In China, mobile games and short-video apps are going head-to-head for the attention of millennials. But sometimes, they too can help each other out.
A little-known smartphone game called Party.io has become a sudden hit in China after videos of users playing the game gained prominence on Douyin, the short-video app that is known as Tik Tok overseas.
The indie title is now the most-downloaded free game in China for Apple users, surpassing previous leaders like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.
Its popularity can be largely attributed to the popularity of short clips about the game on Douyin, which has more than 500 million active users.
In Party.io, players control a play dough-like figure to grab each other and throw them off the arena, which range from floating houses to hot air balloons to a birthday cake. The last dough standing wins.
These floppy creatures fight and fall in a wacky way and gain in size with the number of "kills." The controls are easy but bizarre: You need to tap the screen to control the direction while drawing the infinity symbol "∞" to snatch people and throw them away.
Party.io currently ranks as the top iOS game in two dozens countries, including China and Ukraine, according to data tracker App Annie. By comparison, the game does not even make it to the top 30 in the US.
On China's internet, the English-only title has been more widely known as "the Douyin game about throwing people".
On Tuesday, one Douyin user shared a 15-second video of him winning a game in Party.io after getting five "kills" and garnered almost 2,000 "likes".
While Party.io displays gamer IDs and their national flags as if there is an online mode, players so far can only compete against computer-controlled characters.
The game is developed by Rooster Games, a small studio based in Turkey.
Short-video apps like Douyin and Kuaishou are one of the biggest trends among Chinese young people, taking up screen time previously dominated by live-streaming sites and mobile games.
China recently published new censorship rules for short-video apps, just as it did with other online content.
This article was first published on South China Morning Post.