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The stealth rise of TikTok as a game discovery tool

I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that TikTok – the shortform video social app which sports hundreds of millions of MAUs worldwide – could be a boon for the right type of game. But I had an intriguing discovery last week which made me think that devs should really be spending a lot more time studying it.

Specifically, in monitoring top Steam sellers in their first week, I ran into Before Your Eyes from GoodByeWorld and Skybound Games, “an emotional first-person narrative adventure where you control the story – and affect its outcomes – with your real-life blinks.” (It’s based on an IGF-winning student game from 2015.)

Great concept, but it didn’t seem to be resonating that well with the public. At the beginning of April, a week before it was due to release, Before Your Eyes only had 90 points and 600 Steam followers in our Plus-exclusive GameDiscoverCo Hype charts – barely in the Top 20 for the games to release that week.

But then – well, I’ll let the SteamDB tracking for followers on the game tell the story visually (below). But there was a big viral spike in interest about 5 days before the game came out.

In browsing the Steam reviews for Before Your Eyes, I saw several that mentioned spotting the game via a TikTok video. And lo and behold, on the TikTok account of ‘cute, friendly, compassionate, cozy video game’ boosters Wholesome Games, I found a TikTok video posted on April 1st which describes the game’s premise wonderfully.

That video has – wait for it – 1.6 million views (!) and counting, with 567,000 likes (!!) We can’t be sure this is the only reason for buzz around the game, of course. But that TikTok’s timing tracks with the sudden upswing in interest. And the game has 579 Overwhelmingly Positive reviews on Steam and is getting wider interest. It was always a great game, and now it’s finding an audience.

I guess the general point here is – video games are a visual medium. So maybe we should all be spending more time using social networks which show off the game in motion to a wider, younger audience than – say – Twitter? You need a different set of viral video skills to make TikTok work, but it can pay off. Some examples/guides:

  • Look, Future Friends’ Thomas Reisenegger has the definitive guide to TikToks for game devs right now, and I’m not even going to try to quibble with it. Great stuff in there, with a lot of really concrete examples from Clone Drone In The Danger Zone & other games.
  • If there’s one TikTok account you should look at, I’m going to nominate the Among Us official TikTok – run by Victoria Tran. Sure, the game is massive already – but her videos are funny, creative, and have 10 million likes so far! You need personality/sass to make TikToks work.
  • Finally, my friends at No More Robots just started their own TikTok and immediately had a hit TikTok (200k views, 26k likes) with a funny Descenders goof with a popular ‘before/after’ TikTok song that I’m doing a terrible job of describing. And Thomas also just pointed out Landfall’s TikTok, which has some pretty successful and neat videos in it from the creators of the totes silly Totally Accurate Battle Simulator.

You may need a game with visual appeal or goofiness to make this work. And there’s other ways you can succeed visually outside of TikTok. Snowman’s Apple Arcade hit Skate City has built up a good-sized Instagram following, for example.

But TikTok is super interesting, and we’re starting to see indications that it can genuinely help your game’s interest and virality. So, uhh, get on that?

[Simon is founder at GameDiscoverCo, a new agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game? You can subscribe to GameDiscoverCo Plus to get access to exclusive newsletters, interactive daily rankings of every unreleased Steam game, and lots more besides.]


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