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Larian Studio's creative content manager Ben Maltz-Jones shares good insight into what makes TikTok tick and worked for Baldur's Gate 3.

Holly Green, Community Editorial Coordinator

March 19, 2024

5 Min Read
Infamous bear sex from Baldur's Gate 3
Image via Larian Studios

If you're not an avid user of TikTok and are not immersed in its unique identity, it may be hard to even conceive of how to run a successful promotion campaign on the platform. Illuminating that topic at GDC 2024 was Larian Studio's creative content manager Ben Maltz-Jones, who has some good insight into what makes TikTok tick and worked for Baldur's Gate 3.

Overwhelmingly, the abiding consensus on what works on TikTok is to tap specifically into the platform's strengths: not just its focus on audio or trending sounds, but also its audience and sense of humor. To get a feel for both, its vital to give yourself room to try new things, experiment, and even possibly fail. It's important to have a management team who, while they may not understand TikTok, will trust you enough to make material without needing every detail approved. Winning them over may mean showing them the finished product, and seeing how they respond. It may surprise you what they approve and support once they've seen it in action, even if they don't necessarily "get" the platform themselves.

Building Larian's TikTok audience

To help build Larian Studio's following on TikTok, Maltz-Jones pursued a few different strategies, one of which was to tap into existing communities around similar IPs, in this case, Dungeons & Dragons. He also says to take a look at what other accounts are doing. For them, this meant examining the Among Us TikTok account, as well as Wholesome Games. Doing so can help establish your tone, help you learn how to support that tone through different formats, and figure out how certain popular features are used, like trending sounds.

While Maltz-Jones says that he doesn't necessarily pursue growth solely in terms of analytics and what the video demographics show, preferring to operate on "vibes," those demographics can be helpful in showing what videos appeal to whom, which in turn can be used to support popular content. You should also strive towards self-sufficiency by recording your own visual materials (this likely will be the most time-consuming part of your weekly process), as having to explain your premise and video needs to other team members can slow down the process.

"Don't show hole"

The talk was an absolute treasure trove of advice. Some of the quick points that were covered include:

  • Use available trending sounds to skyrocket your video's visibility.

  • But do so at your own peril, as you may run into legal trouble. Consult your legal team where necessary.

  • Polish isn't essential! Audiences value timeliness and authenticity more than polish. For Larian Studios, whose tone already suited TikTok fairly well, this meant running the account more like a fan account than a promotional one. Ask "What if a fan made this?" How would they frame the information from that perspective?

  • Be funny! If you can.

  • Experiment! Start simple with things that you are familiar with and can handle, and then work up to more untested or unproven formats.

  • Put the platform first. TikTok has its own strengths. Play to those, design for those and make content specific to that audience.

  • Keep track of your successes as well as your failures, because you learn a lot from both.

  • Analytics are helpful, but they aren't everything. Leave room to run on instinct.

  • Never make your audience rotate their phone. They will not do it.

  • Don't dismiss an idea or format forever; sometimes, certain things work better later, when the game has already come out or received more promotion.

  • Struggling for ideas? Browse the app! The best way to know how to make TikTok content is to know TikTok inside and out.

  • Engage your audience, not just to increase followers but because amusing or interesting exchanges can be used as future video content. Baldur's Gate 3 was well-suited to this, as fans tend to be a bit spicier.

  • Use hashtags wisely. TikTok suggests only using five. Maltz-Jones says to use one hashtag that relates directly to your game, and then branch out to related tags.

  • And of course, know the limits of TikTok's policy, Maltz-Jones says. How did Larian Studios run afoul? By posting bear sex. "Don't show hole," he warns.

To cross-post or not to cross-post?

Keep in mind that for TikTok, bespoke content will outperform crossposting and reposts. Original videos, made specifically for TikTok, are just more effective. You may also find that your tone or strategy on TikTok just won't work for other platforms, like YouTube, whose audience prefers receiving new information rather than being entertained by a short video clip. Success on TikTok does not guarantee success elsewhere.

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TikTok doesn't have to be your whole life

TikTok and social media management can be time-consuming in general, but that doesn't mean you can't make your workload manageable. Pace yourself. While TikTok recommends posting 3-4 times per week, start at once per week and then build up from there (he does say, however, that you should probably post at least once per week). Also keep in mind that trending sounds have more staying power than they initially seem, which means you can plan ahead and don't have to rush through content in order to post something that uses a trending sound in a timely fashion.

And above all, remember that while not everyone can be Baldur's Gate 3, anyone can be successful at TikTok if they know the platform's strengths and weaknesses. "Do things TikTok's way," he says, and you can find a strategy that works for your game.

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About the Author(s)

Holly Green

Community Editorial Coordinator, GameDeveloper.com

Holly Green has been in games media for fifteen years, having previously worked as a reporter and critic at a variety of outlets. As community editorial coordinator, she handles written materials submitted by our audience of game developers and is responsible for overseeing the growth of iconic columns and features that have been educating industry professionals under the Game Developer brand for decades. When she isn't playing about or writing video games, she can be found cooking, gardening and brewing beer with her husband in Seattle, WA.

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