Editor’s take: Netflix has been busy building its catalog of original works in an effort to become less dependent on licensing content from third parties, who are slowly locking the best of it away and into their own streaming services. The company is said to be exploring an expansion into video games, which is dangerous territory that others like Google, Amazon, and Disney have failed to navigate. If it really wants a piece of the $170 billion (and growing) global gaming market, there is little room for error as Netflix has only recently ended its run of debt.
The streaming wars are raging on, despite an oversaturated market where even the explosive growth of up and coming services like Disney+ is slowly coming to an end. Others like Netflix, who now has over 200 million subscribers, are exploring different ways to expand their services beyond video on demand.
According to a report from The Information, Netflix is hunting for a new hire that will preside over a new effort to get into the video games arena. Over the last few weeks, the company has been in talks with several game industry executives, but details are scarce about its progress on the matter. There’s also no official job listing as of writing.
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Netflix supposedly wants to emulate Apple’s strategy with Apple Arcade by offering a bundle of games with no advertising or microtransactions. At this point, it’s not clear if Netflix will offer third-party titles, but industry watchers speculate the company will focus on publishing games based on original Netflix intellectual property, such as popular series on its streaming platform.
This wouldn’t be the first time the company has dipped its toes into video games. Over the last few years, Netflix has worked with game developers to create a game based set in the Stranger Things universe, as well as populate its streaming service with interactive shows such as Minecraft: Story Mode and Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, to name a few.
The interactive format has been a gold mine of user data for the company, but at the same time it’s been perceived as a gimmick that’s been expensive to produce.
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The timing is definitely interesting, as the growing gaming industry saw an additional big boost over the past year as more people were stuck at home during lockdowns. So much so that more Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are paying for video games now than ever before.
It’s worth noting that three years ago, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said the company considered Epic’s Fortnite to be more of a competitor than say, HBO. Last month, during an investor call on Q1 2021 earnings, Hastings explained the company is already invested in gaming with the interactive movie format, and that “there’s no doubt that games are going to be an important form of entertainment and important modality to deepen that fan experience so we’re going to keep going.”