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The Rundown: One year in, TikTok’s gaming marketing team isn’t going anywhere

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This editorial series examines industry trends across the media, media buying and marketing sectors as 2023 closes and the new year begins. More from the series →

This coming January marks the one-year anniversary of the formation of TikTok’s gaming marketing team, and the group is poised for another year of growth. Over the past 12 months, they feel they’ve proven TikTok’s value as an advertising channel for game developers, and they’re ready to expand on this aspect of the platform in 2024.

Here’s a rundown of how gaming brands have been using TikTok to reach gamers over the past year — and how TikTok plans to lean into this audience going into the new year.

The key numbers

  • It’s been almost exactly a year since January 2023, when TikTok launched its global gaming business and marketing teams headed by Assaf Sagy and Rema Vasan. “This is our first full year within the market as a global gaming organization,” Sagy said.
  • TikTok has managed to generate some eye-popping engagement figures surrounding game launches in 2024. Only a day after the release of the first “Grand Theft Auto 6” trailer on December 5, the #gta6 hashtag had generated over 10 billion views on the short-form video platform. As of Dec. 18, that number stands at nearly 12.5 billion.
  • Recently, TikTok has carried out several case studies to more concretely measure the impact of TikTok promotion on game releases. One study around the launch of Lessmore’s “We Are Warriors,” which used TikTok as its exclusive launch partner, found that TikTok drove 814,000 paid installs and 300,000 organic installs for the mobile game. The brand generated 216 million views in 2 weeks for its paid-ad creatives, not counting organic views.

No effects from broader ByteDance restructuring

In November, it was widely reported that TikTok holding company ByteDance was moving away from game development, with the company cutting 1,000 jobs in that sector. But both Sagy and Vasan made it clear that these higher-level changes would have no impact on TikTok’s push into gaming as a marketing platform. This lines up with TikTok’s statement last year that it would not be developing a dedicated ad-driven gaming tab, focusing instead on TikTok’s value as an ancillary community platform for gamers.

“Marketers need to create a brand moat, and they understand that TikTok has become, in our opinion, the number one tool or place for launching new games,” Sagy said.

An IP marketing bonanza

As gaming worlds and characters become prime targets for adaptation into television or film, TikTok’s gaming team believes the platform has tremendous potential to help gaming companies raise awareness about their homegrown intellectual properties. If Hollywood’s romance with gaming continues in 2024, these shifts in the entertainment landscape could benefit TikTok, which already has a native population of engaged gamers.

“The lines between gaming and entertainment are blurring,” Vasan said. “What we’re beginning to see more of is the gaming marketing being done as IP marketing, almost like cinematic marketing.”

Growing the team in 2024

After proving TikTok’s status as a gaming community platform in 2023, TikTok’s gaming marketing team is looking to grow in 2024, although its leaders took a measured tone when describing exactly what this expansion might look like. 

“We are very bullish. We are growing, and we’re going to continue investing in areas that are going to help the creative side of the industry,” Sagy said. “Our live operation is growing very fast, and if there are any new areas that we believe could kick in this year, of course, we will put more resources into that to make sure that we make those effective.”

An e-commerce future

Another potential expansion area for TikTok’s gaming team in 2024 is direct in-app purchases. Given the large amount of gaming community activity and discussion happening on the platform, it’s not hard to imagine a future in which gamers can click through TikTok to download a game directly onto their preferred device. This isn’t possible yet, but it was clear that this was an area of interest for TikTok going into the new year.

“Every generation has a different way of communicating and shopping. Today, it’s largely about social media communication: TikTok trends, direct-to-consumer Instagram, all that stuff,” said Justin Hochberg, CEO of Virtual Brands Group. “I have a theory that TikTok is the new Google — people aren’t even Googling, they’re just using social media as tools for this.”

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