TikTok pushing for bigger gaming presence as gamers, esports viewers flock to the platform

TikTok’s rise to prominence in recent years has catapulted the short form streaming video platform to the center of mainstream culture. With over 100 million users in the US alone – many of whom are Gen Z – the viral video app has been steering the conversation to the point where even lighthearted fare like sea shanties was able to capture everyone’s gaze just a few weeks ago. What TikTok isn’t known for – yet – is gaming, but that’s quickly changing. Chinese parent company ByteDance is aiming to build its gaming presence both with game development and on TikTok itself.

In the world of esports, TikTok became a principal partner of London-based esports organization Tundra last October, while TikTok stars Josh Richards and Griffin Johnson (who have over 33M followers combined) became investors in ReKTGlobal (parent company of Call of Duty League franchise London Royal Ravens and LEC team Rogue) in December.

Guilherme Barbosa, PUBG Corp’s former Regional Business Developer for LATAM, joined TikTok in January to help the platform build its games vertical. He will specifically look to cultivate gaming partnerships for the platform in the region. Similar hires for other regions are likely to follow. Meanwhile, ByteDance, which owns three game studios, opened a publishing arm in November and hosts in-app games via the Chinese version of TikTok, Douyin, which commands over 600 million daily active users.

The stars are aligning for TikTok, both literally and figuratively. Teams such as 100 Thieves, TSM, FaZe Clan, Gen. G, Team Liquid, Complexity, and others are already building a TikTok presence. Influencers like Ninja, FaZe Rug, Pokimane – to name just a few – have cultivated audiences in the millions on top of their robust followings across other streaming platforms.

This kind of momentum in gaming and esports is hard to ignore. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, there has been tremendous growth on TikTok among gamers and esports viewers in the US, with gamers’ use of TikTok tripling year-over-year in 2020 to 20% and esports viewers more than doubling to 25% – compared with 17% of the general population that uses the platform. And because TikTok is driven by AI that analyzes a user’s interests and dictates what the viewer sees, this could prove to be incredibly fertile ground for sponsors in the esports space, particularly given that organic content from influencers is what tends to work best on the platform.