TikTok to launch standalone gaming channel

TikTok is making a big push into gaming, adding a dedicated tab within the short-form video platform, its first venture into a different entertainment format.

The Chinese-owned company is the latest video platform to expand beyond video into games, one of the most lucrative entertainment industries, following Netflix’s launch of mobile games last year and filling a void left by rivals Snapchat and Facebook, which are winding down their gaming platforms.

Users will be able to access the games via a button on the homepage of what is one of the world’s most popular video apps. It will feature a host of mobile games where ads can be served and users can pay for additional content, according to four people familiar with the plans.

ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese owner, has long developed its own games and is looking to bring titles over to the new channel, one person familiar with the strategy said. Chinese regulators have cracked down on gaming in the country over the past year, delaying approvals for new offerings and limiting the amount of time children can play video games.

Douyin, the ByteDance-owned Chinese version of TikTok, has offered so-called hyper-casual games since 2019. TikTok has been hiring gaming staff worldwide and currently has 20 roles available.

Assaf Sagy was appointed TikTok’s head of global gaming last month. Based out of Israel, the former McKinsey manager and Intel system architect joined in 2020 after spending three years at Snap.

“TikTok and gaming were made for each other,” Sagy wrote in a LinkedIn post announcing his appointment last week. “TikTok has far shown its value in helping consumers discover what’s fun, valuable, and popular. I look forward to working closely with all gaming companies globally to help make TikTok a central foundation in your marketing strategies.”

The new channel could be announced as soon as November 2 at “TikTok Made Me Play It”, what the company has dubbed its “first gaming event”. It will feature speakers from gaming groups Electronic Arts, 2K, VNG Corporation, NetEase Games and Homa.

TikTok moderators in Europe, who remove harmful content posted on to the platform, have been testing games before they are launched to users, according to two people with knowledge of the process.

“We’re always looking at ways to enrich our platform and regularly test new ideas that we think can bring value to our community,” TikTok said.

The creation of the gaming channel follows tests in Vietnam in May, first reported by Reuters. In the summer, TikTok quietly rolled out a feature that allowed video creators to link to simple games which, when clicked, can be played in a pop up web browser.

TikTok already has a partnership with Zynga, the maker of gaming titles such as High Heels! that have become hugely popular thanks to viral TikTok posts. It has more than 10 gaming partners including Voodoo, Aim Lab and Matchingham Games.

Two people familiar with TikTok’s plan said it was trying to emulate Netflix, which last year created mobile games based on its streaming content, such as the series Stranger Things.

But social media rivals have struggled in this space. Last month, Snapchat-maker Snap said it would discontinue investment in gaming, while Facebook will shut down its gaming app on Friday, about two years after its launch. Meanwhile, Google said earlier this month that it would mothball Stadia, the three-year-old cloud-based group it once called “the future of gaming”.

The mobile gaming industry is still seeing healthy growth, with revenues set to rise from $104bn last year to $128bn in 2026 — more than the total spend on console and PC gaming combined, according to games analysts Omdia.

“There is plenty of room for TikTok to make an impact,” George Jijiashvili, an Omdia analyst, said.

“Finding [games] in the app is tedious, as they are quite hidden away. Adding a dedicated gaming tab will certainly boost discoverability and usage,” he added.

Additional reporting by Tim Bradshaw in London.


Business Asia
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