I’m not surprised, but Netflix Games are pretty lousy. It could still develop into something very cool, but first impressions aren’t excellent, and we all know how important those impressions are – especially in games. I’m not bothered by the shows—they’s free, after all—but I can’t help but feel that Netflix totally miscalculated at a great opportunity to break into mobile games in a big way.
You probably haven’t even heard of Netflix games yet, and I wouldn’t blame you. The platform arrived last November on Android and iOS devices as a free add-on for Netflix subscribers. If you open the Netflix app on your phone, you’ll see a new tab at the bottom called Games. Unfortunately, you won’t find much to play with on that tab.
At launch, Netflix Games featured dozens of casual games like Dominoes Cafe, Bowling Ballers, and Wonderputt Forever. This pick has only grown by a couple in the past four months, most notably with the roguelike card game Arcanium and the occasional League of Legends Hextech Mayhem. More is on the way, including a 2011 version of Shattered Remastered and a non-microtrans version of the rail shooter Into the Dead 2, but there are no release dates, and most importantly, no big hitters on the way — at least that’s what we know.
Hextech Mayhem is the closest thing Netflix Games has to a major title, but they missed the opportunity to drop the game when it would have made the biggest impact. Arcane was the biggest show on Netflix when Netflix Games launched back in November. Hextech Mayhem is a casual rhythm game starring Heimerdinger, one of the most beloved characters from Arcane, and would have been the perfect game to introduce the Netflix mobile platform. While Hextech Mayhem launched on PC and Switch to cash in on the hype, it didn’t appear on Netflix Games until a few weeks ago. This should have been a launch title and should be exclusive to Netflix Games.
Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass have better picks for mobile games that are updated frequently (although Apple Arcade has fallen off significantly over the past year) but Netflix Games is unique in that it’s part of a subscription that we’re all already paying for. Like Apple Arcade, it promises an ad-free experience with unlimited access to exclusive games and no microtransactions. This might be a great added value for Netflix subscribers, but so far, there’s nothing here that draws people in. Netflix Games launched too early, and because of that, they missed out on the chance of being a huge hit on mobile.
But Netflix is buying up the studios and preparing to make a big push in gaming. The company is acquiring developer Stranger Things: Puzzle Tales for $72 million, and it bought developer Oxenfree Night School Studios last September. Yesterday, Netflix acquired the mobile studio Boss Fight. It’s hard not to look at the trends over the past few years, first with Google and then with Amazon, and not to think of Netflix as just the latest tech giant trying and failing to break into gaming. The trade-off is what gives me hope for Netflix. Between Arcane, The Witcher, Cuphead, Castlevania, and a whole host of upcoming video game projects like Resident Evil, Assassin’s Creed, Cyberpunk, and Splinter Cell, games are already a huge part of Netflix. I’d be happy to see the relationships you’ve developed on both the film and TV sides being invested in some high-quality, Exploit-free mobile games, but it seems like we’re a long way from that dream today.
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