TikTok: The Untapped Weapon For Gaming Developers


Anne-Lise Sharbatian is the CEO Tempo, a gaming company releasing the first synthetic influencer multiplayer, hyper casual games for Generation Alpha. At 15, Anne-Lise started LJH, one of the first influencer marketing firms focused on Instagram. She also worked for Scopely, a leading interactive entertainment and mobile games company that created the Wheel Of Fortune, Yahtzee and Star Trek Fleet Command games.



Earlier this year ByteDance, the China-based startup behind the hugely popular social networking and short-form video app TikTok, announced it will be ramping up its efforts for the gaming community. While the company has noted their latest initiative is only in its infancy, we can expect to see a massive opportunity for game developers and companies to capitalize on.  

In its current state, TikTok has amassed a massive global following with more than 500 million active daily users (according to a 2018 report), which they have accumulated in a few short years. In fact, it is so engaging, that teens say they ‘play it’ rather than ‘use it’ – for an enviable average of 52 minutes a day, following in the footsteps of platforms such as Snapchat who have continued to increase the amount of time users remain in their app year over year. For game developers, TikTok’s marketing strategy and user experience on how they engage teens presents a  massive opportunity for game developers to learn from and adopt into their gaming strategy. 

To illustrate this untapped potential, here are the top seven lessons applicable to gaming from TikTok:


  1. Level Zero: the case for making onboarding the first level   

Developers risk losing players if they craft lengthy, complex tutorials that delay the start of the game. Younger generations are used to upbeat, intuitive social media apps with no waiting period. Meanwhile, old fashion onboarding experiences are disappointing and a risky move when more entertaining apps like TikTok and Snapchat provide instant gratification with a simple swipe. 

Games such as Subway Surfers and Tom Hero got it right. They let users play immediately while receiving basic training. Granted, these games are so intuitive that hardly any guidance is needed, but users can rush straight to the game and skip the cliche tutorial. Added bonus: this gives game developers more time to hook players in their game. 


  1. The power of multipliers

TikTok provides users with constant releases of dopamine by providing  an endless stream of content and user-to-user engagement. The more users stay on the platform, the better their recommendations become, and the more engagement they receive.

In the gaming world, a score multiplier, which allows players to continuously earn higher points and rewards, keeps the dopamine flowing and proven to work well with Gen Z as they are accustomed to the instant gratification similar to what social media provides. Gaming app Talking Tom Gold Run excels at this strategy in which the player always wins more. By implementing  omnipresent small rewards - higher scores, coins to make your character more powerful, new buildings, and characters - you can ensure that you attract news users as well as keep users engaged and ultimately increase your daily user count. 


  1. Keep their attention

Game developers are finding it increasingly hard to keep younger generations entertained for longer periods of time. Gen Z’s attention span is 8 seconds - 4 seconds less than Millenials, which is why Snapchat stories are limited to 10 seconds, Youtube’s pre-roll ads don’t exceed 6 seconds, and why TikTok excels at offering micro bursts of content which keep users’ attention. 

Games like Super Mario started adapting to this changing behavior by introducing Remix races which merge second-long snippets of various levels together for users to complete. Tom Hero also does this by introducing daily challenges and by letting users change environments every couple of seconds within a race. Difficulty, sound, and animations are constantly ever changing to make sure users are successfully entertained and kept on their toes.   


  1. The need for speed.

Mobile gaming is undoubtedly an enormous business. Late last year big tech companies rolled out new processor chips that enable graphics to function even faster. With the implementation of 5G devices, the need for speed will be of the utmost importance in order to  keep the gaming community invested and provide users with complex games.  Social media apps have already adapted to this trend, with TikTok leading the way as an upbeat platform with endless snippets of engaging content set to catchy music. The app successfully keeps boredom at bay by not wasting its users time. 

Games like Diner Dash and Cooking Fever are particularly good at this. Players are tasked to prepare and serve food to an increasing amount of customers. Speed increases such that it is the users who have to catch up to the app. The game moves quickly so your score increases rapidly, levels advance at prompt pace, and achievements are often earned. 


  1. If they can’t stop, they won’t stop

Not all games should have to end. Levels can be continuous, new challenges received, and the game be ever changing. TikTok has created an addictive browsing experience where users don't have to think twice about where to navigate, but rather where to seamlessly glide from one video to the next. 

In My Talking Tom, users take care of a cat that never dies and run races that never end. The game is so intuitive it becomes second nature, to the point that users have to remind themselves to leave the app. Incorporating this concept into your gaming program will enable longevity and increase the likelihood of keeping a user for a longer period of time.


  1. FOMO is still a thing:  Why you need to create digital scarcity 

We live in a society that is deeply engaged and wants to feel a part of a movement and community. The idea of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) creates an intense urge in players to keep on playing. Creating digital scarcity accelerates this. TikTok often encourages users to participate in trending challenges and other various activities to not miss out on the buzz and potential engagement, which creates FOMO. NBA 2K is an example of a game which successfully creates a sense of FOMO. Playable characters for famous basketball players are in short supply, you win these characters through scarce loot boxes. Using scarcity in your game drives FOMO and makes players want to keep playing.


  1. Be Social!

Games need to offer rich multiplayer modes and social experiences to effectively compete for screen time against social media. The advent of 5G cellular technology will enable new types of multiplayer games due to decreased latency and increased bandwidth. Browsing TikTok is a social experience where users are encouraged to engage with others. By utilizing a technique known as “response” videos or “duets” gaming, gaming developers provide  users with the ability to duplicate videos and add themselves alongside. 

Currently, Nintendo is testing a multiplayer mode to mobile Mario Kart and the Sims is testing a similar multiplayer mode as well to increase engagement. Other companies like Madden, have already adopted this functionality and developers should consider this as an essential component to consider when building the strategy for their game. 

While there are a plethora of components that go into developing a video game (game design, code and more), game developers should have a well-rounded understanding of how to ensure the game produced will provide a seamless, social and immersive experience. Understanding how TikTok captivates its customer case is intrinsic to building a successful game. 

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