Netflix Games is about to shake up the gaming industry

The streaming service has made its move into the world of gaming with a global rollout

Netflix has dipped its toes into the video game industry by launching mobile games on Android devices. Photo: Netflix
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Netflix has taken its tentative first steps into the world of gaming. Although there’s a modest line-up of mobile games, which launched globally on Wednesday, to begin with, this is a pivotal moment for the industry and one that’s certain to put Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and the like on alert.

For a decade or more, the games industry has been trying, and mostly failing, to deliver a streaming service that is as sturdy and reliable as Netflix. The often mooted “Netflix of gaming” title has been assigned to a number of copycats that haven’t been able to deliver on the promise. Xbox and PlayStation both have a similar service. As does Amazon. Google Stadia was supposed to be the chosen one that would make it, but has struggled to convince the masses that it’s worth jumping to, owing to a lack of games and coverage across the world. But with Netflix in the mix, there’s far more belief that streaming could be the future of video games.

The advantages Netflix has in making this dream a reality is down to infrastructure and practice. As of the second quarter of 2021, Netflix had a whopping 209 million paying subscribers. As impressive as the numbers are for the company’s coffers, it’s also a sign that a lot of people trust Netflix to deliver excellent entertainment across a thoroughly stable network. It’s reliable and mostly worldwide, and that’s something that can’t be said about any previous attempt.

Mike Verdu, Netflix’s vice president of game development, says the company is in “the early days of creating a great gaming experience”. The focus is currently on a handful of mobile games that are available exclusively through Android devices, with iOS coming soon. Crucially, they’re part of your current subscription (from Dh29) and available via the dedicated Games tab in the app.

This measured approach that includes Stranger Things: 1984, Stranger Things 3: The Game, Card Blast, Teeter (Up) and Shooting Hoops isn’t exactly packed with must-play titles, but it’s an important first step towards a much broader future. What that future looks like for Netflix is very much up in the air, but the potential is enormous.

Should Netflix wish to stick to the mobile gaming angle, then they’ve got a captured market of millions of users to deliver new and interesting games to. Smaller studios will be clambering to be part of the line-up as it means more eyes on their video games. More intriguing would be if Netflix decides to take on the dominance of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo by entering the triple-A market.

Levelling up to compete with the big three is no mean feat. It will mean either Netflix will have to build its own controller that can be used with its games on TV and monitor set-ups, or it’ll have to come up with a way to use established tech to play its titles. Whatever happens, the streaming service will likely have no problem convincing third-party game publishers such as Activision (Call of Duty) or Ubisoft (Assassin’s Creed) to get on board. Any opportunity to get more people playing their games makes sense.

A Netflix Originals slant – the division that creates unique movies and shows for its platform – could be a very real possibility too.

For now, it’s going to be interesting to see how Netflix Games evolves. All the ingredients are in place for a very good and solid game streaming service. The fact that you can leap from streaming Squid Game to playing an actual video game, inside the same app, is a value for money combination that’s going to be hard to resist.

Updated: November 03, 2021, 11:04 AM