Netflix isn’t just a place to stream movies and TV shows anymore as you’ll soon be able to play video games on the Netflix app.
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We all know Netflix as one of the top streaming sites right now and a go-to place to watch movies and TV shows online. Especially during the pandemic, Netflix has been a source of content for a lot of people stuck at home as they shift through the hundreds of movies and TV shows that the streaming service has to offer. But big things are soon coming to Netflix, and it involves video games.
NETFLIX GETS INTO GAMING
The company announced that they are getting into video games. The initiative is set to begin sometime next year and arrive as a new programming genre with the company releasing mobile games. The games will be included as part of the monthly subscription price of its core service, so no need to pay extra for them. (Most likely don’t expect a price increase when they arrive, too.) The video games will be made available only on Netflix’s mobile app, but may come to TVs in the future. Netflix says that they plan to create games based on its original TV shows and films, as well as make new games based on original IP and license some of their properties to different developers.
“We view gaming as another new content category for us, similar to our expansion into original films, animation, and unscripted TV,” the company said in a letter to investors. “Games will be included in members’ Netflix subscription at no additional cost similar to films and series. Initially, we’ll be primarily focused on games for mobile devices. We’re excited as ever about our movies and TV series offering and we expect a long runway of increasing investment and growth across all of our existing content categories, but since we are nearly a decade into our push into original programming, we think the time is right to learn more about how our members value games.”
In line with this mobile gaming strategy, Netflix recently hired Mike Verdu as their VP of game development. He used to work at Facebook as VP of content for Facebook Reality Labs and senior VP of Mobile for EA. He will report to COO and chief product officer Greg Peters. Don’t expect anything soon though as the company said that they are currently in the early stages of “further expanding into games.” It should be noted though that Netflix has dabbled somewhat in video games in the past. There currently is a Stranger Things video game out. There are also interactive shows on Netflix like Black Mirror Bandersnatch and You vs. Wild which work like a choose your own adventure type of video game.
“We think mobile is a great platform for games,” said Netflix product chief Greg Peters. “Clearly, it’s very mature, it’s got great enabling technology, great tools, a great developer community. And the vast majority of our members have phones that are capable of a great gameplay experience, which sort of checks all of those boxes.”
There’s also the fact that Netflix is its own service and therefore are no commercials. There presumably won’t be any advertising or microtransaction in Netflix’s mobile games, something that many gamers would appreciate. And so far, it seems that the game developers Netflix has talked to have liked this as well. “We’re finding that many game developers really like that concept and that focus and this idea of being able to put all of their creative energy into just great gameplay and not having to worry about the other considerations that they have typically had to trade-off with just making compelling games,” Peters said.
WHY IS NETFLIX DOING THIS
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, why is Netflix doing this? After all, the company has been successful so far with its original content, there’s no need to get into video games. But when you look underneath the surface, you see that Netflix might need the extra boost. In the second quarter of 2021, Netflix added 1.5 million subscribers, a number way below the same quarter in 2020. They need more services to entice more people to subscribe to Netflix and this is something they themselves have admitted. “The reason we’re doing them is to help the subscription service grow and be more important in people’s lives,” said co Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. “So, I would say, really, we’re a one-product company with a bunch of supporting elements that help that product give incredible satisfaction for consumers and a monetizing engine for investors.”
And getting into gaming also isn’t something that came out of the blew. Netflix has thought about entering the gaming market for a while with Hastings saying that “we talked about video games for several years, writing up the pros and cons of the timing of entry.”
This foray into gaming is also meant to help Netflix’s mobile strategy. Since these games will only be made available on the app, users will spend more time using it which means more of the mobile market goes to Netflix. These games also won’t be long games so Netflix believes that quick pick up and play games are things their mobile users will appreciate. A fresh mobile experience led by games might just be the thing to keep Netflix growing.
SUCCESS NOT A GUARANTEE
So, will Netflix succeed in the gaming market? It depends. History is filled with hits and misses of non-gaming companies trying to enter the gaming space. Sony and Microsoft are two success stories with the popularity of PlayStation and Xbox. But other companies of equal and even bigger size have failed to make a big impact in gaming. Google tried to enter the market with Google Stadia but that was met more with a whimper rather than applause. Amazon set up its own gaming studio but has yet to release a successful video game. Apple offers video games in Apple Arcade, but that hasn’t necessarily set the world on fire.
There’s no guarantee that Netflix does well in video games. On one hand, Netflix has strong brand recognition. They are generally liked by the public and have a treasure trove of popular IP to base their games off. They also have the money and resources to invest in gaming. But on the other hand, making movies and TV shows is different from making video games. People are going to be looking for a different experience when they play a video game as compared to watching something on Netflix. There’s also a worry that these mobile games could be forgettable experiences that don’t really leave a lasting impact on players.
This probably won’t fundamentally alter your Netflix experience, but instead will give you a new experience to enjoy on the mobile app. Think of it as another category to find. In the end, Netflix doing well in the gaming space will ultimately come down to if they truly understand what people want in games and deliver quality content.
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