Image source: Getty Images. Realistically, there are only a few paths the company can take based on the information Netflix leadership has provided. Here’s the likelihood of each path and what each of them would mean for the company.
Interactive experiences instead of games Sticking to mobile-only gaming
The company’s remarks in its recent shareholder letter and earnings call reinforce this separation with Netflix COO Greg Peters calling ad-free mobile gaming a “primary focus” — at least initially. In the long term, the company sees all Netflix-compatible devices, including your TV, as “candidates for some kind of game experience.” If we look at the history of the IP-based mobile gaming space, we can find a few examples of companies that succeeded in growing out this medium. We can also find examples of failures. Walt Disney comes to mind as an example of both success and failure over the course of its history.
However, digging further into other postings reveals a totally separate initiative called “Game Studio” (or just “Games”). The separation of “Interactive” and “Games” departments in the company’s recruiting language implies two budding departments. Netflix seems to be developing more content like Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, which is a good, low-risk path for the company, but these efforts will likely be separate from its foray into gaming. There’s a case to be made that Netflix’s gaming ambitions could look less like traditional video games and more like a whole new genre of “interactive experiences” for its intellectual property. A search of recent job openings at Netflix reveals some fresh insight — a director-level job opening in the company’s new “Interactive initiative” refers to building “game-like experiences” as an opportunity for the role.
That said, Disney’s decision to shut down in-house mobile games was based on their performance, and Netflix’s definition of a high-performing game will undoubtedly be different than Disney’s. Netflix will have a massive differentiator in free-to-play mobile gaming — not relying on ads and in-app purchases in a space where virtually all major competitors do. Because Netflix doesn’t need to directly monetize its mobile games, it can succeed where Disney failed. For this reason, the streaming company’s efforts are likely to be lower risk than what its peers attempted. While Disney has developed some successful mobile games on its own, the company made a shift around 2016 toward a greater reliance on third-party development for its IP. This shift included the shutdown of multiple in-house projects in favor of seeking partnerships with outside parties.
In addition to developing mobile games in-house, Netflix may license existing mobile games to build an attractive lineup before investing heavily in first-party content. If that strategy sounds familiar, it’s because that’s exactly how the company succeeded in streaming movies and TV series. Such a move would bolster the company’s initial video game offering, familiarize subscribers with its gaming platform, and offer lessons to support the roll-out of in-house titles. In Netflix’s second-quarter earnings call, COO Greg Peters claimed Netflix will also license games as part of its offerings. This brief comment has been overlooked in most discussions about the news so far, but it could have big implications for its success. Licensing content from third parties
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