Yes, TikTok works and is worth doing (for now.) For a long time Twitter has been every developer’s choice for top of the funnel social network for showcasing their game. But Twitter has become sclerotic (or maybe always was) and unless you have an adorably cute game, even your most viral tweets will only garner 50-70 wishlists.

But with the emergence of Tiktok there are new reports (such as Omno) that a viral TIkTok viideo has driven enough qualified traffic to a Steam Page to generate real wishlists usually in the 1000-2000 range.

In today’s blog I present a case study of a Visual Novel and a designer who managed to earn 2900 Wishlists from a series of TikTok videos. I talked to them to find out what tips they had for getting your TikTok videos to go viral and earn thousands of wishlists for your game.


Game: I Just Want to be Single!!

Short Description: The anti-dating sim where you don’t want to date! Play as a socially awkward fem-nb protagonist! Escape cute waifus and navigate your way out of romantic conversations to befriend them instead!

Developer m.

Developers TikTok Account: tsunderestudio

The TikTok that went viral: my game’s main menu

Total number of Wishlists before TikTok success: 3000

Total number of Wishlists after TikTok success: 6000

What happened

The developer M downloaded TikTok in the middle of January. For the first week of using it they didn’t see much impact on daily Steam page traffic. The developer almost gave up but decided to make one more video because they liked making them. That last chance video got them 12k~ish followers. They knew they were onto something so they kept making videos and then they made this one. 

@tsunderestudio my game’s main menu #indiegames #gamedev #visualnovel #datingsim #anime #manga ♬ OH MY – Camino 84

Over several days that video gained more than 571,000 views and netted the developer over 2900 wishlists. It doubled their total wishlist count in a month to a final number of 6000. Here is the game’s wishlist chart showing the results of the video (red arrow):

The following image shows the traffic that was driven to the Steam page during the time around the viral TikTok. As you can see the traffic comes primarily from TikTok but also Search Suggestions (the brown line). This search traffic comes when people see something cool on their phone (like a TikTok video), walk over to their PC and type in the game’s name into the Steam Search box. This is common with any mobile-focused marketing such as social media and paid ads.

The developers tips on how to go viral

I interviewed M about some tips on how they were able to achieve such success.

Tip #1 Have the fundamentals right

If you want to get this strategy to work you need a good product to market. Here are some things about your game that can help: 

  • A game targeting young people (such as one with anime aesthetics or really beautiful graphics)
  • You’re good with video content, or your game looks good in videos
  • You have a free game, so you’re not really worried about selling it, you just want people to see it and of course, play it

“Tiktok is a platform that’s very suitable for my situation specifically. My game has an anime aesthetic and is perfect for young audiences who are interested in topics like lgbtq+ rep, anime, cute stuff.”


Tip #2 Get to the point – Immediately

  • You have 1 second to hook people. The audience uses it like Tinder – basically they’re swiping and swiping and they only give each video a chance of 1 second, you don’t keep them watching in 1 second, you’re swiped.
  • No Tiktok video should ever require context. you should ALWAYS make a video with the assumption that they have no idea who you are and what you do.
  • You should aim as short as possible, period. Tiktok is looking for watchtime and “completed views”. I’ve pretty much confirmed that now.
  • You need to make sure they finish the video and looping is optimal (loops count as separate views).
  • Make sure your video has a seamless satisfying loop, this is an underrated aspect of tiktok videos! Here is an example of one.
@tsunderestudio meet Kaede #ijwtbs #indiegames #gamedev #anime #manga #aromantic #visualnovel #datingsim ♬ Move Your Feet – Junior Senior

Tip #3 Have a hook

  • Have a good hook to the video. Really easy examples are an engaging challenge/questions like “can you beat this challenge?” or “can you find these secrets?” 
  • Another good hook is a good joke with a quick punchline “My game has this really goofy thing…” Here is an example of this
  • Make sure to use engaging phrases like “can YOU beat this” instead of “this challenge is impossible.”
  • A good hook is the setup to a joke that pays off later in the video. Here is an example of this
  • Another good hook is a really cool aesthetic. Something that just pulls the person in. Here is an example of this
  • Know what makes your game unique. Then tell people about it concisely. 
  • Targeting a specific niche is the best way to go. The more broad and generic you are, the harder it is. Look at this video that has some secret references to other Animes that people call out in the comments. That is a good thing. (CZ jumping in here. It is like Country Music. Specific hits harder)
@tsunderestudio meet Nozomin #indiegames #gamedev #gaming #visualnovel #datingsim #aromantic #ijwtbs ♬ original sound – Tsundere Studio

Tip #4 Bring your authenticity 

  • Show off obscure references in your game that only people who are fans of your genre will get. 
  • You don’t need any pre-existing audience, it’s a great place to grow.
  • 95% of the time when people are using Tiktok they are in the “i’m just looking for something amusing” swipe mode they don’t use tiktok to browse.
  • There’s no title for videos on TikTok and a thumbnail doesn’t really matter because you don’t see it unless you are browsing, which nobody does.
  • Don’t be afraid to just start recording your monitor with your phone and use text to speech. It seems to be a preferred aesthetic on tiktok probably because the audience is used to it. I’ve noticed that the more production value/quality i put into the video the worse it actually performs. Just embrace the TikTok “homemade” aesthetic. Look at this example.
@tsunderestudio #datingsim #visualnovel #yuri #yandere #chuunibyou #aromantic ♬ original sound – Tsundere Studio

Tip #5 ALWAYS have a call to action

  • Your CTA should always be something like “follow me for [x incentive]” (if you want to grow your following) or “Link in bio for [x]” (if you want to grow your following outside of TikTok.
  • Reply to comments constantly and tell them what you want them to do.
  • It is easier to get people who view your video to convert to a Discord than to a Twitter account. This might be because of the audience age. 
  • Use Steam UTM link tracking in your TikTok bio just to help identify some of your traffic behavior. Just note though, that UTM only tracked about 10% of the actual traffic. For more info on UTM links in Steam see my post here.
  • You can get people to convert from another social media TO Tiktok but going FROM Tiktok to another site is not easy.
  • Your Call To Action (CTA) should be BIG clear and stay on screen for 3 seconds. For an example look at this CTA look at this video and the wishlist on Steam text.
@tsunderestudio “I Just Want to be Single!!” the anti-dating sim #gaming #gamedev #indiegames #aromantic #datingsim #visualnovel #ijwtbs ♬ original sound – Tsundere Studio

Tip #6 Understand the algorithm

  • Song choice is really important. not because of the song itself, but because the algorithm itself detects trending songs and boosts your video, even when you mute the song in the editor!
  • Be consistent with uploading videos on a schedule.
  • Hashtags do not matter that much, but don’t use too many. I recommend 4 and try to use the ones that have the most views, but are still relevant. They DO help locate who your target audience is, but they do not help you get more views directly 
  • Upload timing is really important. 8am and 2pm (PST) is the best because that’s when the prime audience (young adults) are starting or ending school. I once uploaded a video at the wrong time that got 4k views in 6 hours. Then I uploaded that exact same video at the right time and it got 4k views in 30 minutes.

Tip #7 Keep at it

  • Focus on growth of your internal TikTok following as much as possible. Then in later videos focus on conversions to something like Steam Wishlists, your Discord, or other social networks.
  • The views on one video can boost the next one. So if you get 1 video that performs really well, keep trying to make a video just like that one and ditch things that don’t work as soon as possible. Here are the view counts in sequence of when posted to show off how this works:
  1. 191.9K (this was the first “hit” it helped boost the next one)
  2. 569.7K (the viral one but helped boost the next one)
  3. 434.9K 
  4. 87.7K (tried something different and views were good but not as big)
  5. 94.4K
  6. 29.1K
  • Don’t chase your own followers, chase new followers with the same content you hooked your first ones with. Nobody uses the “following” page which is the equivalent of “subscriber feed” on youtube. 
  • You can reupload older videos once you go viral. When you are just starting out you don’t have a following so no matter how good the videos are they just don’t get seen at this point. BUT if you have a viral hit, you get a following, you can reupload those pre-viral videos and they will automatically get seen by more people. 
  • Don’t give up, keep trying.

How to post videos to the United States if you are in another country?

This is a very important detail and I wanted to highlight M’s answer. So the United States is going to the biggest market for your game and will have the most viewers for your videos. BUT TikTok has some pretty strict region restrictions where you can only post locally. Look at M’s stats for where their views came from:

@tsunderestudio “I Just Want to be Single!!” the anti-dating sim #gaming #gamedev #indiegames #aromantic #datingsim #visualnovel #ijwtbs ♬ original sound – Tsundere Studio

M is in Japan but still managed to post in the US. How?

“If you have an android device, you should google “tiktok region unlock” and it will be literally the first result. You need to download both the tiktok modded app, and a plugin. I’ve told a couple of people this before, and some think it’s shady. I mean yeah, it’s shady, but it works for me. NOTE that this is against the TikTok Terms of Service. So it depends on your level of risk.” 


ADDITIONAL WARNING: When you install a 3rd-party app like this you are opening yourself up to significant malware risks. If you are going to do this, use a “burner phone” that has no other secure information and is only used for marketing on TikTok.

I (Chris Z) am located in the US and use an iPhone so I have no experience on what you should do if you use an iPhone in another country. Good luck!

Chris Zukowski final thoughts

Thank you so much M for sharing the techniques that helped you do so well on this new platform.

Tiktok is in a magical phase of growth where they are trying to capture market share from Facebook or Youtube. They are just giving away free traffic to do this. They are also being super nice.

This will not last.

Once they capture enough market share they will implement some draconian ad revenue system like “pay $x to boost your post.” So jump on this now. It is like when that new restaurant opens and they give out free samples for the first day. We are in that period with TikTok.

Always remember that they don’t care about you and will eventually lock this down and let you down. Don’t build your castle on someone else’s kingdom – you should always try to get some portion of your followers to follow you on a platform you do own. Also don’t try to make money off TikTok directly because they have terrible creator revenue shares. So basically scalp Tiktok mercilessly. Steal every bit of traffic they are giving away for free. Don’t fall in love with them. Be prepared to pack up and move on to the next platform that is giving away free traffic as soon as TikTok snaps the trap and start charging us. 

Bonus TikTok video ideas

While we are trying to steal their free traffic – here are a couple great content ideas M came up with that I think you can emulate.