TikTok is undeniably changing the game for game developers and creating a new marketing and distribution playbook across mobile, console, and PC. In this discussion, Alexandra Takei, Director at Ruckus Games, speaks with Assaf Sagy, Head of Global Gaming at TikTok, and Rema Vasan, Head of Global Gaming Marketing at TikTok, about the impact TikTok has on consumer behavior. We discuss why TikTok has set up a vertically integrated business focusing solely on gaming, and our discussion covers the essential elements of TikTok's value proposition, including discovery, cultural relevance, and performance, TikTok's position in the gaming distribution stack, and how developers should create content, foster community, and promote culture to create successful games. We also share brand-new stats and success stories of developers on the TikTok platform! As Matej Lancaric rightly said in a prior Naavik Digest newsletter piece"Above all, don't underestimate the power of TikTok."

Big thanks to GRID for making this episode possible. GRID is a game data platform providing esports data infrastructure, analytics, and distribution solutions to leading game publishers including Riot Games, Ubisoft, and KRAFTON. If you're a fan, developer, or entrepreneur with an idea for a live data-powered project, make sure to apply for GRID Open Access, get free access to official data, and start creating today! To learn more, visit https://grid.gg/?utm_source=naavik.co&utm_medium=media&utm_campaign=Naavik.

This transcript is machine-generated, and we apologize for any errors.

Alexandra: What's up, everyone, and welcome to the Naavik Gaming Podcast. I'm your host, Alex Takei, and this is Interviews. It's been a bit of a break for me given the happenings at Ruckus, and I'm excited to be back at it with a killer episode I've been dying to do for months. It's not often a new titan of platform and distribution steps onto the stage in technology and games, and especially one who is here to stay.

Facebook, Twitch, YouTube, Steam, Apple, and Roblox. These are all platforms that have changed the game for game developers. And what I mean by this is that developers and the industry start to play by a new playbook to win on a certain theater of platform warfare. And it becomes a meaningful part of their go to market strategy.

I'm going to quote something from our Silicon Valley favorite, Ben Thompson, which is really a quote from Bill Gates that Ben then rewrote down. But, a platform is when the economic value of everybody that uses it exceeds the value of the company that creates it. And I'm excited to bring on precisely one of those platforms, TikTok, a platform today that is having a major impact on modern gaming distribution.

Joining me today are Assaf Sagy, Head of Global Gaming at TikTok, and Rema Vasan, Head of Global Gaming Business Marketing at TikTok. And we're here today to talk about how TikTok is changing the game for game developers. Assaf prior to joining TikTok has experience at Snapchat, Playbuzz, Summit, and Intel, as well as our personal MBA favorite, The Firm, aka McKinsey.

So welcome Assaf, it's great to see you again.

Assaf: Thank you. It's great to be here. I thought you were going to quote Bill Gates for saying content is king.

Alexandra: Content is also king.

Assaf: Yes, indeed.

Alexandra: Less cool than meeting in person at GDC though. And Rema, prior to joining TikTok, has a long career in communications, at marketing, in marketing at Marina Mayer, MSL, and Publicus.

She's also been crushing the game and bringing together cohorts of remarkable women in games. So welcome to the podcast, Rema. It's good to see you again.

Rema: You as well. It was great to see you at GDC and at the Women in Gaming event.

Alexandra: Yes, it was the best food. The number one food spread because it was organized by women.

And so it was not pizza. But before we kick off guys I know that I gave you guys some brief intros but I'd like you guys to tell our audience a little bit more about yourselves and share specifically what your mandate is at TikTok gaming. A soft, maybe we'll start with you.

Assaf: Okay. Thank you for the great introduction and mention in the firm.

It is in my LinkedIn bio. I'm in marketing for about 15 years. I'm now at TikTok for about four years. I'm heading global gaming at TikTok, which means that I have teams all over the world from Tokyo. I came back from Tokyo over the weekend to LA and those teams are working with publishers anywhere to just help them thrive on the platform.

And I will say more about this, but a little bit about my background. So I've been building towards this point. Working at, at snap and media startups and at McKinsey. And I'm a hardware engineer by profession. And I actually wrote algorithms in my far past. So I understand what options are in attribution, but I'm also a marketer.

And what I tried to do when I was at McKinsey, Chicago, I tried to work only on consumer goods. It's all easy. Cause in the Midwest, you know, the, insurance but it was also good. There are some fast food companies. Also, there are some washing machine manufacturers. So I was able to learn quite a lot about how people behave.

And I'm trying to bring those insights today, working with our teams to help the gaming industry grow.

Alexandra: That's awesome. Terrific. Thank you for sharing. Rema.

Rema: Yeah. So thank you for the intro and you, you're saying my name perfectly by the way, but it always confuses people. So let me just say, my name is spelled R E M A.

It's pronounced rum like Bacardi, rumma, also my drink of choice. As you said, I lead marketing for global gaming at TikTok. What that means is really think of me as a marketer's marketer. Uh, So my role really is to educate the gaming industry at large, how they can tap into the power of TikTok to make a difference.

To fuel their new title launches to help succeed with live ops to really fuel success of the game. And that's also what our mission is, is how we can elevate the gaming industry at large, leveraging the power of the platform. So in this capacity, we work with a large number of publishers around the world showcasing what success looks like showcasing those success studies, showcasing those publishers and developers on stages, et cetera, and really showcasing this at scale across the industry.

Alexandra: That's awesome. I am also so excited to talk about some of those success stories and showcases because I think that they are, some of them are so clever and it's truly the most, the greatest combination of creativity, plus game making, plus marketing and brand distribution and stuff like that.

But before we talk TikTok gaming, I know that's where you guys are mostly Involved at the tick tock since I have you here. I kind of want to talk tick tock just for a second. There are 4 to 5 billion social media users in the world and around. That's around 60 percent of the population and tick tock particularly saw extraordinary growth between 2018 and 2022 without a doubt spurred on by the pandemic.

TikTok stands above all other social media platforms, Instagram, WeChat, LinkedIn, Snap, and Twitter and falls short of only, I believe, Facebook in terms of users. And we know that users is also not the most important KPI to product health, it's hours, and TikTok is crushing on that front as well. Hours for TikTok surpassed Instagram in 2022 and 2023 and is predicted to overtake Facebook in 2025.

In terms of revenue, TikTok is hitting milestones at lightning speed. TikTok broke the 10 billion dollar mark in only its sixth year, a milestone that took Facebook, I think, over a decade and YouTube 14 years. And in terms of what people are doing, TikTok has ascended beyond dancing and music clips an homage to the kind of Vine era, I think, but towards also advertising and more serious content.

Surveys conducted at Pew Research, for example, found that last year, 43 percent of TikTok's users regularly turn to the app to get their news. And Rema, before we go into TikTok gaming, I'm going to turn to you first on this. I kind of want to hear in your words, what do you think the impact is that TikTok has had on consumer behavior as a general whole?

And who are these people and what are their personas? And how do you, what do you make of the new social media landscape?

Rema: Yeah. Thank you for that question, Alex. By the way prior to this current role that I'm in, I used to lead North America marketing for Tiktok overall. So this is a topic that's very near and dear to my heart.

And I would say if you think about it, and you mentioned social platforms, can TikTok really isn't a social platform. It's truly an unparalleled entertainment platform that drives action. So you check other platforms, but you really watch TikTok because it's so immersive. And I, by the way, I was also very impressed with all the research that you've clearly done and that you talked about, but people on average spend about a movie's worth of time every day on TikTok.

So it's super immersive. It's super entertaining, super engaging. And we're bringing I don't know if you can see the words behind me, but the words say inspire creativity and bring joy. We're inspiring creativity. That's our mission as TikTok overall. And we're bringing that joy to 170 million users in the United States.

States over a billion globally on also enabling 7 million small businesses to thrive in the United States. So why is all of this happening? It's because to talk a super immersive in terms of storytelling. And it's not about aspirational influencers talking about completely out of reach. content and so on.

It's really about like everyday users being the main characters and expressing their point of view and their stories. TikTok is also super multi generational. As you mentioned, gone are the days of, just the lip syncing and dancing and so on. It's truly multi generational and the users don't fit into one specific mold.

They're you, they're me, they're really everybody. And there's a wide variety of people. Interest in content that comes along with that, that really reflects that multifaceted identity. And it really means that there's no more like gatekeeping of content. It's really about this incredible swath of content that has an impact on broader culture with really diverse voices and perspectives, which means no one's really left out of the fun.

And a TikTok is super authentic. Users and brands alike do best when they bring their whole authentic selves to the TikTok first content that they create that invites communities to really join in the conversation. In fact I think over 70, 70%, 71% had to get all my stats right, of global TikTok users really prefer brand posts that don't feel too polished, that feel authentic and native to the platform.

 So what does all this mean in terms of consumer behaviors? Users have very high expectations for brands to really bring their authentic, fun, meaningful selves to the platform to bring that TikTok first entertainment because otherwise people are going to scroll right past. It's also not just about mass messaging.

Alex, I hope you're on TikTok and if you are, you may

Alexandra: I have deleted the app because it's taking a movie's worth of time from me every day.

Rema: Fair enough. Fair enough. But if you, when you were on the platform, you would know that your for you page experience is very unique and different than everyone else's.

Mine, for example, is all about gaming unsurprisingly, but also about Dogs, because I have a dog. And about cleaning, apparently I'm obsessed with watching people cleaning their shower grout. But that's the point is that it's all about these incredible niches and we call them talks to your case.

So whether it's the clean talk community or the octopus talk community or stem talk and so on, there's all these different communities that really speaks to people's unique identities that they bring to the platform. And I would also say that creators are incredible lifeblood of this platform.

It's the creator community that really fuels a way for brands to show up really authentically to the audiences that they're looking to engage. And what I will say, and I know this is a broader TikTok question, but gaming publishers have always been innovative. Which is great in terms of how they're ahead of the curve with creating TikTok first content, bringing their IPs to the platform and creating content that really resonates with the audiences with new formats and creative opportunities, as you said, really clever execution.

So we're really excited to continue to fuel that.

Alexandra: Yeah that makes a lot of sense. And I think like it is everybody. And I think that's the harder thing to define is that I think as many of the other platforms have become a little bit more siloed. I know, for example, that my age group sits squarely in the Instagram demographic, my parents age groups and squarely in the Facebook demographic.

I think Tick Tock is doing something really interesting where it is really covering all, the baby boomer, the Gen Z, the millennial and, All the generations across the board which is fascinating.

Assaf: And it's, you know, I'm asking my parents if they're on TikTok and what they're doing, my dad likes life hacks.

Okay. He likes fixing things and he's getting all that content from all over the world. And you're right, Alex. It's, if you really think about it architecturally, there is a reason for that in the past, we focused a lot on the brand as the producer of the content that we trusted the brand. Then came the influencers, we trusted them because they were famous or potentially beautiful or something else.

But here the content is at the front and then the presenter could be someone famous or a brand or not. The content has to be really good and the audience knows already that no matter what, there will be another piece of content. With a swipe of a finger. So it became so democratic that, everyone could post on TikTok and get discovered and be creative and be seen by others.

And it's also not limited in age because every age will discover what's relevant for them.

Alexandra: Yeah, it's true. And actually I was having a conversation with another Twitch streamer who actually is a lot older who's not in the kind of like the Cody Clicks 18 year old fortnight player But he's talked a lot about the fact that those people that are playing games are aging up, right?

And he's like my generation is the first generation that grew up with games and why do they not need to? Have the right to be serviced by a Twitch streamer who's going to basically appeal to their age group and their demographic. So that's going to your point about the do it yourself, fix your upper videos.

There's kind of content, as long as there's a person on there making content for that audience. they'll gain traction and then therefore the flywheel of the platform will continue to grow. So thank you guys for that grounding on TikTok in general. I've always been so curious because I think it's such a a titan of a force in our social media, but as you said, entertainment platform, Rema.

But now I do want to take a turn towards TikTok and gaming and very much focus on TikTok's focus on the sector versus, parent company, ByteDance. And so I'm really excited to dive into the meme heavy weirdness and delightful moments of TikTok and games, as there are so many hilarious stories of, quote, unhinged marketing, by companies like Duolingo or Dumb Ways to Die and more.

And so, Assaf, I'd like to turn to you and ask, why has TikTok invested in global gaming and what specifically is your mission?

Assaf: It's because of gaming. Gaming is such an important entertainment vertical. If you think about it by size, one of the largest within entertainment, probably North of 200 billion a year in sales, and it's a quite specific industry.

It's an industry where there are always supply and demand issues. Right now, there was a little bit of oversupply of games and under demand because people got back to work from the days of COVID. There is an interest problem in the past. It was free to produce games because you could take money from the bank without paying just returning it.

And now it costs 5 percent a year, depending on where you do it. That's one. The other bit is that privacy is changing. And in the past game companies not necessarily did full marketing. They were doing user acquisition if they were mobile or they were launching big time, if they were XP and there was demand for everything.

And on top of it that, there, there are many more game companies that are trying to come to market, but distribution is limited to a certain degree, there are a few ways you could distribute games on app stores or for PC games, there, there are a few places you could do it. What one of them takes about, I don't know, 70, 80 percent of the industry.

So when we looked at all of that, we said, wow, people love gaming. Those people are on Tik TOK. It's the same audience. We know that they're spending time with us. We could give stats here if you want. The one stat that comes to mind for me is that every year we're seeing more than 3 trillion organic views for gaming content on TikTok.

Just think about that number. Okay. Trillion, not billions. So obviously people are interested in games on TikTok and we saw this as a great importance for us to be focused on that and it requires expertise. So instead of having people in our org, sitting in Tokyo and being managed locally by great leaders, understand the locality of Japan, we wanted to take a global view and instead focus on what it means for gaming, how to solve performance issues.

How to create the relevant for content for gaming on TikTok. And we still learn a whole lot every time we launch a new game. That's phenomenal.

Alexandra: And also I think the one big dimension, and this is something about the power of even Twitch is that gamers typically have a fairly high wallet size.

So those users are lucrative and they are actually have a pretty strong aptitude to spend. And I think that's also a very important part about, when we do user targeting discord. Tick tock. These are the places steam. These are the places where your clients are and matching content to what your clients needs and what they might be willing to buy.

I think is that whole stack is actually it's relatively hard to achieve. But if you do it really settles you up there as the top of the distribution pipeline. And so I guess the question, it sounds like, TikTok has a fairly big mission in games. And, it's a huge platform for marketing and distribution in terms of user acquisition.

But, there's obviously something going on with TikTok in the news cycle. And, as a developer, should I at all be concerned about this? And why would I choose, TikTok over, at a high level over another partner like Apple or something like that?

Assaf: I'll gladly take this.

So I lead gaming, luckily, and no other areas, but I'm informed. So I will say the following. Let's start from the gaming industry. Game publishers are always innovative. I came from a few other platforms before TikTok. I remember at Snap and at the media startups I worked. Game publishers always comfort.

They look for audience because they know that this will be their competitive advantage. And we've seen so much success by game publishers on TikTok that we now have a separate unit with a few hundred people in it, and we're thriving together. And one, we as TikTok would not want to by any way change this at all.

Okay, so I promise we're doing everything we can. But if you took, if you take the other view, like TikTok and the U. S. government, so TikTok has always been in close contact with the U. S. government. Adhering and building things. For example, we have split out our data out of TikTok. No one at TikTok could look at user data.

It's managed by a separate company called USDS. I believe that we are the only social platform or tech media platform that has done this. And I hope that more companies would do it because it protects the user eventually, and it serves the best interest for the country that they live. Related to where the discussions are right now, I don't have the specific details, but I would say the following, I think, with 170 million people using TikTok in the U S only, and more than 7 million SMBs, and of course, the thousands of game companies that were part of that sector, I'm sure that all parties will find a way to, to find a good solution.

That works for everyone. And it's important. It's important for the U. S. economy. And it's important for consumers because on TikTok, they discover, they learn new things. And I know that everyone is informed that I'm trusting the system that things will work out.

Alexandra: Yeah. Yeah. I think uh, you know, TikTok is it's too big to fail in a way.

Assaf: I, I, you know what I, I went to business school and I worked for McKinsey, so I'm so cautious about that. But I think TikTok is collaborative. And TikTok understands that if it fuels culture, and that's why it's that the mission is on us to work with governments and to make sure that we meet local regulations and we collaborate.

At the end of the day, every tech company brings something new. Of course, that alone did not exist before, but we are making sure to work closely with those governments and collaborate to meet the best interests of those countries.

Alexandra: Yeah. And I think that collaboration is really important. And I think you're also bringing that, obviously alongside the government, but also to the actual gaming partners.

And I think I just want to shift there, talk about what TikTok is as a gaming partner. And Rema I think I might have you take the lead on this one, but, we noticed that for Apple, for example, their partner to games is mostly just on iOS store distribution, right? Can you tell us a little bit about how TikTok thinks of itself as a partner to games?

And a success story about how partnering with TikTok and partnering with the game contributed significantly to the success or the discovery of the title.

Rema: So I'm actually also going to tie it back to the question you asked earlier, Alex, which is why does TikTok have a dedicated global gaming org?

It's also worthwhile to note that gaming is the only vertical. Unit at TikTok, which also speaks to you about the importance of gaming for TikTok overall. And it goes back to, I'm going to take you back in time about a couple of years ago when we took a deep dive into what is happening on the platform?

What is the gaming phenomenon on the platform? And we really analyzed gamers on the platform and we realized that there were three key pillars driving gaming. This phenomenon the first is discovery. The second is cultural relevance. And then the third is performance. So discovery and, you know, TikTok overall is a discovery platform.

If you think back to the days of the Peter Thomas Roth, I cream and the gap jacket, et cetera. There's, many different like case studies around brands. But even just general interests like, you know, the latest in math. Problem solutions. My teenage daughter goes to TikTok to find them.

So it truly is a discovery platform and specifically as it relates to gaming. What we realized is 50 percent of our daily users, nearly 50%, view gaming content. Which is pretty incredible if you think about it in terms of scale. And what that means is that you are, your game can be discovered by a lot of people that you might expect, but many that you may not.

Because of the unique intersectionality of interest that works on the platform, I'll give you a personal example. I'm a Potterhead Harry Potter fan real nerd who stood on line like, when the books came out. I'm really dating myself here, but anyway. And I'm also a mobile gamer. I'm not a PC console gamer by the way, Candy Crush level 2, 625.

Anyone in King is listening. But having said that because my for you page knows that I'm interested in Harry Potter, it served me up this really engaging Hogwarts Legacy content, and I was persuaded by that to order. Hogwarts legacy to play on my son's switch. So this is what I mean by the intersectionality of interest that fuels like the magic of game discovery on the platform.

If you think about the second pillar of cultural relevance on TikTok, gaming really isn't just about the game and gameplay. Sure. That's certainly part of the content, but it's much more about the entire ecosystem surrounding the game. So gamers engage with challenges, with trends, they create their own interpretations, their own like Easter eggs and they really showcase their creativity and their competitive spirit while expressing their love for their favorite game IP.

You mentioned the flywheel. There is a really incredible flywheel that's happening on TikTok between publishers, creators, and the communities. So game publishers, many of them, as I mentioned earlier, are establishing a really creative, organic, authentic presence, which then inspires creators To showcase the love for their favorite fandoms and IPs.

And the magic really happens when communities jump in and amplify the publishers and the creator engagement, which relates to. Thousands of posts, millions of views, and so on. A good example probably is and this isn't a case study necessarily. It's just something we saw happening on the platform with GTS 6, which I know Assaf loves to talk about.

Assaf: So I'm going to let him take this one. I absolutely. And I'm still, I'm like any other person in the world. I'm waiting to, for the end of 25 to play the game. When it came, when the trailer dropped. It actually didn't drop on TikTok on the first day. There was a licensing question or something of this kind that got resolved afterwards.

But within 24 hours, the community, created content that led to more than 10 billion views on the platform. And we started looking at that, asking like, what does it mean? If this game could have sold today, like how are sales looking if it was starting on TikTok? And it led us to a bigger question.

What does it mean to be culturally relevant on Tik Tok? Rema mentioned like, is, is this something you have the option to do or you must do? And the best way we explain this to ourselves is that a gamer plays one between one and two games at any given time, probably one time. And you have the option to convert them to a new game.

They may not come back to the old game. Likely that they wouldn't. Okay. So you can either protect your game and have the gamer continue playing it. Or if you launch a new game, you could create a culture and bring many people to play your game. And we understood that TikTok is the place where that decision is being taken.

And that's very different from any other platform. Okay. This is the conversion point. And we started going deeply in Rema. I'll bring it back to you, the expert on cultural relevance. But we started thinking, okay, what does it mean? How do you build cultural relevance?

Rema: I guess what I would say is maybe a good way to explain it is with an example Alex, as you requested when Spider Man 2 was launched.

Insomniac kept players engaged by creating custom skins designed by a wide variety of celebrities. So like my Formula One's Lando Naras, Brazilian soccer players Vinicius Jr., they all created a custom skins because then there was this exciting way for the gamers on the platform to participate in the game.

Quite literally and see themselves in the game which then fuels culture. Another example I'm really on the sports theme here, but anyway, when he launched FC mobile and EMEA, they drove discovery with a custom branded effect. So again, it was a player card similar to the one that you would see in the game, which means that you could literally see yourself in the game on the platform.

Which then meant that many sports creators, as well as communities jumped into it. Which led to nearly 4, 000 videos and almost 90 million views. So this is the kind of way in which publishers can really lean into the platform, tapped into the tools, tap into the creators to really be a part of that larger cultural zeitgeist.

So that really, I would say is the pillar of cultural relevance. And then finally, I would talk about the last pillar being performance. And if I was a game developer or publisher, I would say, great that my game is being discovered, great that it's being propelled into culture, but what does it actually mean in terms of performance?

Which is, of course, the ultimate proof point. And what we learnt From a gamer lens is that gamers on Tik TOK are incredibly passionate about the games that they really care about. After seeing gaming content on Tik TOK, 41 percent downloaded the game, 36 percent pay a purchase to play. And almost 70 percent of gamers when TikToK is part of their journey, even after they've purchased the game, we'll continue to post about the game.

So they will continue to advocate. And I use, you mentioned gamers are a high value audience. Gamers on TikTok in particular are definitely a very high value audience. We did this research where we, it was called journey of a launch. And we tried to understand when TikTok is part of a gaming launch, what does it actually mean?

Gamers will spend, for PC consoles specifically, gamers will spend 80 percent more when TikTok is part of the pre release versus when it is not. And 64 percent of these PC console gamers on TikTok will pay more to have the latest and the best features. So they're very engaged, they're very committed, and they will advocate for the games they love.

That they care about, which are part of that cultural zeitgeist. So it's these three sort of pillars of discovery, cultural relevance, and performance that is really fundamental to the DNA of like global gaming at TikTok as an organization. And in fact, it's part of our mission. Our mission is to elevate the gaming industry's growth by fueling discovery, cultural relevance, and performance.

Assaf: I wanted to jump in on the game launches, which at least I think is the most important thing a publisher could do these days. People are looking for new content and it's hard to make a breakthrough when it's with an existing game, it's possible. And we're supporting that. But we're seeing that new tele launches are very successful.

That's what the data has shown. So we, we took a step as well and we set up a global team that has only supported new tele launches. We partnered with, I think, a hundred companies in the, in 2023. So a hundred. New title launches that we were part of. If you think about a new title launch, so you develop a game, it depends off if you're a large company or a small one, but a large one would spend, I don't know, 200 million in the game development, and then you have two weeks to get it right.

You go to market and the monetization could not be working properly, or there is an issue with the game, or you're not making progress in some specific markets. So we created a set of solutions. With dedicated people that sometimes are actually flying to the publisher's, headquarters and together with them are launching.

So to give you an example, okay, creative is a bottleneck. Not everyone speaks the TikTok language or any new language. So we created a service with a beautiful name TTCC, but it is an incredible service. And we basically provide creatives to publish it through a network of creators that we, we have partnered with.

We, we make it really simple. So the publisher basically uploads a brief and the creators create it and we carry the costs. And that has really scaled in a material way. Not only that it drove new title launches to be successful. You don't want to run after 200 million investment in the game. You don't want performance to drop because your creative is dying in day three of the launch.

Okay. So we've created those units to, to support new data launches. But later on, we discovered that the same capabilities are important for just everyday performance. And, we then extended that support to everyone who's working with us.

Alexandra: What is the name of the, you said an acronym TTCE or what does it stand for?

Assaf: It stands for TikTok Creative Challenge, which is basically a way that you write a brief. And then a set of exclusive community members that have more than X, fours that understand gaming are able to create content for you. And they're basically transforming your brief. They're making it easier.

They're transforming a brief that is in text with some visual assets to a TikTok creative that really works. And you can start thinking about options. We're not going to speak, about what we're doing in AI right now. But once you have a big set of those creatives, then you ask, okay, could we let the machine do some of that?

And there are really great ideas that, we're thinking about right now of how we could in a meaningful way, help publishers scale their creative efforts without having to learn everything about a new platform or just building a huge creative unit.

Alexandra: Yeah, you guys said so much great stuff here.

So I'm just going to try to encapsulate TikTok's kind of overall gaming thesis, which is anchored around discovery performance and also cultural relevance. And Rema, you talked a little bit about how discovery might work for you, you know, read Harry Potter and therefore the algorithm knew that you wanted to play Harry Potter the game, and then you ended up buying it.

And that's the way that you organically attribute potentially. Interests that may not be somewhat related to games, but you're mapping that interest into a game itself. In terms of cultural relevance, I absolutely love what you said. I think that there is something to be done with a organic relationship between a content creator and what it means to be linked into culture.

At Blizzard, for example I led a electronic music cultural relevance initiative for the, one of the expansions for BlizzCon 2018 with a group of electronic music DJs that happened to play a ton of World of Warcraft. And to me, it was like an opportunity to say, hey, look, we have this organic group of people who absolutely love and have a tremendous amount of fervor for this game.

Why are we not leaning into what it means to be culturally relevant? Today in terms of this electronic music scene versus going more towards the old way of bigger brand marketing when this is like where the new forum is. And so I think I love that tick tock is also, it's a platform for that.

And to your creator program, you're actually helping publishers speak that new language because I think it would be particularly challenging to do as someone who's also watched several tick tock videos, like I don't even think I could come up with them. Because they're just unique and I have no idea what it's like to think like that kind of creator. And then finally, you talked about performance and I think that's, where I want to go next is, why TikTok over another platform? And it's clear that TikTok has driven success for Discovery for Games.

And we know that IDFA, for example, has been a major headwind for UA across the Apple ecosystem. And TikTok has now been the place for positive ROI UA spend. And I guess the question for you guys, it sounds like you have a lot of people, a new launch team to help with new titles. Sounds like there's a partnership on a day to day basis of people that are helping you create content videos.

Can you talk a little bit about what platforms and what games you are most suited to help? So mobile console, PC, and maybe something about genres as well. What gaming genres do the best on the platform?

Assaf: Yeah, I can take a crack at this. So the easy answer is every game. Would be a good fit for SEMTO because yes, because we for every product in the world service piece of content, the algorithm will find the relevant people.

It's a discovery platform by design. It's a place where you come with the intent to learn new things. So the algorithm is really smart about finding you if the product is relevant for you so it could be, we're seeing everything from RPG to a hyper casual from big launches of AAA games.

To niche console games that could really go viral or PC games that could really go viral on the platform. And there is a tech problem to be solved here. So I want to really right from the beginning state that we're pro privacy. And we think that the change around the idea phase was important for the industry.

And it's a step in the right direction. And it made us better as marketers, because we're thinking about the world of consumption in a very different way and how to serve our audiences rather than to force on them anything. And the challenge for TikTok is a little different than for other platforms, because we're a non skip, sorry, we are a fully skippable.

compared to other places where non skip is available for any brand. So we really have to take everything and notch up in terms of how interactive things are interesting and relevant, meaning that, if there is a platform that will take you for a journey of 120 non skippable seconds, and I think it exists, we have the opposite.

So it's a different challenge. So what we've done, two things. One, we created tech capabilities that are on par with industry. Today it's a table stake to be able to drive long term value. Role us, it is important to know the audience and to know who will be interested in the game, to find them at the right time, to show them the relevant ads, and to you So that will interact that interact with that ad.

Also people on Tik TOK, and it's important to state they will consume a product even if they don't click. And we think that last click attribution is a concept that is it needs to be updated. I wouldn't say that it's outdated, but it needs to be updated. Okay. Because no one ever, wakes up in the morning, they drink their coffee.

They see a car and then tomorrow the car appears in their backyard and not a mattress. Yes. And it's no longer the case for games as well. People are really considering what they will consume. They want to know that they're going to be part of a culture. Back to what we said earlier. So we took that basic assumption and we said, okay, what can we do to know for sure that people are getting the right content in front of them?

And we build algorithms as you would expect. And we started from iOS. And that we did it on Android. And now we're venturing into the PC industry where it's a little more difficult because there is no client as we call it, there is a client, but it's like a phone client, people are playing it on a console or on an app.

Personal computer with an executable file. And it's a completely different sandbox to, to think about closed loop attribution and how to optimize against that. But we built relevant tools and I want to give examples. I just want to be accurate with the numbers to pay the respect to the relevant companies that work really hard.

Now a caveat here. Okay. Every time I speak about companies. I don't speak about other companies that are successful and there are many. So I want to apologize. If you go to our website, there are so many good case studies but I wanted, I picked a few because they represent different areas with, within the industry.

So let's start from using top view tools, like doing full funnel. And it is a concept that we should, at some point speak about Excel bolt, which is a gaming company. They have an FPS game. And what they did on TikTok, they ran top funnel activity with top views together with top feed placements and lower funnel.

And the results were a 24 percent decrease in CPA on Android. This is really meaningful. It's not always easy to drive success on Android because the community base on Android is quite different from iOS. That's not the same phones even. Okay. Some people buy Samsung, some buy Xiaomi. At some point I learned that there are probably 20, 000 different versions of Android, because people don't always update their operating system.

Go to Cyplay, which is a social gaming company. And, it could be casino. It could be other types there, you would think that they will drive success on Legacy platforms and they are, they're quite a successful company across the board and they're moving fast in, in their rankings in the industry, but they took the challenge.

They looked at TikTok and they said, could we find new audiences and could we drive success? And they've definitely proven it. They got, you know, to up to 60, 60 percent decrease in their CPI metrics. And they use TTCC. And what they also used is a TTCX platform where you could access more professional agencies in building your content.

They're not only experts to the content themselves, but also they said, let's get ideas from others in doing it. And I think they deserve big credit for doing it. So you asked about genres. I also want to talk about. Simpler genres like hyper casual, where you would think only ed networks could drive success there, but we discovered that actually it's the opposite.

If you're driving cultural relevance, you're actually going to see success. But it's important to drive that and Attack Hole is a hyper casual game. And they saw a 36 percent decrease in CPIs on iOS by using two things. One, TTCC again, where you get limitless content. You just need to write the briefs and iterate on what you're doing.

And they also use the concept called up profile pages, where we let them to create a landing page experience such that they know a little bit more about the audience that they're interacting with. And in a smart way, they, they improve their performance. They understand what uh, consumers care about them.

They drove that 36 percent decrease.

Alexandra: That's fantastic. Sounds like these are a lot of what you're doing. And the success case for the platform is a drawdown in CPIs. And in general, I think the general metric that I've heard is that CPIs are four times lower on TikTok than they are on another platform, where that's a combination of paid and organic.

And it sounds like from these Three examples that you gave, that's the bulk of what has ended up happening through clever marketing through either working with the creator program, the TTCC or through creating their own landing page, you're basically able to short circuit and drive down the cost of, acquiring users.

Assaf: It's a two things. It's CPIs, which you're absolutely right. These are important, but it's also CPAs. The law, the, the lifetime value of the user And the XLBolt example is like a 40 percent decrease in in cost per action. And we're heavily focused on that heavily because we believe that we know the user base of TikTok and we know what they will care about.

And, if someone is very active on gaming and very active on, e commerce verticals, there is a commonality between the two and we're able to see those.

Rema: And if I could just build on what Assaf said Alex, one of the other things that we've also learned, and this has been an evolution over the couple of years that we've existed as a global gaming org, is also having teams that specialize in mobile.

And PC console. So we've actually subverticalized our teams to have that specialty expertise because we understand that mobile is very different than PC console and XP. It's the difference between performance marketing and entertainment marketing in a way. And even with an XP like a console marketing A console marketing, a console game is very different than marketing a PC game.

So we do understand those nuances and we have experts both within a soft steam as well as mine that really likes deep dive into that to provide that expertise to publishers.

Alexandra: I see.

Rema: Yeah.

Alexandra: As I was about to say, it's, it seems like even on TikTok, there could be that delineation between what is typically brand and in kind for Console and PC towards performance in a way that is typically present on mobile.

And I guess that also is a great segue into the next question, which is, as a developer, how do I win on the platform, right? You gave these three examples, and this is the big mystery of any distribution platform, but how do you actually win the algo game? What is the anatomy of a successful TikTok video?

And I suspect that you guys have broken this down into some hard science for sure. It sounds like you've done with a lot of other things, But, should I be mostly sharing, if I'm a developer and I'm, have a mobile game or console game, and maybe the answer is different per the platform, as you probably, as it probably might be, should I be sharing game footage, streamers playing the game, something totally, something entirely else?

How often do I need new videos? And also I think, and this is a, I think the core question that I would love to hear from your, you guys on is how early should I start considering TikTok marketing when I'm actually building my game?

Rema: I can start us off and then if you could jump in, that would be great.

There's a lot that you asked in there, so let me break it down. I think the short answer is that there is no one answer because each game is different and each game launch is different on. You really have to think about the game, the I P, the audiences that you're looking to engage with and so on.

But I would say from a general principle on. We recently did a white paper with energy, the National Research Group around like he principles of what modern gamers are looking for in general, and then of course on TikTok. And it actually ties back to this idea of connection, community, and cultural relevance, three Cs.

We like to think in threes, as you can tell. And what we saw in that is that it's really about And we've talked a lot about this. Gamers are more likely to engage with games that they consider culturally relevant. Monopoly Go, actually, is one of the games that shows up very strongly on NRG's franchise IQ Tracker as a game that really resonates against these three pillars of connection, community, and cultural relevance.

Not surprising, hugely successful game in the past year. So how do you do that and bring that to life on TikTok? Again, I'm talking general principles, but we always work with publishers on more specific recommendations for their game. So 77 percent of TikTok users really like it when brands reveal more about themselves, a look behind the scenes, right?

So gameplay is great, but what is it about the game? What's the Easter eggs? What are the like ins and outs that they can really play with and make part of their community? And that drives the cultural relevance. Humor also works really well. Globally, TikTok users are 1. 4 times more likely to credit humor in a creator's motivation for resonating with a particular brand.

So developers can also find success by leaning into content that shows that they don't take themselves too seriously. You mentioned paid and organic. That is another key principle on the platform. We're seeing that a combination of both paid and organic is key to success on TikTok. And it's related to the question you asked earlier, which is, we, I, we think that TikTok should be a part of the journey even before launch.

Because that's when we're seeing the greatest impact. So support new trailers and releases with paid support, but also invest in organic creator or creative content that really keeps the audiences engaged. So like GTA six is actually a great example of and that game in any event would have that community, but like really tapping into even before the game launches and what we've seen is that when users first see organic content from the brand, it really primes the paid content to be even more successful.

So we see greater recall, 27 percent greater recall, 12 percent more attention. attention to branding when there's that organic and paid content combination. The Sims Sims 4 in particular did this really well, like bringing together organic paid and partnered content. So these are some general principles and Assaf, I'd love for you to jump in, into how we've maybe brought this to life with a couple of brands as well.

Assaf: Yeah, I, thinking about game executives, You invest so much money in a game that you really want to get certain results. And Robert just presented how the content is working, but we also asked, okay, what if it takes time to learn this or a company may not assume the risk from day one?

And this is why we created our new title launches unit. So my answer is. If you launch a new title or you're, you want to do a live ops activity, come and work with us. Okay. Reach out to us today. As soon as you know that you want to do it, because we're able to start working on a brand strategy together from the early stages to tell you.

What it would take to get to specific metrics, how much time it would take, how much content we need to produce together. And we have enough examples to give you good guidelines. You may not need to produce it yourself. Like we, we could definitely help with that. So I think that's the relevant time.

If you're asking how to make something viral right now, I don't know that anyone has the answer. And when you understand that it's hard to create virality, The best way to approach a problem is to take a portfolio view and to say, I'll be cultural relevant. I'll use the right people. I wouldn't be cringy.

But also understand that some different videos will be relevant for different communities and I'll try as many as I can and I'll produce all of them before the game launches. And I'll try dropping them in, in batches of 40 until I understand what's working. And from our experience, we saw that this would work great.

Now, let me pick a specific example. One thing that jumps to mind is, you asked us about brands and mobile games without a brand. Okay. So it's really about IP. And not having IP. Okay. Like Trying to build a new IP. So a mobile game studio called less more from Europe, we're very proud of that because it's a game studio that really got to the top of the app store and all the successes due to their novelty and their genius, a brilliant game.

We are warriors, but we were there to help. And we went exclusive together. We said let's remove the noise from attribution. Work only with TikTok. So at least, you know, that every paid download or even organic was driven by TikTok, at least as a secondary ripple effect. So you can measure us properly.

And together we created content that is based on. TTCC, meaning that creator creative challenge and also TTCX, which is a more professional agency work that we have facilitated for them. I think it's quite incredible to see a game studio go into the first stop in an app store and they were able to do it.

And we looked at that and we said, it probably means you don't need to put the lightning into a bottle. It means you need a good game that people could connect. But then you need good execution on the launch week or launch month. And that's what we recommend focusing on good execution.

We are supporting but the publisher also needs to decide that's what they're going to do in their launch period.

Alexandra: Yeah. Makes sense. And I think yeah, you're addressing two points here. The one is like, how do I prepare and how do I make videos? And I, it sounds like you work very much alongside either live games or for live ops and new games as part of your TTCC programs or your TTCX programs.

And then, to your question about what makes a video go viral, nobody knows. And theoretically also cultural relevance is geographic, age my, my life cycle and my own maturity, relevant, right? It's like nothing, something could be culturally relevant in London that's not culturally relevant in Tennessee.

And so the having a variety of creators around that content is what helps it make it culturally relevant and localized maybe to the target part of where it actually belongs, which I think is really fascinating and TikTok is allowing that creator community. Whereas before, like you were saying, the brand had only one identity and had limited flex points to be able to target people that weren't, already beyond its core, which I absolutely love.

Um, Yeah. Oh, okay. Thank you. So for the majority of this episode so far, and as we approach the end of and the conclusion of our talk, we've focused on how TikTok can be thought of as a partner to games. Through discovering, through helping the creation of culturally relevant videos, through performance and attribution and generating ROAS, right?

But in our concluding few minutes, I'd like to open the floor to kind of what's next for TikTok in the gaming vertical. What are you guys planning on doubling down on if, on what you already do and what are the next new key focus areas? Assaf, maybe I'll throw this one to you.

Assaf: Okay. I'll start the Rema can definitely come afterwards.

And we, we have an incredible team that I just want to pause for a second and give credit team of experts it's the only Rema and myself, they're sitting all over the world and they're thinking every day how to help the publishing industry. So of course, performance is a lifeblood and we, every day we make it better and better in order to make sure that publishers are able to drive success on TikTok, but we're also thinking about those what's next elements.

So with more than 3 trillion organic views, you could obviously understand that we're looking into that and ask ourselves. Is this measurable? Could we do something with it? Could we help publishers really harness the power of the community? Because until the, until today, almost eight out of 10 companies, we asked like how are you structured?

They said, social is separate from paid. You can't speak with the two teams, or you can't have the same person speak with the two teams. And we're challenging that. We're asking why. Okay. Because when it comes to TikTok, when you have strong organic presence, it impacts your pay, as Rema mentioned earlier, and vice versa.

So that's one area that, you should be on the lookout for announcements from our end. Another area is life. TikTok has very successful live platform. Within the app, we're growing continuously. I don't know that we have shared specific numbers for that, but I will say that we're seeing it as one of the best ways to discover new games, because people like the live medium.

It's a live room where you could interact and write comments. And then we're starting to ask ourselves, okay, what could go there behind the scenes, that will be more interactive, that will help people not only discover a game, but engage with the game. So those are areas we're thinking about.

There is always a question that we're getting. I know you asked us when we we met pre this, if we're planning to be a game publishing platform. So I just want to take it and address it in the best way possible. TikTok is a content discovery platform first and foremost. And game publishers are publishers by virtue of their names.

And we're not planning to take their place now. Will there be an IP deal that someday, a good IP will run on TikTok as a game? Maybe. We tried H5V4, but we're not planning to replace publishers by all means. We think publishers are doing a fabulous job. We believe that platforms are consolidating mobile, PC, console.

So we will let publishers lead on that end and we will help them be successful. Even if it, in some cases, there will be examples that you'll see a game on TikTok.

Rema: Yeah, I think uh, the other piece I would say is we Assaf talked a fair bit about the new title launch support and team that we put together.

That team is also doubling down in terms of LiveOps support. Because we're seeing a lot of shifts as companies are focusing on, greater efficiency and more like controlled revenue through life service gains. So are we have a team called the Advertiser Solutions Team, which focuses on new title launches.

They're extending their remit to also focus on live ops support. What, because we know how important that is to sustain longterm success. And as a platform, we want to make sure we continue to fuel that. And new title launches will continue to be a focus. We've actually never shared this data before, so we're going to debut it on this podcast.

So I have some stats to share with you in 2023, a thousand and 69 new games launched on TikTok. And a third of those games partnered with us on our new title launch program. So about 33% and seven titles, including Lesmore's We Are Warriors, Niantic's Peridot worked exclusively with us to get 40 percent extra organic users and over 1 million installs.

I'm sharing this data to say that this is like really a big part of our focus moving forward as well, this idea of how we elevate our value to the gaming industry by focusing on new title launch, on live ops, and then of course performance as an underpinning to the success of the games.

Alexandra: Wow, that's fantastic.

Well, Congratulations. First, that's a 40 percent increase in organic is is quite the number. And 167, 1, 067, sorry, you said? 1, 069. 1, 069. That's a lot of new games. And I think that's exactly the challenge, today of team, today of game making as creation costs go down to zero.

Now the linchpin is on discovery and distribution. And so if TikTok is a platform that can help with that I think it's actually remarkable to make sure that you start doing these partnerships very early with these teams. And it sounds like you guys overall has a lot, have a lot to offer. A concluding thought from this is absolutely TikTok to the moon and do not ignore this platform.

It's just, it's generally my takeaway from this from this hour long episode. But we typically conclude by asking, you know, hey if a company wanted to partner with TikTok, in, in the variety of capacities that you mentioned, either through LiveOps, Through the new creator program, through the TTCX, if I'm a developer, how do I get in touch with TikTok and and start working on with TikTok marketing for discovery of my gate?

Assaf: Ping us on LinkedIn. We're very accessible. Rema and myself, we were routed to the relevant teams. There's no over hierarchy, we're trying to be friendly with the industry and really work with everyone. And uh, we have it ingrained in our mission. We're trying to help the industry thrive. We never said Big companies from that specific country.

We just said the industry, which means that sometimes it wouldn't be a publisher that is coming to us. It would be a creator or any sports league. And we're always open to those ideas and we have relevant teams, working on all those segments. An organic team that is not within our org, but it's also an incredible team that is creating new products.

We will find the right home for those reach out. So please write to us.

Alexandra: Got it. Okay. So TLDR find you guys on LinkedIn and Yep. Shoot you guys a and shoot you guys a message. It's very simple indeed. Um, Guys, this was such a pleasure to have you on. And any concluding thoughts from you guys before, before we close?

Assaf? Rema?

Rema: I think just we are really excited for the future. We know that it's a really challenging time in the industry but we also see the incredible potential that gaming has. As an industry, as a category, as an entertainment platform, all the transmedia crossovers that you're seeing, there's so much potential alongside the challenges.

And we are here to be those partners, to tap into the potential and to see the success. We're really invested in the gaming industry's success. So in addition to LinkedIn, we're also in a lot of events. So come find us, talk to us. We're really super accessible and we will do our best to help you out.

Assaf: I, it would be hard to exceed that. The only thing I'll add is, gaming executives, CEOs board of directors, are thinking deeply about what they're doing with their companies and where to go. And we are here to give advice. If you want, we're here to speak about numbers and what we're seeing coming.

We believe that the industry is on the cusp of making another big leap, but some things will have to change and we will be happily, come and discuss.

Alexandra: That's fantastic. Rema, I know that I'm personally looking forward to the next event that you have or throw it any kind of conference and a soft.

Thank you for those parting words. I think that it is exactly the reason why I was excited about this episode is because there are so many people that are thinking about what the future of their businesses are, what the future of distribution is, and tick tock is most certainly going to play a role in that.

So guys, this probably concludes our episode. As always to all my friends that are listening if you have feedback or ideas, hit me up at Alexandra at novak. co we are always open. And with that, that brings us to our conclusion on Tik TOK. Thank you Assaf and thank you Rema for coming on.

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