A startup called Playbyte wants to become the TikTok for games. The company’s newly launched iOS app offers tools that allow users to make and share simple games on their phone and a vertically scrollable, fullscreen feed where you can play the games created by others. Also, like TikTok, the meal becomes more personalized over time to serve up more of the kinds of games you like to play.
While typically, game creation involves some aspect of coding, Playbyte’s games are created using simple building blocks, emoji, and even images from your Camera Roll on your iPhone. The idea is to make building games just another form of self-expression, rather than some introductory, educational experience trying to teach users the basics of coding.
At its core, Playbyte’s game creation is powered by its lightweight 2D game engine built on web frameworks, which lets users create games that can be quickly loaded and played even on slow connections and older devices. After you play a game, you can like and comment using buttons on the right side of the screen, which also dramatically resembles the TikTok look-and-feel. Over time, Playbyte’s feed shows you more of the games you enjoyed as the app leverages its understanding of in-game imagery, tags, and descriptions, and other engagement analytics to serve up more games it believes you’ll find compelling.
At launch, users have already made various games using Playbyte’s tools — including simulators, tower defense games, combat challenges, hobbies, murder mystery games, and more.
According to Playbyte founder and CEO Kyle Russell — previously of Skydio, Andreessen Horowitz, and (disclosure!) TechCrunch — Playbyte is meant to be a social media app, not just a games app.
“We have this model in our minds for what is required to build a new social media platform,” he says.
Russell explains that Twitter did for text, Instagram did for photos, and TikTok did for the video to combine a constraint with a personalized feed. “Typically. [they started] with a focus on making these experiences really brief…So a short, constrained format and dedicated tools that set you up for success to work within that constrained format,” he adds. Similarly, Playbyte games have their own set of limitations. In addition to their simplistic nature, the games are limited to five scenes.
Thanks to this constraint, a format has emerged where people are making games that have an intro screen where you hit “play,” a story intro, a challenging gameplay section, and then a story outro. In addition to its easy-to-use game-building tools, Playbyte also allows game assets to be reused by other game creators. That means if someone who has more expertise makes a game asset using custom logic or which pieced together multiple components, the rest of the user base can benefit from that work.