Netflix aims to become a serious player in the gaming sphere

In 2019, when Netflix was still dominating the streaming roost, the company made a statement in a letter to shareholders that surprised even the most attentive media commentators. After previously stating its goal was to become the next HBO, Netflix was now saying, “we’re competing with (and losing) Fortnite more than HBO. He stood in a competitive landscape alongside not just television companies, but all media vying for audience screen time. At the time, gambling was his biggest threat. Today, he could be her saviour.

Netflix has continued to take video games seriously ever since, with many of its biggest shows such as the witcher, Esoteric, Castlevania and resident Evil linked to the main gaming IP addresses. Then at the end of 2021, it came full circle by launching Netflix Games, a modest offer of mobile games accessible to subscribers at no additional cost. During the first six months, there were few interesting titles. Even today, hardly anyone seems to know the service exists – less than 1% of Netflix users play games. Yet since June, Netflix has rolled out a surprisingly ambitious lineup of games, with a plan to have 50 available by the end of the year.

It comes at a precarious time for the company, which has suffered major share price declines, cut hundreds of jobs and lost more than a million subscribers this year. Are these gaming deals just a desperate attempt to retain dominance in an increasingly competitive streaming market? Or does Netflix really have the wherewithal to claim gaming territory and retain subscribers – or even attract a new gaming audience?

The Netflix series ‘Arcane’ is based on the world of ‘League of Legends’ games © Courtesy of Netflix

Netflix isn’t alone in trying to spin a successful tech platform into the lucrative gaming space. All of the “big four” tech companies – Apple, Amazon, Meta, Google – have taken similar steps, as have platforms such as TikTok and even Zoom. This is a logical step because games attract large engaged audiences and often last for so many hours that they can offer a boost to the holy grail of tech metrics: “engagement time”.

The move also seems natural to Netflix, which pioneered the subscription-based streaming model that has now been widely emulated in TV and film. This subscription model is having perhaps the most impact in the world of mobile games, which were once a reliable source of innovation, but which have recently been tainted by the rise of the “free to play” business model – which is full of predatory microtransactions and employs ethically questionable practices. monetization strategies. Paying a monthly subscription allows developers to focus on creating quality gaming experiences rather than tempting players to part with more and more money.

Naturally, this strategy will only work for Netflix if the games are good. There are currently 26 titles available on Android and iOS, most of which are casual games of little interest: Knitwear is candy Crush meet cute cats, shooting hoops is a bizarre exercise involving a basketball that is inexplicably attached to a gun, while Dominos Cafe is literally just dominoes.

An image from a video game shows pixelated characters in a mall

Netflix has two games based on “Stranger Things”

One of the latest Netflix-exclusive offers, poinpy, is a different beast. This colorful game about gathering fruit to feed a murderous monster is charming, tense, and surprisingly deep. Netflix has also ported acclaimed indie PC games to mobile, including before your eyesa game about grief and memory that you control by blinking, and In the breach, a cult strategy game that plays much like chess with aliens and robots. Then there are licensed games. Netflix already has two games based on stranger things and in June he announced the upcoming titles based on shadow and bone, Money theft, Too hot to handle and The Queen’s Bet.

With the acquisition of three game studios including Night School, creator of the beloved indie title Without beefand upcoming art game announcements including Spiritfarer and Immortality, it’s clear Netflix is ​​taking its gaming gamble seriously. The company remains wary of its overall strategy, but research firm Apptopia says Netflix games have been downloaded 23.3 million times. And while the 1% subscriber engagement figure seems low, it still represents around 1.7 million daily users.

Netflix Games’ offer isn’t enough to be worth the full subscription price on its own, but it could certainly sweeten the deal for those hesitant to renew. It’s still early days, but it’s starting to show the promise of a strong curatorial eye. In the meantime, any attempt to free mobile games from the shackles of microtransactions is welcome.

Netflix aims to become a serious player in the gaming sphere

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