Netflix Planning Expansion Into Video Game Distribution Next Year
It looks like Netflix’s hunt for executive leadership with experience in the gaming sector has come to an end. Mike Verdu will join the company as Vice President of game development and work towards the streamer’s goal of becoming not just the most popular source for streaming shows and movies but video games as well.
Verdu previously worked for Facebook, leading the developers tasked with bringing games to the social network’s Oculus virtual reality headsets.
Current plans are to bring gaming options to Netflix within the next year. The company will offer game selections in a separate genre list alongside their video content. At this point, access to games is expected to be included with a regular Netflix subscription.
Netflix, certainly a household name, is still the most popular streaming service around, commanding a high level of customer loyalty, but competitors like Disney+ and HBO Max have been taking a toll on its market share thanks to their own high quality, exclusive content. The streaming giant suffered a very disappointing Q1 report for this year, and the need for diversification and expansion becomes more apparent by the day as the U.S. market shows signs of over-saturation with regard to streaming services.
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Other streamers are gobbling up the rights to live sports streaming and introducing ad-supported tiers to continue to entice new viewers. Much to media analysts’ surprise, Netflix has been largely out of this conversation.
Netflix sees an entry into gaming as its next big power move. The company wants to provide something that none of its direct competitors do, unless you fudge the lines a little and count Apple’s Arcade service, and is already working on filling out its video game team with high-level talent.
Video games are no stranger to licensing deals, and Netflix could potentially leverage its already popular properties by advertising them through games, and vise versa. The company’s choose-your-own-adventure approach to its feature-length Black Mirror spin-off “Bandersnatch” shows that Netflix is open to experimentation, and perhaps in some situations could create more robust hybrid experiences that combine traditional streaming content with gamified features and segments.
While other companies have made efforts to provide video game streaming services, none have proven to be truly successful as of yet. Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass comes closest, allowing subscribers to play games across devices with a subscription to a single platform. Google’s Stadia, while definitely a look into the obvious future of games-as-a-service, has largely failed to take off and is widely predicted to end up in the graveyard of Google products that were announced with much fanfare but ultimately quietly abandoned. Both platforms tout themselves as being able to provide rich, AAA gaming experiences without hardware restrictions, but are completely at the mercy of a user’s access to reliable, high-speed internet, and infrastructure that large parts of the country still sorely lack.
Both Microsoft and Google’s platforms were created to serve a future that, while inevitable, isn’t quite here yet.
Netflix has an advantage in that its platform is already widely used by millions of people who exist completely outside the traditional or hardcore gamer landscape. If Netflix takes a Nintendo Wii-like approach to introduce its users to simple, easy-to-understand, casual games that don’t require lightning-fast connection speeds, it just might rise above the fray. When one considers the popularity of these kinds of games in the mobile world and the fact that so many people already have the Netflix app installed on their phones and tablets, the possibilities of what the company is capable of begin to unfold.
While many gamers disdain the notion of a world in which ownership is a thing of the past, improving technology means that it’s only a matter of time before video games, the last media experience yet to be fully consumed by the streaming revolution, finally move to a subscription-based model.
Netflix, with its tremendous reach and pre-installed user base, is in a good position to not only lead the charge but perhaps reign supreme in the final streaming sector yet to be fully realized.