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Gaming Platform Wars | Netflix officially announces further expansion into gaming

We have all heard the phrase “the Netflix of gaming” or “like Netflix but for gaming” when describing Cloud Gaming services and now Netflix has announced that it “is in the early stages of further expanding into games.” Recently we reported on Netlfix hiring a former Electronic Arts and Facebook executive, Mark Verdu to lead the expansion into gaming as VP of Game Development and now Netflix is making it official.

Netflix’s letter to investors:

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.

What isn’t entirely clear is what Netflix means by the term ‘mobile’. Netflix will not be able to launch a gaming app on iOS nor will it be able to add them into their existing mobile app due to Apple’s restrictions with in-app purchases and not letting competing app/games stores on iOS. The only two avenues would be to release individual games or launch their own cloud gaming service, which seems more likely considering they already run a streaming content business. Netflix will likely jump into the cloud gaming wars with Microsoft’s xCloud (Xbox Cloud Gaming), Google’s Stadia, Amazon’s Luna and Nvidia’s GeForce Now.

Netflix’s expansion into games background

Mike Verdu was previously in charge of working with developers to bring games to Oculus VR devices. Over the course of many weeks, Netflix has approached “veteran game industry executives” to join the company. Netflix has dabbled in the game industry with the game “Stanger Things” that it worked on with an outside developer, but the company may be looking to make serious investments in one of the most lucrative tech categories. Netflix already has published and produced many “games” like Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and Minecraft Story Mode and have produced many game adaptations into TV shows like the popular The Witcher series and Castlevania.

Nvidia Shield with prominent Netflix branding

One option being discussed is a subscription model similar to Apple Arcade where you subscribe to play a “bundle of games.” But perhaps a business model more like Xbox Game Pass which is like Netflix would work better.

Netflix’s official statement is, “Our members value the variety and quality of our content. It’s why we’ve continually expanded our offering – from series to documentaries, film, local language originals and reality TV. Members also enjoy engaging more directly with stories they love – through interactive shows like Bandersnatch and You v. Wild, or games based on Stranger Things, La Casa de Papel and To All the Boys. So, we’re excited to do more with interactive entertainment.”

While Netflix’s plans are still not quite clear, the company hiring a new VP of Game development would suggest Netflix is serious and Netflix Gaming is coming.

A former industry insider and tech industry enthusiast.

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