Back in May, ByteDance—the Chinese company that owns TikTok—was trying to leverage its one billion users to make a foray into gaming (opens in a new tab. In Vietnam, tests revealed that the company had developed a system that allows users to create short, bite-sized games that can be played for just minutes. ByteDance’s subsidiary Nuverse also planned to create “mid- or hardcore” games. (opens in a new tab.
This plan was intended to be an important part of ByteDance’s expansion strategy: The company even went as far as to buy Moonton Technologies, a Shanghai-based developer (opens in a new tab It was hoping to get its game creation efforts underway, but recent news has made those plans uncertain. SCMP reports. (opens in a new tabByteDance is “aggressively” downsizing its gaming operations. Wushuang Studio, another ByteDance owned developer in Shanghai is believed to have lost most its staff via a combination of layoffs and internal restructuring. Similar job cuts were reported at Jiangnan Studio, Hangzhou.
ByteDance has staff to maintain games that have been launched. But the news shows it is clear which direction the wind is blowing in terms of the company’s gaming ambitions. The same problems are facing every Chinese games company when trying to make TikTok a gaming app. (opens in a new tab Has encountered in recent years: Navigating the process to get games approved for release from the government.
The Chinese government approved only 172 games in July (Opens in a new tab Since the start of 2022, nearly 600 more than the 755 it approved during the same time period in 2020. This year’s total gaming revenue fell for the first-time since 2008 (when data was made available). It’s not an atmosphere conducive to big moves in the gaming industry, and it’s a big reason ByteDance has adopted a new stance of “adding muscle and reducing fat” with regard to its gaming efforts.
ByteDance remains an incomprehensible company and TikTok continues to be inescapable. The company could just be trying to weather the stormy times in Chinese tech and will focus on other ventures until that happens. That day might not ever come to pass though, and either way ByteDance’s gaming plans—which once seemed like an area of intense focus for the company—are taking a back seat for now.