Netflix has hired Mike Verdu, a former EA and Oculus executive, as its “vice president of game development.” The plan is to bring streamable games to Netflix within the next year, likely at no extra charge. In other words—Netflix wants to be the Netflix of gaming.
As reported by Bloomberg, Netflix’s foray into gaming is part of a larger growth strategy that taps into “fanboy” mentality. Basically, the company wants to offer exclusive content in product categories that can attract customers and build a culture. This is most evident in Netflix’s anime selection, though the company has also found success with documentaries and kid’s shows.
But as we’ve seen with Google Stadia and Amazon Luna, breaking into game streaming is an incredibly difficult task. The company’s new VP of game development will certainly help in this regard. Mike Verdu has spent his career building game franchises in cutting-edge markets—he helped bring Plants vs. Zombies to life at EA, he served at Zynga when it was the undisputed king of mobile gaming, and he oversaw Oculus’ growth shortly after it was purchased by Facebook.
While we don’t know what a Netflix game will look like, the Mike Verdu hire suggests that Netflix may be interested in “addictive” titles in the vein of Plants vs. Zombies. These games could work well on mobile devices, they could hold customer interest for long periods, and of course, they could cost less to develop than large AAA games.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that Netflix will actually finish any games. Google gave up on its game development plans not long after launching Stadia, and in the grand scheme of things, licensing existing titles may be easier than creating new ones (though if Netflix has learned anything, it’s that licensing contracts only grow more expensive with time).
If Netflix’s gaming endeavors come to fruition, it could get a leg up on fast-growing competitors like Disney+. Let’s just hope that Netflix Original Games are more fun to play than its “interactive” shows.