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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Netflix Is Getting Into Gaming — for Real

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Netflix is getting into gaming, for real. In its quarterly letter to shareholders, the video-streaming service announced that it’s currently in the “early stages” of expanding into games. On the earnings call, Netflix founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings said they are “pushing” on it, while COO and chief product officer Greg Peters called gaming a “core part of our subscription offering”. Netflix will start with mobile games — as most of its members have phones, and the platform has many developers — that will draw off its existing film and TV properties, but it will also license games from elsewhere to build out its catalogue, just as it does on the entertainment front. Netflix will also greenlight standalone games, Peters said, which could one day turn into a Netflix original movie or series.

Hastings has repeatedly noted that the battle royale game Fortnite was among Netflix’s competitors — alongside YouTube, TikTok, and …sleep. And well, Netflix is now trying to come for Fortnite’s lunch, it would seem, though unlike many mobile titles, Netflix games won’t be free-to-play. They will be offered as part of the Netflix subscription at no additional cost. Think of this as a bundle of sorts, going up against the likes of Apple One (which offers Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade together, in addition to more Apple services), and along the lines of more mainline game subscription services such as Xbox Game Pass, Google Play Pass, EA Play, and PlayStation Now among others.

But Peters isn’t worried about locking games into a subscription model. In fact, he thinks — just as other purveyors of game subscription services do — that it allows Netflix to focus on game experiences that are “currently underserved by the sort of dominant monetisation models and games. We don’t have to think about ads. We don’t have to think about in-game purchases or other monetisation. We don’t have to think about per-title purchases.” Netflix is already in conversations with many developers, Peters noted, who are putting “all of their creative energy into just great gameplay and not worrying about those other considerations.”

The other big reason why Netflix is getting into games is engagement. While movies and TV shows offer a linear contained experience, games allow fans to fashion their own journey. Peters added: “We are in the business of making these amazing worlds and great storylines and incredible characters. And we know the fans of those stories want to go deeper. They want to engage further. They actually want to direct a little bit where their energy goes. And what’s great about interactive is, first of all, you can provide universes that just provide really significant amount of time that people can engage in and explore. They can also provide a little bit of intentionality. Where do they want to explore? What characters? What parts of the world? What parts of the time lines? There’s just a lot of exciting things that I think we can do in that space.”

Now, this isn’t Netflix’s first foray into the gaming space. It has previously partnered with developers to create a couple of Stranger Things games — and it has offered a bunch of interactive titles on its platform, such as Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, You vs. Wild, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend, in addition to a slate for kids. But this expansion into gaming is a multi-year effort for Netflix, Peters noted, and why it’s starting relatively small with mobile-only titles. It won’t stop there though. While mobile is a primary focus for Netflix’s games right now, Peters said, it will ultimately bring them to all devices, including TVs, smart devices, and — well — gaming consoles.


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