Netflix looks set to follow Amazon and Google in becoming the latest company to offer gaming alongside their current content, with no added fees planned when they do come to the platform. In a letter to shareholders, the company confirmed its intentions to build on the interactivity of Black Mirror Bandersnatch and integrate free games into their package.
The news comes shortly after Netflix hired former Electronic Arts executive Mike Verdu as vice president of game development, with Bloomberg claiming the company plans to offer gaming "within a year" of the announcement. This would see Netflix competing with Amazon Prime Gaming and Google’s Stadia service by summer 2022, provided both of those platforms still exist at that point in time.
The shareholders letter can be found in full here, with the relevant excerpt below. The company saw a 36% operating income increase from 2020, as reported in the same letter, and is clearly looking to invest back into their platform to avoid stagnation and take advantage of the gaming industry, which outstrips both music and film by some distance.
"We’re also in the early stages of further expanding into games, building on our earlier efforts around interactivity (eg, Black Mirror Bandersnatch) and our Stranger Things games. We view gaming as another new content category for us, similar to our expansion into original films, animation and unscripted TV. Games will be included in members’ Netflix subscription at no additional cost similar to films and series."
However, the letter did also admit their figures are difficult to parse due to COVID, stating that they have experienced "unusual choppiness in our growth" which "distorts year-over-year comparisons", and it is logical that easing of lockdown could slow the rapid gains companies like Netflix and YouTube have seen during the pandemic. Their revenue per membership is also up on 2019, encouraging them to "charge a bit more", in their own words, with operating profit going from $100m per quarter in 2016 to $2b per quarter in 2021.
Netflix is no stranger to gaming IPs, having created a number of shows around different games and even hosting WitcherCon, a convention aimed at fans of hit game series The Witcher. Interestingly, back in 2019, they claimed games like Fortnite were far more directly competitive with their service than the likes of Disney+ and HBO, meaning a move toward the games industry is logical based on the userbase and profile of the average Netflix customer.