Netflix's new gaming push is a "multi-year effort" that will start small with mobile games


Netflix is the Netflix of gaming

Netflix is stepping further into video games, as rumored, and you won’t have to pay extra beyond your normal subscription in order to play them — any interest?

The confirmation came this week in a letter to shareholders as part of Netflix’s Q2 2021 financial results, and more details were shared in an earnings interview. The note:

“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.”

In an earnings video interview, Netflix COO and chief product officer Greg Peters said the gaming expansion will be a “multi-year effort” that starts “relatively small.”

He also touched on monetization: “We don’t have to think about ads, we don’t have to think about in-game purchases or other monetization, we don’t have to think about per-title purchases. Really, we can do what we’ve been doing on the movie and series side, which is just hyper, laser-focused on delivering the most entertaining game experiences that we can.”

On that front, Peters added that they’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 those other considerations that they have typically had to trade off with just making compelling games.”

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Netflix wants to “try a bunch of different games” to see what sticks with subscribers

While Netflix is dipping more and more toes into gaming with an incremental strategy, “ultimately, we see all of the devices that we currently serve as candidates for some kind of game experience,” said Peters. So this won’t be mobile-only forever.

Early on, the company plans to “try a bunch of different games through a variety of different mechanisms to see what’s really working for our members,” according to Peters. “Part of that will be games that extend our IP — we think that’s a really rich space — so that’s very much part of our long-term thesis. But also we’ll do things where we try standalone games. We feel ultimately the success of this initiative is about great games, fundamentally. Maybe some day we’ll see a game that spawns a film or a series.”

Who’s developing? “We’ll also do licensing […] it’s a great way to increase the volume of the offering we have at the start, to learn more quickly — and then as our internal production scales, we can then focus energy on what we’re learning in that regard.”

This all sounds pretty levelheaded, particularly the mobile-centric push, and there are plenty of game-ready brands to pluck from the Netflix catalog. That said, it’s going to come down to not just the quality of the games, but also the base experience of actually streaming them. It needs to be as frictionless as possible, the same way some people — but not me; never me — can just fire up the app and breezily find something to watch.

I hope they get a bit out-there with genres. Cookie-cutter games won’t cut it for me.