Netflix is getting into the gaming industry. They made some small waves when they uploaded interactive films like Bandersnatch and Minecraft, but now it looks like they are beginning in earnest. Netflix has announced that they are planning to develop mobile games for their subscribers. Will this pan out? Will Netflix become the Netflix for games? Or will they just become another forgotten game service, relegated to the scrap heap of history like Google Stadia or Game Fly?
Netflix has announced that they are planning to begin their foray into the gaming world by developing and releasing mobile games. This sort of service is closer to Apple Arcade than an actual Netflix for games. They will provide these games at no extra cost to subscribers.
The interesting proposition here is the fact that they are not planning to monetise these games. They aren’t going to be pieces of mobile gaming shovel ware that are full of real-time countdowns and loot boxes designed to sap your money. Instead, it looks like they see gaming as just another form of media that they can offer their subscribers.
Rumours about their plans to enter the gaming space began when they hired the former Facebook vice president of augmented reality and virtual reality content, Mike Verdu.
In a letter to shareholders, Netflix outlined their plans to enter the gaming industry:
“We’re also in the early stages of further expanding into games, building on our earlier efforts around interactivity (eg, Black Mirror Bandersnatch) and our Stranger Things games. We view gaming as another new content category for us, similar to our expansion into original films, animation and unscripted TV. 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.”
Can it work?
Thankfully, Netflix is starting out small. It doesn’t look like they want to become an Xbox or Sony competitor. Instead, they may just become another big name in the publishing world. It’s a lot easier to buy into their plans when they have such modest early goals.
While this announcement may be a let down for folks who believed that the early rumours pointed to Netflix developing AAA titles, their smaller scope gives them a lot of room for growth. Just look at Amazon and their string of gaming failures. Crucible, their AAA multiplayer game was so unpopular that they completely pulled it from their service, and their new MMO is already bricking modern graphics cards. Google Stadia and Facebook’s game streaming services are still far from popular.
Developing and publishing games is remarkably different to film or television. They are all pieces of entertainment but the investment in time, money, and manpower when creating a AAA game is the real difference. You can’t treat a game like another product, it is a piece of interactive art and should be treated as such.
I think that this service from Netflix will succeed. It certainly won’t set the world on fire when it releases and I think it will mostly be used to advertise their film and television content but the attraction of microtransaction free games as bonus content for subscribers could certainly bring more customers to their service. This could also bring in more gaming content to the service, we could even watch esports on Netflix in the future.