There's a new online gaming service on the horizon, and it's coming courtesy of Netflix. Considering Netflix is the biggest and arguably the best streaming service for movies and TV shows in the world, a move into gaming is big news indeed.
Netflix confirmed its new strategy in July, but should Sony, Microsoft, Apple, Google and anyone else with a finger in the gaming pie be worried? What exactly will a Netflix gaming service offer? When will it launch, and how much will it cost?
We'll answer all these and more with the latest leaks, rumours and industry news, and will keep this page updated with all the new information as and when we get it.
Netflix gaming service: launch date
Netflix's gaming service could be closer than you think. According to a Bloomberg report from mid-April, the service will launch within the next year – the report cites as its source a "person familiar with the situation".
So when exactly will it launch? It's difficult to say. Service launches are harder to pin down than those for hardware devices because there are generally fewer leaks and no physical parts to be pictured in the wild. Could Netflix launch in time for Christmas? Possibly, but doubtful. Some of the leaks detailed below suggest the service is nearly ready, while others hint that we still have a while to wait.
Netflix could choose to launch at one of the big trade shows, such as the Games Developers Conference (GDC) (scheduled for 21-25 March 2022) or the big one, E3 (no date set for 2022, but it usually takes place in June). That would effectively park its tanks on PlayStation and Xbox's lawn, and certainly grab the industry's attention.
Though in a way, it has launched already. At the end of August, Netflix launched two Stranger Things games through its Android app in Poland. Though the firm has admitted it's still a long way off offering a proper games service: "It's very, very early days and we've got a lot of work to do in the months ahead, but this is the first step," it said in a tweet.
If the service is ready, and people are still stuck at home due to the pandemic, it could launch in the winter months, which is traditionally boom time for the gaming industry. Netflix saw big subscriber numbers due to lockdowns and people forced to isolate during the pandemic, and adding a gaming arm to its offering would undoubtedly boost those numbers even higher. You need something to do during self-isolation, after all.
Netflix gaming service: price
Streaming has exploded in popularity in recent years. Just as with music and movie streaming, more people are happy to pay a monthly fee for the convenience of accessing their games online. The benefits are obvious: you can access more titles for an all-in fee, you don't need to take up valuable space on your device by storing your content locally, and you can access the same content across all your devices.
The downside? The costs soon add up. Once you factor in one or two TV/movie services, another couple for music, and one for gaming, you could easily be looking at £40 ($40) a month.
But, according to the Bloomberg report, Netflix isn't planning on charging any more for it. Instead, your monthly Netflix subscription will include gaming at no extra cost.
Here are the current Netflix price plans:
- Basic (watch on one screen, download to one device, no Full HD or 4K): £5.99/$8.99/AU$10.99
- Standard (watch on two screens at once, download to two devices, Full HD, no 4K): £9.99/$13.99/AU$15.99
- Premium (watch on four screens at once, download to four devices, Full HD and 4K): £13.99/$17.99/AU$19.99
Considering that Xbox Live Gold costs $59.99 for a year's access ($4.99 per month, or $10.99 a month if paying monthly), the Netflix price looks tempting.
However, while the firm might not charge extra for gaming, it has to recoup its costs somehow. As things stand, Netflix is no stranger to price rises, so expect to see your monthly fee increase in the coming years. Which could be irritating for anyone not interested in gaming.
Netflix has confirmed its games won't carry adverts, and there won't be any in-app purchases. So it's not trying to make money those ways.
Netflix gaming service: features
The streaming giant's initial push will be focused on gaming for mobile devices. This was revealed in a letter to investors, which also suggested that the streaming service will take inspiration from its previous dabblings in interactive content.
The letter reads:
"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. Initially, we’ll be primarily focused on games for mobile devices. We’re excited as ever about our movies and TV series offering and we expect a long runway of increasing investment and growth across all of our existing content categories, but since we are nearly a decade into our push into original programming, we think the time is right to learn more about how our members value games."
Netflix could even create its own games. The service recently extended its deal with producer/screenwriter Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy, Scandal) to include feature films and gaming content – this could be original gaming titles or spinoffs from existing Netflix series.
So what kinds of games can we expect? Obviously, Netflix is keeping its cards close to its chest, but one recent appointment is telling. In July, the firm hired Mike Verdu, formerly of Electronic Arts and Facebook.
Verdu was Facebook’s vice president in charge of working with developers to bring games and other content to Oculus virtual reality headsets. He also had a hand in popular mobile games at Electronic Arts, including The Sims, Plants vs. Zombies and Star Wars franchises. He will serve as Netflix's vice president of game development.
Netflix is also advertising more 'game-like' interactive development positions on its website. So expect its gaming team to grow.
The streaming giant might also have a rather large partner in tow in the form of Sony PlayStation. Certain PlayStation-identifiable images were spotted in the source code of Netflix's iOS app, suggesting that Netflix will partner with one of the giants of the gaming world.
The images in question? One of two stylised PlayStation 5 controllers floating among bubbles, and another depicting the lead character of the PlayStation-exclusive game Ghost Of Tsushima. There's no Netflix branding on either image, but the fact they would appear within the Netflix iOS app, and both are tied so closely to PlayStation, is certainly intriguing.
There's even a potential name included in the same bunch of images from the same source. A logo reads 'N Game', suggesting Netflix could opt for that, or Netflix Game as the name of its service. All very interesting...
Netflix gaming service: verdict
Netflix has over 200 million subscribers worldwide, so its gaming service could automatically become the world's biggest at launch. The idea of offering gaming for no extra fee should worry the big boys of the gaming world – Apple Arcade, Google Play, Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Now they will all need to up their game [ahem] in order to stay competitive.
With the PS5 and Xbox Series X both still in short supply, gaming without the need for an expensive, hard-to-find console looks appealing right now. But more than that, it could give Netflix a real edge compared to other movie/TV streaming services such as Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+.
No others offer gaming as part of the same package, so Netflix would be providing a service without precedent. Which could help it pull even further ahead of the competition.
This is definitely one to watch and could upend the twin worlds of both gaming and streaming simultaneously. We'll update this feature as we get more – stay tuned!
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