Netflix is going full steam ahead with its ambitious mobile gaming ambitions, despite low subscriber engagement with the tiny library of titles released to date.
The streaming giant has unveiled plans to launch its own in-house game studio to reduce its dependence on third-party developers. The studio, which has not yet been named, based in Finland, will be led by former EA and Zynga director Marko Lastikka, and will join Next Games and Night School Studio on the list of existing developers.
“This is the next step in our vision of building a world-class game studio that will bring hundreds of millions of members worldwide with a host of delightful and deeply engaging original games – with no ads or in-app purchases. Netflix Game Studios vice president Amir Rahimi said in statement (opens in a new tab) announcing the news.
This is a large – though surprising – declaration of intent on the part of Netflix, whose 2022 was full of undesirable events regarding declining subscribers and the resulting necessity to cancel many high-profile film and TV projects.
The rookie gaming division of streamers also did not escape the wave of bad news. Data released in August revealed that less than one percent of Netflix’s global fan base currently plays one or more of its games. More strictly, this means only 1.7 million subscribers have played a video game on Netflix since the official launch of the gaming section in November 2021.
Playing the long game
So why is Netflix doubling the number of games when it’s supposed to be in cost cut mode? We believe the answer remains the same as the reason Netflix started its entire gaming venture: simply as another way to entertain – and most importantly, retain – those subscribers who have already invested in the brand’s ecosystem.
Sure, less than one percent of subscribers do was playing a Netflix game but 23.3 million he has downloaded at least one title in the last nine months – suggesting consumers are ready and willing to engage with the streamer’s gaming content if the titles themselves are considered worth playing.
Netflix’s 26 game library needs to be completed with a list of titles to play if more subscribers are to notice its existence, and launching your own studio will certainly help Netflix achieve that.
Moreover, Helsinki-based developer Netflix will be the first to build from scratch, suggesting it will boast a better focus on Netflix-branded content (paving the way for new IP-rooted titles such as Strangers Things, Squid Game and other top Netflix shows).
Another factor in Netflix’s slow progress is time. Those who work in the industry know how long it takes to create a game worth playing, and Netflix bosses know that too.
“This is just the beginning and we have a lot more work to do to ensure a great Netflix gaming experience,” Netflix director Rahimi said in a statement. “It can take years to create a game, so I’m proud to see how we consistently build the foundations of our game studios in our first year, and we look forward to sharing what we’re producing in the years to come.”
In other words, it’s too early to say that Netflix games have failed – and with the launch of the subscription tier with ads on the streaming horizon, Netflix can once again have the finances it needs to succeed in this unknown industry.