Netflix is beginning to test its cloud gaming service in the U.S. after initially launching limited trials in Canada and the U.K. The service, an expansion on the company’s mobile gaming efforts which began in 2021, has seen the streamer picking up gaming studios and licensing titles from individual developers with the intention to make gaming another major arm of its business. With its cloud gaming service, Netflix now allows members to play its games on smart TVs and TV-connected devices, like Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku and others, by using their mobile phone as the gaming controller.
The company first signaled its plans to enter the cloud gaming market last fall, when Netflix VP of Games Mike Verdu told the audience at TechCrunch Disrupt that it was exploring such an offering. Explaining where the service fits in the broader gaming market, Verdu explained Netflix saw gaming as “a value add.”
“We’re not asking you to subscribe as a console replacement,” he said. “It’s a completely different business model. The hope is over time that it just becomes this very natural way to play games wherever you are,” Verdu added.
The move pits Netflix against other cloud gaming services, including Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming, Nvidia GeForce Now, PlayStation Plus and Amazon Luna. But in Netflix’s case, it’s making its games free with a Netflix subscription, with many of its titles tied to its most popular shows. The Wall Stree Journal reported the company is developing games based on shows like “Squid Game,” “Wednesday” and “Black Mirror,” among others. It has also reportedly discussed plans to release a “Grand Theft Auto” game from Take-Two Interactive through a licensing deal, the report noted.
Already Netflix has released games tied to popular series like “Love Is Blind,” “The Queen’s Gambit,” “Stranger Things,” “Narcos,” “Nailed It!” and others, in addition to rounding out its lineup with generally popular games, like puzzles, platformers, card games, strategy games, kids’ games and more.
The company has also been fairly acquisitive in ramping up its gaming business, snapping up studios like Boss Fight Entertainment, Night School Studio and Finland’s Next Games, in addition to establishing its own internal games studios, like the one in Helsinki led by a former Zynga GM and another in Southern California headed by a former Blizzard Entertainment exec, Chacko Sonny, the executive producer on “Overwatch.”
Though it began with a focus on mobile, Netflix has long hinted that mobile gaming was just the initial phase of its experiments. Cloud gaming and its own IP is the next.
Critics, however, question whether or not gaming makes sense for the streamer as its nearest competitors outside other media companies for users’ time spent are apps like TikTok and YouTube. In fact, YouTube just surpassed Netflix as a top video source for U.S. teens, according to investment bank Piper Sandler in a report by CNBC.
With the launch of its game streaming service on TVs, the company is looking to make its games available on more devices. The test includes “Oxenfree” from Night School Studio — the first games studio the streamer acquired back in 2021 — and Molehew’s Mining Adventure, a gem-mining arcade game.
Games can be played on Amazon Fire TV Streaming Media Players, Chromecast with Google TV, LG TVs, Nvidia Shield TV, Roku devices and TVs, Samsung Smart TVs, and Walmart ONN. The company said more devices would be supported in time.
To play the games on TVs, members use their mobile phone and a dedicated app. TechCrunch had spotted the launch of Netflix’s iPhone game controller app before the first official tests went live this August. Games will also be able to be played on Macs and PCs with a keyboard and mouse.
Netflix aims to test its game-streaming technology during the trials and work to improve the end user experience as the trials extend to the U.S.