Perhaps feeling the pressure from other streaming services and hitting a wall on subscriber growth, Netflix has spent the last year investing in an unexpected arena: gaming.
As reported by Axios, Netflix just bought the independent gaming studio Boss Fight Entertainment, making it the third gaming studio purchase for the streaming giant in the past seven months, after previously acquiring Night School and Next Games. The company also hired former Electronic Arts executive Mike Verdu to head up its gaming division and even has a virtual reality and gaming deal in place with powerhouse TV producer Shonda Rhimes.
So far, Netflix has released 16 games on mobile since November (free for subscribers) and has first-person shooter Into the Dead 2: Unleashed coming out next month. The games are available on Android and iOS devices and feature no ads, fees or in-app purchases to play. Subscribers can download either from the Netflix mobile app or the Apple or Google app stores. According to the company, the games cater to “every type of player” but are not available on kids’ accounts.
Although two of the five original game titles launched were based on the hit series Stranger Things, not all games will revolve around existing Netflix IP. As The New York Times notes, Netflix executives believe the company “can offer a connection between its popular streaming shows and related games” but original games are part of a larger plan.
And that plan? It’s hard to tell, although additional hours of engagement for users is certainly one way to keep people using their app. Still, it seems unlikely Netflix — which is starting out far behind other tech companies like Amazon and Google in creating original gaming titles (and those companies’ efforts have often failed to catch on) — is banking on, let’s say, Squid Game tie-ins and a modest amount of original gaming titles to maintain their dominance in the streaming world.
Still, Verdu seems confident that original games can play a role in Netflix’s future. “It took a while for [Netflix] to reach the point [where] original shows just broke through and you saw the promise of original content and the promise of streaming come together in this magic moment,” the exec told the Times. Meanwhile, TechCrunch notes that the company had previously explained to investors during its Q4 earnings call that these new gaming launches are more about “setting up Netflix to better understand what consumers want from the new service,” and the company has so far not released much information on how well the games are doing.
For now, consider these games a free add-on and simple distraction while you wait for whatever becomes the next Love Is Blind.
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