Friday, July 23, 2021
Netflix game pass
I have a Netflix subscription. I watch TV series on Netflix frequently enough that the annual subscription for Netflix is cheaper than buying an equivalent amount of content on DVD. While Netflix gained a lot of new subscribers during the pandemic, their outlook for growth looks a bit less positive for the coming years, as they are reaching market saturation. So they decided to try something new and get into video games. Obviously I am interested, especially if it would mean access to games at no additional cost beyond my already existing subscription. However, I can’t help but think that this isn’t going to be easy.
One of the features of the current Netflix app is that it runs on pretty much everything, including your toaster (with the strange exception of not running on the Switch). If you have a smart TV, smartphone, tablet, computer or console, regardless of operating system, there is probably a Netflix app available for your device. That works for streaming video, but I can’t see it working for video games. The video game market is far more splintered into different operating systems. There are very few games that run on the PC, several consoles, and both iOS and Android mobile devices. And given the different graphics and computing powers of these different devices, you’d need to design for the lowest common denominator.
Yes, millions of people play Candy Crush or Clash of Clans. But these and many other mobile games are already free to play, so they wouldn’t really be a good fit with a subscription business model. I am paying €10 monthly for my Xbox Game Pass for PC, but that is to get access to PC games which would otherwise cost me between €20 and €60. Hey, if Netflix partnered with Microsoft to include the Xbox Game Pass in my Netflix subscription, I’d be all for it; it would just mean one *less* subscription for me. But anyone using something else than a PC to watch Netflix wouldn’t be able to use those Game Pass games on his device. While mobile devices already have a huge abundance of free or cheap games, and mobile games included in Netflix wouldn’t be much of an incentive.
So, I am interested what exactly their plan is. It being announced in their quarterly earnings report might mean that the news is just smoke and mirrors for investors, so they don’t react too badly to slow subscription growth. But then Netflix invented a lot of very popular services that didn’t exist before in that form, so they might surprise us.