Game War - NETFLIX ENTERS THE BATTLE ROYALE OF GAMING PLATFORMS
AppleMagazine|AppleMagazine #509
Over the past 18 months, consumers have spent more time at home than ever before, not only working, but socializing, learning new skills, and playing games. Video gaming as a whole saw a significant increase during this period and the gaming platform Steam recorded an all-time high of 23.6 million average concurrent users in April 2020. A year later, rival firms want a slice of the pie. Following Apple’s expansion into gaming with Arcade, Netflix is the latest player entering the game, announcing its intention to launch its own gaming titles.

NETFLIX EXPANDS INTO GAMING

After months of rumors and speculation, Netflix confirmed mid-July plans to expand into mobile games, revealing that new titles would be available to play as part of a standard Netflix subscription. Days before its announcement, the company hired former EA and Oculus exec Mike Verdu, and revealed to investors that it was “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,” the company added. “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.”

Although the announcement was light on any specifics, Netflix recently extended deals with creators such as Shonda Rhimes to include both feature films and games, suggesting that the potential to expand into the territory has been in the works for a while. With little detail thus far, it’s hard to know exactly how gaming could work on the platform - indeed, on iOS, users wouldn’t be able to download separate apps as premium Netflix games without the company allowing people to subscribe via iTunes, so it could be that the Netflix app serves as a way to stream new games, though that’s also currently against Apple’s terms of service. The company could follow in the footsteps of Apple Arcade (more on that later) by launching several new games via apps and let users subscribe to access them all.

Although gaming has seen a significant uptake over the past two years, some might still question why the streaming giant would consider gaming its next move. But co-CEO Reed Hastings revealed that the company “competes with” and “loses to” Fortnite more than it does HBO - it’s a constant effort to compete with games for time and attention. Plus, it’s worth noting that Netflix already has games under its belt, releasing experiences like Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and Carmen Sandiego, and it may hold data that shows gaming makes sense. It won’t be an easy battle, but it’s a battle Netflix’s executives think is worth taking.

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