TikTok mini-game pilot hints at social gaming resurgence
Years ago, social games like “FarmVille” changed the way people communicated with their friends online and left a lasting impression on the trajectory of influential platforms like Facebook. As the pandemic has pushed mobile gaming further into the mainstreamthe trend could be due to a resurgence of apps like TikTok and Facebook’s Instagram.
TikTok recently launched a game pilot with partners Vodoo, Nitro Games, FRVR, Aim Lab and Lotum. According Tech Crunch, who confirmed the driver, the new mini-games can be found in the TikTok app when creating a video. When a link to a minigame is posted, it appears as an anchor above the creator’s username that viewers can click to play the game for themselves. The platform previously tested the waters last year by partnering with Zynga, one of companies that have taken the lead in the game on Facebook in 2009, to launch a exclusive dance title.
At launch, there were seven game titles on TikTok, none of which are currently monetized through advertising or in-app purchases. Instead, the test aims to determine the TikTok community’s appetite for games and whether creators find the content around those titles engaging. While TikTok is just starting to dip its toes in the waters, other platforms, including arch-rival Instagram, have started to see heavier gaming experiences from brands.
A potential rebound for social gaming follows a bigger shift in the gaming industry, which has become increasingly connected thanks to games like “Fortnite,” “Minecraft,” and “Roblox.” These multiplayer platforms have almost become full-fledged social networks the game falls out of the niche category and metaverse activations are increasing, providing a place where individuals with common interests can come together.
Companies like the children’s brand Osh Kosh B’Goshwho launched a “Fashion Runway” game on Roblox, and Duracell® have recently explored gaming across various platforms to expand their reach and connect with consumers.
“There’s huge potential,” said Jonothan Hunt, senior creative technologist at Wunderman Thompson UK, who created a scroll game for Duracell on Instagram.
“We’re seeing people wanting to express themselves with alternate reality effects,” Hunt added. “Just being able to do fun stuff on their faces [is leading people] to start spending a little more time on the platforms.
Competitive game ‘Bunny Hop’ promoting Duracell Optimum debuted in July on the brand’s European and Asian Instagram channels and required players to steer a bunny through an obstacle course, jumping over rocks, cacti and walls. Duracell batteries at certain points in the game made it easy for the bunny to get over obstacles, and the score was calculated based on the amount of uninterrupted play a user had. Those with the highest scores could win Duracell products.
“We were surprised to find an average of 2.5 minutes of playing time,” Hunt said. “That’s much higher than the average social media scroll rate.”
Spotlight on Shareability
The key to success is execution and understanding that not all gaming platforms are the same. Making a “Fortnite” island is completely different from developing a game that consumers not only want to play but also want to share socially.
“People aren’t used to playing a game on social media, so we had to keep it simple,” Hunt said.
One of the critical elements in creating the game was the use of Meta’s Spark augmented reality (AR) platform. The tool is traditionally used to create AR experiences like trying on outfits or expressions. Applying it to the “Bunny Hop” game gave players the ability to personalize their experiences and share their scores in real time.
“You want to do something that’s easy to share,” Hunt said. “The moment our Bunny Hop game ends, you can instantly share it in stories, which means your friends can just jump in and experience it.”
The industry is likely to see many more social gaming experiences and programs in the future. Last November, the social creation agency We Are Social launched a gaming division to help brands create meaningful experiences in gaming and esports environments. In announcing the split, agency executives said they view the game as a core offering for its social media business, not outside of it.
“We believe gaming is social, not something that should remain isolated from the work we are already doing,” said We Are Social Chief Strategy Officer Mobbie Nazir. in a report. “Gaming has become a central part of our business offering over the past few years and with the launch of this practice we will be able to help even more brands take a social approach to their gaming strategies.”
As more agencies and marketers move into the space, ideas that incorporate some of the unique properties of social — including frequency of use — can also be taken into account in the gameplay.
“The future is full of possibilities,” Hunt said. “There are so many things that can be done.”