If there’s one thing we’ve learned about modern tech companies in the last few years, it’s that they aren’t satisfied doing just one thing. The neverending carousel of major players copycatting each other in a desperate effort to seize control over our dollars and attention spans keeps on spinning and shooting out products that look suspiciously like ones we’ve seen before or are already using. It’s not good enough to be a service that streams TV shows or let you keep in touch with your friends, no, now we have to do that and these three other things that this rival service is doing as well!
For quite a while, Netflix was one of the view uber-tech companies that seemed to have their eggs in only one (fairly broad) basket. The brand that blazed the trail of online streaming hadn’t strayed too far from their roots and seemed fairly content with their status as the name most synonymous with at-home streaming. This seems to have changed in 2021, possibly in response with the growing presence of a number of major streaming competitors (think Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Disney+ and Apple TV) making increasingly bigger waves and taking some of the eyeballs off of Netflix’s catalogue (exemplified with a slightly concerning 400,000 North American viewer loss in Q2). The winds of change were first signaled with the subtle addition of the ‘Quick Laughs‘ feature earlier this year (essentially Netflix ‘TikTok-ifying its own comedy library). It appears Netflix finally seems to be looking outside their wheelhouse and expanding the brand to keep their spot on top of the streaming universe.
Their next big move? Throwing its hat into the world of gaming. Netflix launched its new Netflix Games service on iOS this week (it had already been available on Android for about a week), working with independent developers to create a catalogue that as of right now is fairly sparse, but will no doubt grow as time passes and the word gets out. The move has reportedly been a long time coming and of course, as seemingly no content can exist nowadays if it doesn’t have the ability to be franchised and turned into more content for maximum consumption, Netflix COO Greg Peters has already mentioned the possibility for game IP to be expanded into potential film and television products or vice-versa. Peters described this as having the potential “to really see the rich interplay between these different forms of entertainment.” The more cynical take being, ‘we can squeeze out more content without having to come up with more original ideas‘, but hey, it wouldn’t work if we weren‘t willing to watch and play, right?
It’s worth noting that while generally wider film and television audiences are pretty flexible in terms of who they commit their money and time to and less critical about the quality of the product (I mean, they drew enough viewers to make THREE of those awful Kissing Booth movies, for crying out loud!), gaming audiences seems far more loyal to their chosen brands (see; the decades long PlayStation vs. Xbox debate) and far less easy to please. It will be interesting to see whether Netflix can satisfy the high standards of a new audience with its output. Or, maybe the goal isn’t to reel in the gamers, but simply to keep those who are already passively engaging with their movies and show logged on to the platform for a little bit longer each day/night. After all, every person playing a Netflix game is someone who’s probably not engaging a competitors content in that moment.
Ultimately, it’s all too early to tell what the big outcome Netflix is looking for here, but given that this is Netflix’s first real play since opening its original programming division back in 2013 (which has turned into a pretty resounding success), it will no doubt be fascinating to see how it plays out.