TikTok ventures into mobile gaming, initially in partnership with Zynga

TikTok is experimenting with games, initially in partnership with mobile gaming giant Zynga. On Monday, Zynga announced its plans to launch a new HTML5-based game, “Disco Loco 3D,” exclusively on the TikTok platform. The casual game is a single-player endless runner where players collect their own dance moves while challenging friends, avoiding obstacles and collecting medallions as they walk down a catwalk, similar in spirit to Zynga’s “High Heels.” While TikTok says the game is meant to test its audience’s general interest in gaming within its app, the company confirmed that discussions with other game makers are already underway.

HTML5-based mobile gaming has become a popular way to reach a large number of global users, particularly those in emerging markets where consumers may not own high-end phones or be able to afford fast data plans. Google, for example, embraced the format with its launch of the HTML5 gaming platform GameSnacks, which this year scaled across Google Chrome’s new tab page in markets like India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Kenya.

More broadly, however, the tech industry is making the connection between platforms where users go to be entertained or to socialize, and platforms dedicated to gaming. Facebook stepped into cloud gaming last year with its launch of Facebook Gaming on the web and Android. And Netflix has just launched its own gaming service to its global users on Android, and today, iOS, saying that the company believes gaming is just another category of entertainment.

Now, it seems TikTok is open to exploring that concept, as well.

TikTok tells TechCrunch the partnership with Zynga will help the company better understand how its community engages with games. The company today has a captive audience of gaming fans, including both casual and hardcore gamers, it said, but it doesn’t know if these users would respond to a gaming integration like this.

This isn’t TikTok’s first-ever game, however. The company earlier this year launched its own game “Garden of Good,” which was built in partnership with nonprofit Feeding America and was focused on charitable fundraising. While that game may have given TikTok some early data on user interest in gaming, the game itself was a different type of experience. In the game, TikTok users would care for their own garden and support friends who were playing the game. And when the garden grew, they could have TikTok make a donation to Feed America using their points.

Zynga’s integration is a more traditional game, although it’s not currently monetized, TikTok notes. There are no in-app purchases or revenue share on the game’s earnings, for example. Instead, the focus, for the time being, is on testing TikTok users’ gaming appetite.

@zyngaDisco Loco 3D is coming!♬ original sound – Zynga

As for Zynga, the company said it sees TikTok as a platform that will allow it to reach new audiences through the app’s massive reach.

“Zynga has a rich history of creating games that utilize platforms’ unique user experiences to bring fresh and fun concepts that resonate with players wherever and whenever they get their entertainment,” said Bernard Kim, president of Publishing at Zynga, in a statement.

The game is not currently live on TikTok but will roll out in the coming weeks on both iOS and Android across North American markets.

The partnership with Zynga may be the first to come of TikTok’s broader investigation into mobile gaming. The company told TechCrunch it’s in discussions with other gaming partners for similar deals, but can’t announce details at this time.

The gaming news was announced alongside Zynga’s Q3 earnings, where the company reported revenue of $705 million, up 40% year-over-year, and bookings of $668 million, up 6% year-over-year. Zynga also said it hired a former Coca-Cola exec, Matthew Wolf, to lead its blockchain gaming business.