What just happened? After months of reports, one of TikTok’s initial forays into games has emerged. Users in several countries can now play HTML5-based mini-games within the service. TikTok is the latest initially non-gaming service attempting to break into the sector.
TikTok users in some countries, including the US, can now upload videos containing links to a small selection of HTML5-based mini-games. The new feature is a test to see if games could become the next magnet for engagement on the platform.
In the final steps before uploading a TikTok video, users will find “MiniGame” as an option under “Add link.” The option lets them attach one of seven small games to their video from companies including FRVR, Lotum, Nitro, Voodoo, and Aim Lab. Viewers coming across the video can tap the link to start playing within the TikTok app. One of the games, for example, involves comparing two seemingly identical pictures before tapping on the difference between them.
In November, TikTok announced a partnership with Zynga to develop Disco Loco. Reports of TikTok testing HTML5 games in Southeast Asian countries also appeared in May. The company never officially announced the initiative, but it confirmed the games’ existence to TechCrunch last Thursday, stressing that they’ve been in an early testing phase in multiple countries for at least a couple of weeks.
The move is likely another admission that various forms of media, including video games, streaming video, social media, and others, are all in the same competition for viewers’ attention. Netflix admitted that Fortnite is a significant competitor in 2019 and has since included games in its subscription service. TikTok’s goal is to see how the games affect users’ screen time on the platform.
Unlike HTML5, Netflix’s approach lets subscribers download a selection of mobile titles from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, making it more of a competitor to Apple Arcade. TikTok’s and Netflix’s mobile gaming initiatives contrast with those from Facebook and Microsoft, which Apple famously blocked.
In 2020, Microsoft and Facebook criticized Apple for blocking their cloud gaming apps while allowing TV and movie streaming apps like Netflix. Microsoft circumvented this through a browser-accessible web page. Netflix’s game subscription avoided the problem by offering mobile games through the App Store per Apple’s rules. Those rules don’t seem to apply to TikTok’s HTML5 mini-games.