Last week, a Bloomberg report revealed that Netflix hired Mike Verdu, a former EA and Oculus executive, to lead a new games department. We speculated that Netflix may focus on the “addictive” mobile games market, a hypothesis that Netflix has now confirmed in a letter to its shareholders.
This may come as a surprise, but Netflix says that its biggest competitors are YouTube, Epic Games, and TikTok. These services don’t really occupy the same market as Netflix, but their addictive nature can pull peoples’ attention away from the Netflix platform.
That’s a bit of a problem, especially at a time when Netflix execs fight to build a “fanboy” culture around their original shows and movies. Game streaming may be a solution to Netflix’s woes, especially if the company develops original games based on shows like Stranger Things. (Of course, Netflix could work in the opposite direction, creating games that spin off into unique franchises.)
Games will be included in members’ Netflix subscription at no additional cost similar to films and series. Initially, we’ll be primarily focused on games for mobile devices. We’re excited as ever about our movies and TV series offering and we expect a long runway of increasing investment and growth across all of our existing content categories, but since we are nearly a decade into our push into original programming, we think the time is right to learn more about how our members value games.
Hiring Mike Verdu will help in this regard. He oversaw the development of Plants Vs. Zombies at EA, and may be the best fit to build a mobile games development team. Netflix likely wants to focus on mobile games because they’re addictive, relatively easy to create, and more accessible to kids and teens than PC or console games.
Netflix assures its investors that the games will come at no additional charge. This will increase the games accessibility and could help Netflix get around Apple’s bizzare App Store policies, which have caused so many headaches for Stadia and Xbox Game Streaming developers.
We still don’t know when Netflix will launch its first original game. Things could take a while, as the company is still recruiting employees for its games department.