We can call off the search for mobile’s ‘Netflix for games’ now, surely. Between Netflix itself, Apple Arcade, Google Play Pass and Xbox Game Pass, iOS and Android players have enough gaming subscription services to choose from.
So who’s making mobile’s ‘TikTok for games’, then?
It is a pretty straight lift of TikTok’s UI, with a familiar flick upwards to see the next game in the feed and sharing / like buttons in the bottom right. PlayByte games, for now, are pretty basic – emoji-based mazes and physics-driven mini games. Early days for this one, it seems.
HypeHype, by comparison, is on another level. The dev team has real pedigree – Frogmind, maker of Badland, Badland Brawl, Rumble Stars Football and Rumble Hockey, rebranded late last year as HypeHype to reflect its new direction.
So at first glance, the pivot from polished physics-driven games to ‘TikTok for games’ seems a pretty unexpected – perhaps even opportunistic – move. But it’s much more organic than that.
It started with the internal Badland level editor, which the Frogmind team used to make levels before polishing it up and releasing it as part of the game. “It was pretty powerful,” explains HypeHype COO Teemu Mäki-Patola. “With that level editor players would do, like, Pac-Man or 2048 in Badland – something very different than what the editor was intended for.”
Cut to Slush in 2019, when the team were out at the show pondering what to do next amid a sea of hypercasual games.
“People have so many hypercasual games,” says Mäki-Patola. “And you have to seek them out and download them one by one, then you end up having hundreds of those apps on your phone. And then you need to delete them one by one. So why couldn’t you have hypercasual – and in time also bigger games – in the same form as TikTok?”
Through Badland, the team had already seen how creative the gaming community can be with the right set of tools. So making a game editor that’s even more flexible and then asking players to make games themselves felt achievable, too.
“Making games is the dream job of every kid that’s a hardcore player,” he says. “But you basically need to code and you need, like, an engine and laptop and licences. We’re hoping that this can bring game-making to, like, a 50 to 100 times bigger audience. But it needs to be 50 to 100 times easier than it is today as well.”
And so putting its game editor into the framework of TikTok’s UI, already familiar to billions, became the goal. Frogmind became HypeHype late last year, following a $15m round of investment from Supercell in exchange for another chunk of the company.
HypeHype is out in Finland and the Philippines now, and has already found an audience of wannabe game designers. Players can flick through games in the feed, make their own from scratch, remix existing games and follow creators they like, with multiplayer and spectator modes to come.
“The goal is definitely to have a financial incentive there for the creators,” says Mäki-Patola. “Like a revenue share, based on the engagement of your content on the platform. But of course, we don’t currently have any monetisation, we’re just focusing on making the editor really good.”
To realise the vision, the company has almost doubled in size, thanks to the latest Supercell investment. And yet it remains remarkably small in games industry terms – a team of 43, with more being added to help with backend engineering, multiplayer, analytics and community.
Mäki-Patola and his team don’t expect a global release any time soon, but may open up HypeHype to some new markets to expand the player base and keep evolving its algorithm, game editor and UI.
This ambitious yet humble Helsinki-based team is really onto something. Right now HypeHype is way ahead of PlayByte or indeed anything else claiming to be the ‘TikTok of games’ – and looks set to stay that way.