May 24, 2024

Walk around EGX, the UK’s biggest video games show, and you’ll see bright lights, demos for the latest games, and plenty of colourful cosplay.

But this year you’ll also see something else – TikTok logos everywhere.

The company is now the show’s main sponsor, signing a three-year deal to support it.

It’s probably no secret that TikTok is looking to muscle in on games content – it’s a rapidly growing area for the platform, another category it wants to expand into alongside music and films.

According to its own figures, gaming posts racked up more than 3 trillion views last year.

But video games content is a crowded field, still ruled by YouTube and live streaming site Twitch, although that’s seen some high-profile users move to rivals like Kick.

Some creators say they’ve managed to boost their audience via TikTok, such as Sophie, known to her 500,000-plus followers as Cadaea.

After struggling to build an audience on Twitch for a “good eight years”, she started posting news and views on games on TikTok.

“The discoverability on Twitch isn’t very good,” Sophie told BBC Newsbeat at the event in London’s Docklands, adding that the competitive platform is dominated by big-name streamers like Ninja and Pokimane.

She believes TikTok is to thank for her boosted following, and it’s going pretty well for her.

“I actually quit my full-time job earlier this year in investment banking to pursue content creation, which is pretty insane if you ask my parents,” says Sophie.

“However, the money is out there.”

A man in a gillet and a woman in a white shirt stand in front of arcade machines
TikTok creators like Dorrani and Sophie were invited to the app’s big stand at the EGX gaming show

On an app with more than three billion downloads, not everyone can become a star. And how much money those who make it actually get from TikTok is a source of debate at the moment.

The app recently revised its payment programme, and some creators have claimed the amounts received vary massively from video-to-video.

On the EGX show floor, Dorrani, known as 100PercentCrit, tells Newsbeat there’s more to be made from brand deals, as with other social media apps.

“There’s career paths here in content creation,” he says.

“You’d be very, very surprised at the money that can be earned. But I don’t think it’s from the sense that people would think.”

TikTok’s UK head of gaming and sports Rollo Goldstaub tells Newsbeat the app is “becoming a more influential part of how games are discovered”.

He believes it can give smaller developers a chance to go viral.

That’s what happened to the makers of Billie Bust Up – a colourful musical platformer that flooded For You Pages after being boosted by the app’s algorithm.

The small team behind the game said their Kickstarter crowdfunder which raised money for the project hit its target in 48 hours after the viral moment.

“It was a big surprise. A big, big surprise,” says Ash, one of Billie Bust Up’s creators, who’s showcasing a demo of the game at EGX.

“The fact that people are so interested is a big motivator and a big help.”

A man in a hoody and a woman wearing sunglasses stand in a convention centre hall
Ash and Michael were at EGX to show a demo of their game, Billie Bust Up

Rollo claims stories like this are an example of TikTok helping indie developers to reach new audiences.

“The playing field has truly been levelled. The barrier to entry is low. You only need a phone and internet signal.”

But there’s still space for big companies to get their products into your feeds the old-fashioned way – by paying to boost content.

It’s not unique to TikTok, and something big developers such as Activision Blizzard have done for their new releases across most big social networks.

Gaming conventions aren’t the only place you’ll see TikTok’s logo. UFC, the Women’s Rugby Six Nations and Burnley FC’s women’s squad have all been sponsored by the app this year.

A man in a blue shirt stands in a big convention centre hall
As well as heading up gaming at TikTok, Rollo says he’s a big gamer himself too

The Chinese-owned app is often the subject of negative headlines and criticism, and there’s been talk of banning it among some US politicians.

Could sponsoring some of our favourite hobbies and sports be a way to create positive associations in the people who actually use it every day?

Rollo insists that’s not the case and TikTok wants to be a “friend to games”.

With apps constantly adding features offered by other social media apps to keep users on their platforms for longer, is TikTok looking to follow Netflix and start making games itself?

“There are no plans”, Rollo says, but adds that the company tests new features all the time.

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