What it’s like to play Netflix’s new games: downloads, top titles
- Netflix launched globally in November mobile games included in a user’s subscription.
- Clearly, Netflix is in the early stages of its game strategy, but it has big ambitions.
- Games have to be downloaded as separate apps, which was an unexpected annoyance.
began rolling out mobile video games globally in November, marking a new adventure for the
Today, more than a dozen games are on Netflix, included with a user’s subscription.
Netflix is adamant that it’s not a games company – games are more content, like its movies or TV shows. But the company still has big ambitions: it’s building an in-house game studio; it’s making major hires, including ex-Facebook executive Mike Verdu to head games; he intends to develop games around his intellectual property; and he bought the game studio Night School Studio.
I’ve tested a few of the games and they’re definitely early days, which Netflix is also adamant about.
First, to play the games, you need to download separate apps for each. I was under the impression that “included with your Netflix subscription” meant I could play a game in the Netflix app. This is not the case. You just need a Netflix account to download and play them.
Mobile data company Apptopia explained in a recent blog post that Netflix works around App Store rules. Basically, Netflix would act as a competing app store to Apple and Google if games weren’t downloaded separately.
Cloud-based games could potentially overcome this challenge, as users would stream games from a remote server without having to download them, said Piers Harding-Rolls, research director for games at data firm Ampere. Analysis, at Insider.
But it’s a “long-term view”, he said.
Netflix did not respond to a request for comment.
According to Apptopia, Netflix mobile games have been installed over 8 million times since their launch. By comparison, the company has 222 million subscribers worldwide.
Its most popular game to date is “Teeter (Up)”, an arcade-style game where the player has to maneuver a ball into a hole, with around 820,000 downloads since November.
Netflix is still experimenting with different game formats
As for the games themselves, they are fun – to some degree.
I took a crack at “Teeter (Up)”; the racing game “AsphaltXtreme”; the sports games “Bowling Ballers” and “Shooting Hoops”; and the fantasy strategy game “Arcanium: Rise of Akhan”.
They all have their fun, but player mileage can vary. Mine didn’t last long. These are casual games for casual consumers who might want to kill time.
Netflix also needs to fix some issues, it seems. The game “Teeter” would not register when I sometimes tapped the screen, for example.
Personally, if I spend mindless time on my phone, it scrolls TikTok. And if I’m going to play a video game, I’d much rather run “Halo.” These could be obstacles for Netflix in the gaming space.
Mobile itself is a huge category of games. But these types of casual games won’t necessarily move the needle for Netflix. Right now, they mostly give the company an idea of what their users are interacting with.
Netflix takes bigger swings though. He caused a stir on Tuesday, when he launched two new games, including the “League of Legends” spin-off “Hextech Mayhem” which he licensed from developer Riot Games. Netflix’s “League of Legends” animated series “Arcane” was a hit for the service last fall. This reflects Netflix’s possibilities in the gaming space.
The company also hinted that it intends to expand into console and PC games, which might be more appealing with the right games. A current job posting for a Video Game Technology Artist states that the ideal candidate “has delivered three or more console or PC games as an engineer or equivalent.”
Netflix is betting on games to boost its slow growth
Netflix enters the game primarily to attract and retain subscribers. The company’s subscriber growth has slowed in recent quarters. Netflix added 8.3 million subscribers in the fourth quarter, slightly below forecasts, and its stock fell last month as the company forecast weak year-over-year growth for the first quarter.
Video game sales hit a record $56.9 billion in 2020, according to research firm NPD. Netflix recognizes that the game opens up new opportunities as it faces a shrinking – but still dominant – market share in the streaming space due to increased competition from Disney and WarnerMedia.
So far, I wouldn’t bet on the games available to solve Netflix’s slow growth. But they are setting the stage for what is to come.
The company told investors last month that it plans in 2022 to expand its games portfolio to “casual and core game genres as we continue to schedule a wide range of game types to see what our members value the most”.
Netflix is building its gaming infrastructure – it might take some time before we can savor the results.