Since making the big leap from being a DVD service to a streaming service in the late 2000s, Netflix has redefined watching movies at home.
They have since ballooned from being that application where you could occasionally stream a small selection of movies to a platform of exclusive movies and television series that have garnered Emmy and Oscar nominations and wins.
Since their jump to original content with 2013’s “House of Cards”, various other streaming services have jumped on this model, including studios aiming to take advantage of the online audience that has since cut ties with cable.
But now Netflix is entering into a different arena as it attempts to expand its reach. The company recently announced that within a year they’ll be offering a new service for streaming video games. Of course, these video games will be more exclusive to the brand of Netflix, based on the popular properties such as “Stranger Things”. Netflix will be tapping Mike Verdu to head this division, having previously worked for Oculus and EA.
So why is Netflix getting into gaming? It may seem a bit strange given that their company’s very title relates to movies. The reason is a bit more about the competition of streaming in general rather than just other streaming applications.
Video games are still not just a dominator of income for how much is spent on the medium but also an internet pig for how much online time users will spend on gaming. In this aspect, Netflix has one big competitor: Fortnite.
The battle-royale video game of Fortnite has become a massive phenomenon not just among the gaming crowd but pop culture in general. Fortnite has become host to events for trailer reveals and new skins that adopt marketing other properties.
Consider how the latest addition to Fortnite is the ability to play as LeBron James in his Tune Squad uniform from “Space Jam: A New Legacy”. This skin was even advertised in the theater prior to the movie beginning.
Walk into any department store and you’re bound to find some form of Fortnite merchandise, spanning action figures to Monopoly games. So there’s something to this craze that may be worth Netflix exploring.
Another reason is that Netflix needs to expand its reach to remain more relevant. Netflix used to be the only name in streaming movies and television. Now that influence is shrinking as the streaming applications mount for greater competition.
Amazon just bought MGM for a fantastic sum and is spending the most money ever spent on one season for their Lord of the Rings adaptation, set to debut on Amazon Prime. Warner Bros’ HBO Max is featuring a simul-release model where users can watch WB’s latest movies while they’re in the theater at no extra cost.
Though Netflix has tried to expand with their 2019 purchase of New York’s Paris Theater, most of their bigger investments have been placed into their interface. For the longest time, Netflix has found itself committed to tackling the means of satiating the bored streamer who can’t pick anything.
This has led to a dense interface of top-rated films, regional specific content, and quicker preview videos upon hovering over a title. While the goal is noble, there’s only so much a streaming platform can do to curb the easily underwhelmed viewer.
The option of getting into gaming may be the only next-step avenue for Netflix to not only expand but also justify their rising prices. Consider that the most expensive streaming service right now is HBO Max, priced at $15/monthly, and the subscriber numbers have climbed rather high for offering such exclusive and mainstream titles as “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and “Mortal Kombat”, with future offerings of “The Suicide Squad” and “Dune”.
Now look at Disney+ which is large enough to keep their prices ridiculously low at $8/monthly and probably won’t cause much fuss when the price rises, considering their offerings of exclusive Star Wars and Marvel content. Netflix is going to need something more to both draw in a crowd and keep them with more than a handful of revered titles.
It may be worth Netflix’s time to consider expanding into video games. Making that jump, however, is not going to be easy and there’s a lot of questions up in the air. Will Netflix develop their own console or work off of current consoles of Playstation and XBox?
Will they pursue mobile games or even desktop games? If Netflix isn’t operating on a more exclusive piece of software, they’re likely going to be paying extra for occupying different platforms.
Netflix also needs to realize that the gaming market is also fiercely competitive. One of the latest developments by the gaming platform Steam has been to offer a mobile gaming device that automatically loads Steam games normally played on desktop. The previews of the interface have the look and feel of a Netflix app, the way users can scan through their titles and instantly jump into one of them to play.
For the moment, Netflix’s jump into gaming is still very much in the primordial stages. The only jump they’ve taken right now is that they’ve hired a video game expert for this division. There are so many angles to consider when developing a game streaming platform considering Netflix wouldn’t be the first to pursue such a service.
The pandemic had provided a greater demand for streaming content and Netflix may have been taking note of that online golden age to realize just where the big meat of attracting eyeballs is most vibrant.
The uptick in their watch hours is notable but the increase in income for the gaming industry is still proving that this is a market of great value. It’s a prime reason why movie studios continue to keep churning out movies based on video games to find a way into tapping that market.
Netflix isn’t the biggest of strangers when it comes to interactive content. In fact, they’re one of the few streaming services that have taken advantage of this aspect with such choose-your-own-adventure specials for the likes of “Black Mirror” and “Captain Underpants”. However, these interactive projects were more experimental and not have become as much of a draw, dwindling in appeal just as much as Netflix’s retired interactive random movie picker.
Netflix may indeed find some means of protruding into the video game market within the next year but it’s going to take a heavy investment in time, development, and money to ever take full advantage of the economic juggernaut that is video games. It’s a whole new world that Netflix may not yet be ready to enter.