We remember the days when entertainment companies stayed in their lane. Amazon was just a mail-order store online, and Uber was just a taxi company. Facebook didn’t want us to do anything other than stay in touch with our friends, and Instagram was just a place to post pictures. None of those things is true anymore. Companies change and expand as technology changes around them, and in the process of going through those changes, they sometimes come up with strange ideas. Here’s one of the strangest ones we’ve heard in a while. According to those who ought to be in the know, Netflix is planning to start making video games.
This would be a dramatic departure from Netflix’s usual business model. Netflix has changed a little since the day it opened its doors, but only in the way that it’s started paying for television shows and movies to be made rather than streaming content made by other people. It’s become the entertainment equivalent of an online slots website. Slots websites like New Zealand Rose Slots do such good business because they put thousands of online slots in the same place and provide customers with convenience and ease of access with a single account, a single password, and a single method of interacting with content. It’s possible that Netflix may even have been inspired by online slots when it comes to layout and methodology. In any event, online slots now make for the perfect metaphor for this apparent new direction because it’s going to be an enormous gamble.
As many a company has found out to its enormous cost, becoming a success in the video game world isn’t a simple case of throwing enormous sums of money at something in the hope it will stick. Nobody knows that better than Amazon. Even though Amazon has been successful with almost everything else the company has ever attempted to do, it’s had a nightmare experience with video games. After over seven years of existence, Amazon Game Studios is yet to create any popular games. Some of the handful of games it’s been able to bring to the market had to be withdrawn from sale because they were awful. Its Google Stadia-style streaming platform Amazon Luna isn’t making any waves in the market yet, either. Speaking of Google, Stadia hasn’t been the roaring, game-changing success they hoped it would be. Amazon and Google have both played with video gaming and got their fingers burnt. What makes Netflix believe it will be able to do any better?
You might have heard it said that necessity is the mother of invention. That might be behind Netflix’s (apparent) decision to give video gaming a try. As you may have seen in the press within the past few days, the company has recently suffered a sharp drop in stock value after missing its earnings and new subscriber projections for the first quarter of 2021. Internally, the company is thought to be concerned that it’s approaching saturation point when it comes to television and film streaming customers. There are only so many people in the world who are interested in what Netflix is selling, and it’s highly likely that almost all of those people have a Netflix subscription already. If the company wants to continue growing, it might not be able to do it through its current streaming model. That calls for brave new ideas and making video games might be one of them.
All may not be as it seems, though. In attempt
ng to track the rumours back to their source, it’s become apparent that they may have come from what was intended as an innocuous comment from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings during the company’s most recent earnings call. Reed was asked if Netflix was interested in making video games by Nidhi Gupta of Fidelity Management & Research and replied that he considered Netflix to be involved with gaming already because of “Bandersnatch.” That led to Chief Product Officer Greg Peters going further by saying the company is currently trying to work out what to do with the “deep universes” created by Netflix’s original content. According to him, games might become an “interesting component” of whatever next steps they decide to take.
While the comments inevitably generated headlines and articles of the kind you’re reading right now, there’s an alternative way of reading them. The decision-makers and senior figures at Netflix are entirely aware that they have extremely valuable intellectual properties on their hands. Anything that’s been made by Netflix and proved to be popular has a value and a devoted fan base. It should be possible to extract further money from that fan base by making video games connected to the intellectual properties. That doesn’t mean that Netflix itself has to make those games. There would be plenty of companies interested in working with Netflix to make those games a reality. That might be the route Netflix decides to go down with video games – and it might even be the route they’ve already identified. Nobody within Netflix has directly said that they’ll start making video games any time soon. All of that speculation has come from the press.
We started this article off by asking a question, so let’s try to answer it. The question was, “is Netflix getting into video games?” The answer – in so far as we’re able to provide one at the moment – seems to be “no.” Don’t expect to buy anything with a Netflix logo on it for your PlayStation 5. We think it’s very likely that we’ll soon begin to see video games based on shows and films Netflix has produced, but we think it’s very unlikely that Netflix itself will be responsible for producing and developing the games. They’re more likely to leave that task to well-established professionals with good track records. That’s what more people ought to be doing. Amazon Game Studios wouldn’t need to exist if Amazon had been happy to allow other people to make games based on its licensed content, and the business would have been spared the expensive mishaps that have come as a result of trying to keep everything in-house. Netflix might not be about to start making video games, but it might be about to start issuing licenses to people who will.