TikTok Live Propels Indie Games to New Heights

Upon completing his lighthearted horror game, Konrad Pawlikowski made a critical mistake in game development: he neglected to market it.

However, as an indie developer creating games in his spare time, he believed marketing wasn't necessary. "Please Stop Crying," a first-person fatherhood simulator, was a labor of love. He dedicated himself to it while balancing the responsibilities of parenting his infant daughter and working full-time, creating interactive learning modules for an oil and gas company.

In March, following a month of development, he uploaded the game to the Steam platform, pricing it at $2.99 per download. To his astonishment, "Please Stop Crying" found unexpected success on a different platform: TikTok.

Over the years, TikTok has been renowned for its role in music discovery, providing a platform for lesser-known artists to achieve stardom if their songs go viral. Now, according to some indie developers like Pawlikowski, the platform is making a similar impact in the gaming industry by boosting smaller titles.

"I truly believe TikTok holds significant marketing potential for small indie developers," expressed Pawlikowski, 25. "As a game developer, it's incredibly rewarding to witness people playing and enjoying your game."

TikTok's live feature, introduced in 2019, allows content creators to livestream directly from the platform. Livestreaming has long been a fundamental aspect of the gaming community on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch, enabling individuals to play games while simultaneously streaming them to their audiences.

Indie games, in particular, are experiencing a surge in popularity on TikTok Live, where smaller streamers have reported success in attracting new audiences with lesser-known titles.

In recent months, games like Fruit Mountain, created by the Japanese gaming studio BeXide; That's Not My Neighbor, developed by Nacho Sama; and Content Warning, developed by the Swedish studio Landfall Games, have gained immense popularity among streamers on TikTok Live. Hashtags associated with these game titles have accumulated millions of page views.

Sam Clark, recognized by his followers as @SammyC_TV, remarked that he has observed greater engagement while streaming on TikTok compared to his experience on Twitch.

"I believe it can be attributed to these indie games," he stated. "They essentially helped me gain significant traction."

Clark mentioned that many of his 24,000 followers specifically tune in for his streams playing Fruit Mountain, a game that involves tossing fruits onto a plate and combining them with other fruits.

It has emerged as one of the most popular indie games on the platform. As of April 5, videos featuring the hashtag #FruitMountain had garnered 87.9 million views. Videos containing the phrase “Where to get Fruit Mountain” accumulated 21.6 million views.

"TikTok has become an ideal platform for promoting simple indie games because viewers can join a stream at any time without needing to know the game's backstory," Clark explained.

He also highlighted the unique benefit of TikTok's endless-scroll homepage, which sets it apart from Twitch.

In recent years, TikTok has made efforts to attract more gamers to its platform. In 2021, it introduced The Game Room, an initiative aimed at showcasing gamers who livestream on the platform. TikTok has also incorporated features such as subscription perks, reminiscent of those found on Twitch.

The attention from streamers has proven beneficial for game developers like Pawlikowski, who mentioned that he has already earned a few thousand dollars from "Please Stop Crying."

Amidst the traditional gaming industry experiencing a transitional period marked by mass layoffs and underperforming mainstream games, Pawlikowski anticipates a moment in the spotlight for indie games. He hopes to witness more developers shifting their focus accordingly.

"I think there's a bit of corporate greed, and nowadays, games are just seen as dollar signs, where they only generate profit," Pawlikowski remarked. He added, "I believe games are more about expression, art, and simply creating something that players would enjoy."

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