When Netflix upgraded from its rent-by-mail DVD service to streaming in 2007, the California-based company immediately made a name for itself in the entertainment industry. With thousands of movies and TV shows available at the click of a subscribe button, the world had no idea how Netflix would jettison into the global entertainment Goliath it is today.
Following hot on Netflix’s heels, an array of other places to stream TV shows and movies popped up. Now though, Netflix is adding another notch to its belt in the form of video games. In a letter to its investors, the company announced intentions to launch mobile games first before moving into more integrative video games. Given the company’s history of radically altering the film industry from traditional studio development to theatrical release, questions are immediately emerging: What will this mean for Netflix subscribers and mobile gamers? What challenges will Netflix face moving ahead? Will it succeed? Let’s dive deep below about how it will affect the gaming industry moving forward.
Why is Netflix adding video games?
With great power comes great responsibility to please shareholders and subscription targets. This isn’t merely an adage paraphrased by Stan Lee’s comic book character Uncle Ben to his nephew Peter Parker. It’s also one of the main reasons why Netflix is expanding into video games.
Though 209 million paid-up members is nothing to denounce, it’s not the numbers Netflix execs or shareholders are entirely happy with. According to USAToday, Netflix added 1.5 million overall subscribers but lost 430,000 in the U.S. and Canada during this April-June period. In comparison to the same period last year, membership skyrocketed to 10 million global subscribers – 2.9 million from the U.S. and Canada alone. When translated into dollar signs, Netflix revenue hit $7.34 billion for the quarter, yet net income fell $720 million short of analysts’ predictions.
Even if their cash flow is conquering the billion-dollar mark, Netflix doesn’t want to let up anytime soon, especially with the unpredictability of the stock market and the global crisis with COVID-19.
Video games also offer another solution to Netflix’s productions halting indefinitely due to COVID-related issues. Popular shows like Bridgerton join the ranks of numerous beloved projects placed on hold after cast and crew testing positive for Coronavirus. As a streaming service consistently offering “watercooler” entertainment, failing to release new content could prove damaging to Netflix’s reputation of trendy and newsworthy media. Mobile and video games eliminate the costly hassle of production shut-downs while giving subscribers a fresh take on the movies and TV shows they already love. But the question remains how much this will subtly impact their platform as it stands now.
How will mobile games affect Netflix subscribers and potential gamers?
Netflix is making early bold promises in regards to the future of its vision. Subscribers and players should pay attention to the cost of their services and how they enjoy Netflix today.
As of July 2021, Netflix confirmed that mobile games will be ad-free and available at no extra cost. The perks seem worth the reward for gamers at face value. How this promise comes to fruition remains to be seen, given that the company’s subscription plans increase periodically and could even be due for another raise in late 2021.
While enjoying Netflix’s games without worrying about extra costs is an added benefit to subscribers, Netflix’s development plans aren’t entirely altruistic. One of the central reasons Netflix is doubling down on gaming is to survey which of their intellectual properties are worth expanding or not. If players respond well to a TV show character more, one could see their role becoming more influential and vice versa. User decisions will play a vital role in how Netflix tackles its programming – whether it’s movies, TV Shows, or video games. The more subscribers that play a wide line-up of properties, the more data Netflix has to prune the quality of their content.
Basing their gaming strategy on existing and original media put them ahead in conceptualization and development. Considering that Netflix’s properties run the gamut from horror to drama and romance, the variety of projects Netflix eyes to transition into a video game could draw in more first-time players who are existing subscribers. Netflix is paying attention to its subscribers and competitors like Disney+ closing in on their streaming dominance. But, how the market responds to their initiative could become a make-or-break moment.
Will video games improve Netflix or vice versa?
Since the company’s inception, Netflix’s history of bold decisions is almost endless. Though the announcement of Netflix hopping onto the video game train seems surprising on the surface, Netflix’s been offering hints of its arrival for a few years now.
In 2019, Netflix released Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale and Black Mirror: Bandersnatch gave viewers the freedom to choose their adventure to hunt for easter eggs and explore different narratives. As a follow-up in 2020, Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not to Steal invited players to decide how the titular character explored her world. On top of which, media mogul Shonda Rhimes extended her deal to include gaming, and Netflix recently hired former Electronic Arts and Oculus executive Mike Verdu.
Similar to all of Netflix’s groundbreaking moves in the past, there are pros and cons. One pro includes that the Netflix app currently supports game consoles like Xbox, connected TVs, and laptops. Accessing Netflix games should be a seamless process. However, which games they will be able to develop might collide against Apple over antitrust laws. As much as Netflix plans to seize developing games based around IPs and subscriber satisfaction, there’s a potential setback to scale in every step forward. Only time will tell if its ability to develop a solid video game model will be worth it.