TikTok is already one of the fastest growing social media platforms in the world, overtaking even YouTube in watch time in select markets and boasting over 1 billion monthly active users. Now the company wants to expand the range of activities its users can do when they get tired of flipping through short videos. According to a Reuters report today, the company continues to invest in HTML5 games and has already started testing. But we understand that TikTok’s gaming strategy may involve more than web-based gaming. It appears that TikTok is also working on a LIVE feature for mobile games, which would allow developers to better engage fans with live streaming.
Reuters said TikTok plans to revert to parent company ByteDance’s suite of games, starting with mini-games that have simple mechanics and shorter playtime. It claimed testing had started in Vietnam. But TikTok told TechCrunch that was inaccurate, saying playtesting isn’t currently being conducted in Vietnam.
The social video app’s move to HTML5 gaming was already well known, as TikTok announced its plans last year along with its Zynga partnership. The two companies had partnered to publish the HTML5 game Disco Loco 3D exclusively on TikTok. And at the time, TikTok confirmed it was already in talks with other game publishers for similar deals, with a bigger gaming expansion still to come. TikTok says there are currently no new partners to name on that front.
Prior to the Zynga deal, TikTok had also launched its own game, Garden of Good, which was developed in partnership with nonprofit Feeding America and focused on charitable fundraising. This one felt more like an experiment to see if TikTok users would play an in-app game.
While gaming is still a minor expense today, it could become a significant monetization tool for TikTok if the games end up being ad-supported or later adding paid components like in-app purchases.
In addition to its previously announced efforts to address HTML5 gaming, TechCrunch has also learned that TikTok is attempting to explore LIVE gaming in a separate effort.
According to research by Tel Aviv-based mobile product intelligence firm Watchful, TikTok is working to add mini-games to LIVE videos in its app to improve the live streaming experience between developers and their fans.
One LIVE game that Watchful has discovered is called Draw & Guess, and it’s specifically designed to encourage interaction between developers and viewers. In this Pictionary-like game, players are given words to draw on the screen, and viewers try to guess what they are drawing. The correct guesses are displayed on the screen.
Watchful also noted that the mobile gaming feature may enable screen sharing, allowing developers to share their screen with viewers in real-time, including their camera, audio, notifications, and other alerts. Their games could be shown in either landscape or portrait mode, the company said.
Today, while a handful of reverse engineers publicly share details about unannounced, work-in-progress features they find in popular consumer apps, Watchful has made this type of investigation productive and enhanced it with technology. The company uses a combination of computer vision and flow analysis to identify and emulate app changes. Its differential analysis engine compares application versions using real user data and proprietary computer vision algorithms. The studies are also supported by the company’s mobile device laboratories, which are deployed around the world.
TikTok was contacted for comment and had nothing more to say about the LIVE Gaming effort, but told us it was completely independent development of the HTML5 games described by Reuters.
Games aren’t the only way TikTok hopes to improve the TikTok LIVE platform.
Watchful has also hinted at another feature in development that feels like a cross between a game and a virtual gifting experience. It allows users to add a “treasure chest” to LIVE videos that will give out coins after a timer expires for a random group of users.
It turns out that TikTok was working on the in-app shopping experience TikTok Shop, which is now available in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Mainland China, Hong Kong and the UK. Here, TikTok appears to be thinking of adding a shopping bag icon to LIVE shopping videos, which, when clicked, will open a window where viewers can browse through available products, with the option to add them to a shopping cart for immediate purchase.
TikTok declined to comment on these other LIVE platform plans.