included Julia Victor, head of brand for The Sims at Electronic Arts; Iona Hrebenciuc, chief product officer at Homa Games; and Kimi Xu, senior marketing director at NetEase Games.

2. Testing in Vietnam

In May 2022, Reuters reported that TikTok was planning a big push into gaming, citing tests the company had been conducting in Vietnam that would allow users to play games on its video-sharing app. Why Vietnam? With approximately 70% of its population still under 35, the country’s residents tend to be incredibly tech-savvy.

At the time, TikTok representatives did say, off the record, that the company had plans to roll out gaming in other parts of Southeast Asia. 

3. Launching mini-games

TikTok released the mini-game Garden of Good on the app to test the waters in the United States in June 2022. The game was centered around the education of which food items were most needed at food banks across the country–as well as nutritional facts and real-time progress in the fight to provide hunger relief — and was shared to promote the work of the nonprofit Feeding America.

In addition, TikTok already has an established partnership with game developer Zynga, which helped launch the Disco Loco 3D game exclusively for TikTok. 

And Zynga isn’t the only game developer the company has been working with. In July 2022, TechCrunch reported that TikTok had begun piloting HTML5 mini-games with other developers in the previous weeks. 

Indeed, July saw the release of several mini-games to the TikTok platform. Hidden inside the TikTok app under the “Add link” tab with the heading “MiniGame,” the HTML5 gaming titles included the following games and developers:

  • Mr. Aim Lab’s Nightmare (created by Aim Lab)
  • Basketball FRVR (created by FRVR)
  • Peek a Who (created by Nitro)
  • Space Destroyer (created by Nitro)
  • Tap the Difference (created by Lotum)
  • Pride Run (created by Voodoo)
  • Influencer Run (created by Voodoo)

Sizing up TikTok’s competition in gaming

A quick look at two competitors in the mobile gaming arena shows different ends of the success spectrum.

In October 2022, Facebook had to shut down its standalone gaming app just two years after its launch. After facing several challenges from Apple, who rejected the app from its store numerous times due to rules against distributing casual games, the social media giant was forced to remove the gameplay functionality. Users can still play games through the Gaming section of the Facebook app.

On the other hand, Netflix continues to expand its mobile game offerings, which first launched in November 2021. The platform hosts more than 30 games, including the popular Stranger Things 3 and Exploding Kittens. In October 2022, the media giant announced a list of new mobile games in development. Among them are an untitled Assassin’s Creed game, an adaptation of the Netflix show “Too Hot to Handle,” and The Queen’s Gambit: Chess.

For now, gamers, developers, and advertisers eager to see TikTok leap into serious gaming will need to be patient. 

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