Netflix's mobile gaming gamble: an expensive battle for your attention

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

You don’t build a platform that reaches half a billion eyeballs around the globe without taking a few risks.

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

Netflix, the streaming service-turned-cultural behemoth whose subscriber count passed the 220 million mark at the turn of the year, achieved its success by betting against the mainstream: first with mail-based movie rentals and, later, internet-based streaming.

But recent years have seen legacy entertainment studios like Disney and WarnerMedia – owners of Disney Plus and HBO Max, respectively – board the streaming bandwagon with budgets and franchises to burn, encroaching on Netflix’s USP and threatening its once cosy dominance of your evening hours.

Global Tech News Daily

It was only a matter of time, then, before the company’s decade-long period of growth came to an end. In the three months following that year-end milestone, Netflix hemorrhaged 200,000 paying customers, a figure that’s expected to exceed two million come the end of June. If the trend continues, analysts at Ampere Analysis predict that Disney’s platform will overtake Netflix as the most-subscribed streaming service in less than two years.

Disney Plus reached the 100 million-subscriber milestone eight years faster than Netflix. Sources: Netflix, Walt Disney Company, AT&T, Paramount Global. (Image credit: TechRadar)

Global Tech News Daily

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has attributed the company’s decline to increased competition, password sharing, and its failure to diversify subscription packages. Others have called out the streamer’s untimely price increases, waning content quality and so-called woke agenda. Whatever the reason, Netflix finds itself needing to take new risks in 2022 – and its recent move into mobile gaming may prove a shrewder power play than many first thought.

Levelling up

Netflix began its courtship of the games industry back in 2016, partnering with developer BonusXP on a Stranger Things-inspired mobile title (imaginatively named Stranger Things: The Game) released in tandem with the second season of its hit drama series. Two more Stranger Things-branded titles followed, and all three were made available to purchase on iOS and Android devices at various different price points.

Those baby steps turned into a full-blown rollout of proprietary titles on the Netflix app late last year, with five games – Stranger Things: 1984, Stranger Things 3: The Game, Shooting Hoops, Card Blast and Teeter Up – becoming available for all Netflix subscribers to download and play on their mobiles and tablets at no additional cost (the former Stranger Things title was rebranded and made exclusive to Netflix as part of the move).

In a press release accompanying the announcement, the company’s game development chief, Mike Verdu, warned that it was still “early days” for the brand’s gaming ambitions – but Netflix bigwigs seem a touch more confident.

Speaking in January of this year, CEO Hastings appeared to throw caution to the wind when telling investors that the company’s goal is to “amaze members by having the absolute best [games] in the [mobile] category.” Admittedly, this very public enthusiasm came before its first quarter spiral, though it’s hard to believe that, even in January, Netflix executives weren’t aware of the choppy waters ahead.

In the months since that initial rollout, Netflix has regularly added more mobile games to its app library, growing the platform’s offering to a modest 18 titles at the time of writing. None are particularly groundbreaking – most are variations on the tried-and-tested formats you’ve been playing for years – but they nonetheless represent 18 more games than any other entertainment service has developed for its respective streaming apps.

Stranger Things 3: The Game is a 16-bit re-telling of the Netflix show’s third season (Image credit: Netflix / BonusXP)

Let’s be clear: nobody is expecting Netflix to shake up the hundred billion-dollar mobile gaming industry with fewer titles than the James Bond franchise has movies. Both Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play equivalent each boast around a million downloadable games, and Netflix doesn’t have designs on replacing those established platforms with its own virtual storefront.

The goal, instead, is much simpler: to offer new and existing customers a form of entertainment they won’t find on comparable streaming services. Granted, that offering is limited right now, but it’s only set to improve in the months to come; while other streamers are hoovering up movie studios, Netflix is busy acquiring independent game developers like Night School.

The company has hired serious senior talent, too. In addition to former EA and Oculus VP Mike Verdu, Netflix has added PlayStation veteran Roberto Barrera and former Riot Games director Leanne Loombe to its ranks in recent months. That’s an Avengers-esque lineup of gaming brains to make even the world’s foremost industry heavyweights take note.

“I think it’s smart what [Netflix is] doing,” Xbox CEO Phil Spencer told the New York Times earlier this year. “They’re buying some studios. They’re learning about the creative process of interactive entertainment. And I think it’s a very smart way for them to move into the [gaming] space.” Talk about a seal of approval.

Retention over revenue

It’s also worth clarifying that Netflix’s mobile gaming strategy isn’t about generating direct revenue from the games themselves. Every title released thus far is free to download, free from advertising, and refreshingly uncluttered by in-app purchases. Subscribers aren’t charged more for the pleasure of accessing Shooting Hoops or Card Blast in the Netflix app; these games are simply another way to entertain – and, crucially, retain – those who are already invested in the brand’s ecosystem.

In theory, that independence from monetization grants Netflix the creative freedom to deliver on its promise of making “the absolute best” mobile games. As Greg Peters, the company’s COO and Chief Product Officer, said in 2021: “Our subscription model yields some opportunities to focus on a set of game experiences that are currently underserved by the sort of dominant monetization models in games. Really, we can do what we’ve been doing on the movie and series side, which is just hyper, laser focused on delivering the most entertaining game experiences that we can.”

But read between the lines and there’s another, much more important motive at play: data. Just as the popularity of the company’s movies and TV shows determines its future content slate, the user-based decision-making going on inside Netflix games will likewise be tracked and used to inform creative decisions around its intellectual property (IP).

For instance, the frequency with which playable characters are selected in Stranger Things 3: The Game could influence the screen time of their real-life counterparts in future seasons of Stranger Things the show, while story-focused games like This is a True Story might be adapted into award-winning series should they prove a hit with players.

This is a True Story follows an African woman’s daily struggle to get water for her family (Image credit: Netflix)

COO Peters has admitted that Netflix will “learn and grow and refocus investment based on what [it sees] is working” with its games, building another important cog into the company’s already labyrinthine algorithmic machine.

Hot property

Of course, Netflix’s existing IP slate will inform its mobile gaming titles as much as the latter influence the former. While the brand doesn’t have a Disney-like vault of beloved animated classics to remix into new content, Netflix has managed to establish its own string of commercially successful entertainment franchises that could easily provide the foundations for a stellar games library.

As Al Berry, a senior executive at London-based creative studio Green Rock, told us in an interview: “Netflix has the ability to create cultural phenomenons. Period. It also knows that once it has created these huge fan bases, audiences are going to crave more engagement in the worlds they love. This is an opportunity for Netflix to develop that IP in the gaming space and stop leaving it up to anyone else. Would Lego have created The Lego Movie if it hadn’t first created licensed products from franchises such as Star Wars or Pirates of the Caribbean? No, probably not.”

Raj Shah, Managing Partner at digital consultancy Publicis Sapient, echoed Berry’s enthusiasm in a separate conversation with TechRadar. “Building a good game breaks down into two big pieces – having the technical skill to build it and having the IP around which to do so. On the first, Netflix is actively buying up mobile gaming companies, and probably has its eyes on game studios that can move it into the console space.

“On the second,” Shah continued, “Netflix has a huge catalog of owned IP – from drama to action. A play-along Squid Game? A Money Heist action platformer? A Stranger Things RPG? All possible, and all highly likely to keep fans glued to the Netflix app.”

Squid Game’s various puzzles lend themselves to video game adaptation (Image credit: Netflix)

Having only announced its grand gaming ambitions a handful of months ago, Netflix isn’t yet anywhere close to maximizing the potential of its IP – a couple of Stranger Things titles are the only franchise-based games you’ll recognize in the current Netflix library – but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that we might see mobile game adaptations for each of its tentpole franchises before the year is out.

If, that is, the company’s subscriber losses haven’t derailed its plans entirely.

In response to last month’s very public, very damaging hemorrhage, Netflix has already condemned several in-development shows and movies – many of them from its animation division – to its ever-growing scrap heap of cancellations. This now infamous reputation for pulling the plug on projects that fail to provide instant returns doesn’t bode well for Netflix’s chances of producing “the absolute best [games] in the [mobile] category”, as CEO Reed Hastings proclaimed it would do at the turn of the year, nor for the fortunes of the developers under the company’s control.

We reached out to employees at Riot Forge, the subsidiary of League of Legends developer Riot Games responsible for bringing Hextech Mayhem to the Netflix app, for comment on whether the streamer’s subscriber losses have dented its hopes of continuing a working relationship with Netflix, but the topic was “[not] something [they were] willing to comment on at this time”. Netflix itself likewise failed to respond to comment requests.

The mobile version of League of Legends spin-off Hextech Mayhem is exclusive to Netflix subscribers (Image credit: Choice Provisions / Riot Forge)

Ashkan Karbasfrooshan, CEO and founder of video production behemoth WatchMojo, told TechRadar that he believes hubris lies at the heart of Netflix’s current woes; but the entrepreneur, whose own entertainment brand serves 42 million subscribers on YouTube, doesn’t believe that its current predicament will spell the end for Netflix’s mobile gaming ambitions.

“The main benefit of this is humility,” Karbasfrooshan told us. “I have a ton of respect for Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos. But in a few years they went from scrappy outsider to central command for hubris in Hollywood. Snap Inc. [the company behind Snapchat] used to be a cocky place, then when Facebook copied its product, founder Evan Spiegel was served some humble pie – which we all need. So while [Netflix’s] losses will, in the short term, make [company executives] question themselves – which is a natural feeling for humans – long-term this’ll make Netflix a more formidable competitor, one that will appreciate that success isn’t a fait accompli nor its god-given right. I realize I may not be accepted to Netflix parties in the future for saying that…”

It’s a sentiment we’ve echoed here at TechRadar – positive change must necessarily come to Netflix as a matter of urgency. Those recent subscriber revelations may have rocked the stock market’s faith in the company’s lasting value, but they could also serve as the catalyst needed to ensure that Netflix remains the supreme streaming service for years to come.

Yes, subscribers will soon be charged for sharing account passwords, but the inconvenience looks likely to come in exchange for more control over what those subscribers pay to watch (in the form of bespoke subscription packages), and a renewed focus on producing much higher-quality original content – mobile gaming included.

Go big or go home

So what does that mean in practice? According to WatchMojo’s Karbasfrooshan, Netflix will have to break out the checkbook. “Historically, companies approach opportunities through a mix of build, buy, partner – and Netflix has already bought some smaller studios,” he told us. “I can see it making a run for larger companies, because gaming expertise is really not [something] in its backyard. My guess is that, for gaming to become a material contributor alongside its core business, Netflix will have to do it all: buy, invest, partner and build. Once [Netflix executives] see what works, they will then focus on that.”

And make no mistake, industry insiders like Karbasfrooshan believe that gaming is the future for a host of different sectors, not just entertainment. “You have a whole generation who has grown up with gaming,” he added. “All organizations have a future that will be rooted in, or tangentially involved in, gaming. Netflix is already way too large to go niche – it needs to somehow figure out how to go wide and deep. It’s not easy, and the company may need fresh thinking to be able to do that, but this is where gaming comes into play.”

Perhaps, then, mobile gaming is of equal importance to Netflix’s growth strategy as the myriad movies and TV shows heading to its screens in the next few years. That may not seem the case right now – 18 proprietary titles will hardly have the competition quaking in its boots – but this is a company that knows the value in walking before it can run.

In 2007, Netflix launched the first incarnation of its online streaming service, offering subscribers a choice of 1,000 movies. At the time, that figure was dwarfed by the brand’s 70,000-strong physical DVD library. Less than a decade later, DVDs were dead, and Netflix’s online offering had quintupled to become the largest of its kind.

Could gaming be the next frontier for the entertainment industry’s biggest risk-taker? At this very early stage, nobody can know for sure – but stranger things have happened.

  • 5 Netflix tips and secrets that every power streamer needs to know
News Related


Sony WH-1000XM5 pre-orders: the best prices and deals you can find right now

Sony has unveiled its newest premium noise-canceling headphones: the WH-1000XM5. The over-ear headphones are officially available for pre-order with a May 20 ship date, and we’re rounding up all the ... Read more »

Selena Gomez, Megan Thee Stallion, more support Roe v. Wade in NYT ad: 'We will not go back'

More than 150 celebrities and influencers have signed a petition to show they don’t support the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, a possibility cited in a leaked draft opinion ... Read more »

HP finally fixes bug affecting hundreds of laptops and PC models

HP has released a series of updates aimed at addressing a number of potentially serious security flaws affecting a large number of its computing devices. First detected in November 2021, ... Read more »

Selena Gomez just released a brand new line of kitchenware with Our Place

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. Selena Gomez has been cooking up a storm. Not only has ... Read more »

Seasonal sales: Best summer 2022 deals on lawn mowers, pool floats and air conditioners

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. Want to make a splash this summer 2022? We found tons ... Read more »

I changed my Slack notifications into hummus, but now I'm hungry for more

Did you know that you can change the default notification sound on Slack? Maybe you did, but one of the options is not like the others – among the various ... Read more »

Avoiding inflation: These high-tech must-have products have actually gotten cheaper

Lots of us bought home theater installations, smartphones and other gear during the early days of the pandemic, and as demand for those goods has dropped so have their prices. Read more »

7 new movies and TV shows on Netflix, Prime Video, HBO Max and more this weekend (May 13)

We try our best to open these streaming lists with a witty assessment of the latest TV trend or seasonal theme, but this weekend’s recommendations are a particularly eclectic bunch ... Read more »

Micron's new 3D NAND flash could usher in a rapid new generation of SSDs

Micron has revealed it has developed 3D NAND flash with a whopping 232 layers, which will enter full-scale production later this year. Described by Micron as ‘the world’s most advanced ... Read more »

Microsoft is working on a whole new kind of Kubernetes

Microsoft is working on a major new project to enable Kubernetes for lightweight Windows edge computing deployments. The long-rumored “Project Haven” could signal a significant breakthrough in helping bring Kubernetes ... Read more »

Queen attends horse show in first public appearance in weeks

The Associated PressBritain’s Queen Elizabeth II is joined by Prince Edward and Sophie, right, the Earl and Countess of Wessex as they sit in the Royal Box at the Royal ... Read more »

Mercedes-Benz issues 'do not drive' order for 300,000 SUVs; Hyundai alerts steering column issue

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued recalls for May 5 through 12, including a Mercedes-Benz recall involving 292,287 units and a Hyundai recall involving 215,171 units. Mercedes ... Read more »

Film Review: ‘Firestarter' remake fails to ignite

The Associated PressThis image released by Universal Pictures shows Ryan Kiera Armstrong as Charlie in a scene from “Firestarter.” (Ken Woroner/Universal Pictures via AP) For a movie about a girl ... Read more »

Finally, WhatsApp is working on a desktop app for macOS

While WhatsApp introduces message reactions and further improvements to its desktop app on Windows 11, it looks as though Apple’s macOS is next on its agenda. According to WABetaInfo, you ... Read more »

EU believes Open RAN could improve 5G security

A report from the European Union (EU) says Open RAN technology has the potential to enhance the continent’s cybersecurity provisions but warns that certain conditions must be met if this ... Read more »

AMD FSR 2.0 is live in Deathloop – and could be a true Nvidia DLSS rival

AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) tech, which boosts frame rates in games which support it, saw version 2.0 launched earlier this week, and now the feature is live in Deathloop ... Read more »

Is Dyson Zone COVID safe? Dyson answers the critics on its headphones/purifier hybrid

The Dyson Zone, the home appliance brand’s wearable headphone / air purifier hybrid, is one of the wilder product reveals in recent years thanks to its sci-fi looks and unlikely ... Read more »

Christina Ricci plays a haunted mom in retro horror movie 'Monstrous'

Christina Ricci stars as a mom who flees with her son to a remote farmhouse and contends with a creature in the 1950s-set horror film “Monstrous.” Read more »

Christina Ricci talks 'Monstrous,' 'Yellowjackets' Emmy buzz and a role fueled by 'absolute fury'

There’s a bit of a Ricci-sance upon us, and Christina Ricci’s feeling pretty good about it. She was a child star who began her career in 1990’s “Mermaids” and became ... Read more »

Want a new Panasonic OLED TV? You'll pay top dollar for directional Dolby Atmos

Full details of Panasonic’s TV lineup for 2022 are in and, having shone a spotlight on the impressive LZ200 flagship OLED model back at CES in January, many of us ... Read more »

Queen Elizabeth II smiles brightly at horse show, her first public appearance in weeks

Queen Elizabeth II has that Friday feeling, sporting a grin and sunglasses while doing her favorite thing — spending time with horses. The 96-year-old monarch attended the Royal Windsor Horse ... Read more »

Kendrick Lamar unveils ‘Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers' album cover

Kendrick Lamar unveiled the cover art for his highly anticipated new album “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers.” Read more »

What to watch this weekend: Zac Efron in 'Firestarter,' Rebel Wilson in Netflix's 'Senior Year'

This is a freaky Friday, indeed: Zac Efron is playing a dad and Rebel Wilson is a 37-year-old cheerleader. This weekend, Efron stars as the protective father to a pyrokinetic ... Read more »

Netflix's 'The Lincoln Lawyer' is the perfectly average TV show we need right now

As a TV critic, I watch a lot of TV shows. Hundreds of them. I watch expensive fantasy epics, gritty dramas, YA romances, Emmy bait, network sitcoms, true-crime documentaries and ... Read more »

The latest hybrid Casio Edifice watch is like a sports car on your wrist

Casio has released a new model in its hybrid Edifice line, the ECB30P-1AV, and it’s got a slick racecar-inspired new look in addition to a set of smart features. The ... Read more »

Flash sale cuts $390 off Casper's best-selling memory foam mattress

While Casper is yet to launch its official Memorial Day deals, it has dropped a great discount on the award-winning Casper Original. From today through Monday 16 May you can ... Read more »

Great news gamers – Cryptominers don't care about GPUs anymore

Computing giant Asus claims that demand from cryptominers for consumer graphics cards is “disappearing”, though it anticipates that shipments of its desktop PCs will fall by 10%, with motherboard and ... Read more »

SOFI TUKKER album inspired by fans and pandemic performances

Musical duo SOFI TUKKER discuss how their new album was inspired by their sets performed during the pandemic and interacting with a newly formed community of fans. (May 13) Read more »

Eufy HomeVac H30 Venture review

One-minute review The HomeVac H30 Venture is a handheld vacuum from Eufy by Anker, a home brand that has grown in popularity in recent years. It offers a range of ... Read more »

Best free Linux firewalls of 2022

The best free Linux firewalls make it simple and easy to manage firewall security on your Linux computers and networks. And although Linux has a firewall built right into the ... Read more »

Warzone Operation Monarch skins: all the monstrous cosmetics

Warzone’s Operation Monarch skins are here, allowing players to show off their love of the big movie monsters King Kong, Godzilla, and Mechagodzilla. Call of Duty: Warzone is no stranger ... Read more »

Elon Musk: Twitter deal is on hold

Elon Musk announced in a tweet that his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter is on hold, due to a report about spam accounts on the social network being fewer ... Read more »

Horizon Zero Dawn on PS1 doesn't look half bad

Horizon Zero Dawn has been thrown back to the low-polygon world of the original PlayStation, in a fan demake that reimagines Aloy’s post-apocalyptic adventuring in the graphical style of the ... Read more »

‘Dead Space' remake release date: EA sets January 2023 launch for the return of survival horror series return

From “Dead Space 3” gameplay trailer | Photo credit: EA via Dead Space / YouTube screenshot Motive Studios conducted the latest livestream event for the “Dead Space” remake to provide ... Read more »

Blizzard thinks it's fixed Overwatch 2's long queues

In a developer blog, the Overwatch 2 developers have offered up some stats that suggest that their recent tweaks to support have helped even out the game’s queue problems. In ... Read more »

Ryzen 7000 CPU leak shows AMD taking boost speeds to new heights

AMD’s Zen 4 processors – expected to be Ryzen 7000 models – are due later in 2022, and we’ve just caught another glimpse of what could be one of the ... Read more »

‘Starfield' and ‘Redfall' release dates are moved to 2023, Bethesda announces delay ahead of summer event

From the trailer of “Starfield” | Photo credit: Bethesda Softworks / YouTube screenshot Bethesda’s “Starfield” and Arkane’s “Redfall” are arguably one of the most anticipated video games this year. However, ... Read more »

Pixel 6a specs: Google will use a different in-display fingerprint sensor from the Pixel 6 series

Google Pixel 6a | Photo credit: Made by Google / YouTube screenshot The in-display fingerprint sensor on the standard Pixel 6 and high-end Pixel 6 Pro caused quite a stir ... Read more »

(LEAD) Samsung considers raising chip prices by 20 pct: report

(ATTN: ADDS more details from 4th para, photo) SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — Samsung Electronics Co. is considering raising chipmaking prices by up to 20 percent, a news report said ... Read more »

The Google Pixel 6a might fix the Pixel 6's most annoying flaw

If you have a Google Pixel 6 or a Pixel 6 Pro then outside of the many bugs – which have mostly now been fixed – you might be most ... Read more »