Popular streaming service Netflix is looking at content opportunities around video games from every direction. The company founded by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph in Scotts Valley, California (United States), in 1997, has been betting big on gaming. After announcing its intentions to explore the video game space last July 2021, it has hired multiple executives to significant positions on its gaming vertical over the past months. It is the case of Roberto Barrera, a former PlayStation executive designated last March as new Head of Gaming Strategy, Planning and Analysis of Netflix. In addition, the platform has been releasing different mobile games, including Stranger Things: 1984; Stranger Things 3: The Game; Shooting Hoops; Card Blast; Teeter (Up); Hextech Mayhem: A League of Legends Story; Asphalt Xtreme, and Bowling Ballers, among others.
One of the company’s latest moves is to turn the show-to-video-game pipeline on its head, announcing it will take popular tabletop card game Exploding Kittens, and produce both a TV show and a mobile game.
When reviewing numbers, estimates from Statista’s Digital Market Outlook say that digital gaming revenue amounted to USD 134 billion worldwide last year, exceeding the combined total for digital video, music and publishing.
Video games have grown more prominent on the streaming service, whether it’s with a TV show turned game (Stranger Things), or a video game turned TV show (the Arcane animated series based on League of Legends). Netflix has also delved into third-party game development and original games, though the timeline for releasing its own games is much further out.
BUYING STUDIOS, LAUNCHING GAMES
In parallel, while the company is focused on creating more hit shows like “Squid Game” and “Bridgerton,” it’s also buying gaming studios with a future-facing blueprint. So far, Netflix has purchased three game studios. The acquisitions of Texas-based mobile firm Boss Fight Entertainment and Finland developer Next Games were announced in March 2022. Last September 2021, the chosen one has been Night School Studio, which made the supernatural adventure game Oxenfree. Next Games released Stranger Things: Puzzle Tales last year, prior to its acquisition news.
The purchases come at a time when the gaming industry is buzzing with merger deals, like Microsoft’s USD 68.7 billion buying of Activision Blizzard or Sony getting Bungie for USD 3.6 billion. Analysts are predicting further consolidation in the gaming space, as game publishers try to stay competitive.
Within this ecosystem, Netflix is looking to build out a games business that can create synergy between what people watch and what they’re playing. That includes adapting video games like Castlevania, League of Legends, Dota, Cuphead, The Witcher and more into shows while also transforming shows into games and tacking its name onto third-party titles. For instance, Netflix branded a League of Legends spinoff game made by a third-party developer, Choice Provisions, as ‘a Netflix mobile game.’ Most recent launch was this week: Relic Hunter: Rebels, a title developed by game studio Rogue Snail.
A WELL THOUGHT-OUT STRATEGY
In this sense, Netflix’s plan is to stick with mobile games for now, as it begins to deepen into the gaming world. There’s a strong reason for this decision: driven by the expansion of mobile Internet access and growing connection speeds, the increasing number of mobile and streaming devices leads to a steady growth in demand. In fact, the mobile gaming industry is predicted to be worth USD 272 billion by 2030.
The company will offer nearly 50 mobile games by the end of the year. These mobile games can be found in the Apple App Store for iOS users and the Google Play Store for Android players, though only subscribers can access the games. The Netflix app currently advertises its games alongside TV shows and movies. To pull up all the games more readily, users can search for games within the app, and results for games like Stranger Things: 1984 will appear with a prompt to download them.
As mentioned above, part of Netflix’s gaming strategy was to make key hires. Leanne Loombe, Head of External Games, joined last November after working at Riot Games as a director and executive producer overseeing third-party game publishing. Mike Verdu, Netflix’s VP of Games, previously led Facebook’s virtual reality division and was an executive at Electronic Arts. Amir Rahimi was President of Games at mobile gaming company Scopely and is now VP of Game Studios, working for Verdu.
The gaming division’s next big project is the adaptations of Exploding Kittens. The mobile game lands first, slated to release next month. Exploding Kittens CEO and co-founder Elan Lee said the mobile game adapts the Russian roulette formula from the original card game. New additions in the mobile game include features like an hourglass timer or a card that lets you draw from the top and bottom of a deck without showing anyone else which card you chose. The TV series (an animated adult comedy produced) will be presented in 2023.