How Netflix Games Could Show Unexpected Promise

The world’s most popular streaming service just might be onto something

Key Takeaways

  • Netflix expanding into video game streaming seems peculiar at first, but is a sensible progression given its popularity and the massive success of gaming.
  • Streaming video games is more complex than streaming movies or tv shows and will require a lot of careful development.
  • With the proven success of exclusive Netflix productions and Netflix shows using video game licenses, this could actually work.
Rear view of a young child wearing headphone while gaming on a TV.

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The recent news that Netflix is planning on adding video game streaming to its platform raises many questions, but it also carries a lot of potential.

Despite being the current largest subscription-based streaming service on the planet with over 200 million memberships, Netflix isn’t immune to the need for exponential growth. However, with new competition like Disney+ and HBO Max popping up, it’s had to work harder to keep attracting new users. So in a way, it makes sense that Netflix would try to add video games to its already quite extensive service.

"With video gaming growth climbing during the pandemic, surpassing movies and music, it can be a way to stand apart from its current competitors," said Mika Kujapelto, CEO and founder of LaptopUnboxed, in an email interview with Lifewire.

It’s Complicated

Video games make billions of dollars annually, and video game streaming is a proven concept now thanks to successful services like Xbox Game Pass and PS Now. Netflix trying to carve out its own niche in that space seems like a natural form of progress. It will have several hurdles to overcome, however.

"I think Netflix is out of its depth with this. One look at Google Stadia will tell you it's not something you can just jump into," stated Christen Costa, CEO of Gadget Review, in an email interview, "Many games demand a certain FPS to play in any enjoyable capacity. And because streaming games is such a data hog, you're basically excluding anyone who doesn't have top-tier internet."

Two teenagers playing video games at home while sitting on a couch.

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In addition to extensive server-side requirements, there’s also the matter of what users may or may not have to use to properly interact with Netlifx’s streamed games. Will they be able to use far more common interfaces like TV or cable box remotes? Will they need to stream on a video game console to use a connected controller? Will Netflix provide its own special controller or streaming device?

"Netflix owns no hardware, thus subjecting them to potential profit shares with companies like Apple or Amazon," said Dr. Dustin York, associate professor of communications at Maryville University, "Netflix purchasing a hardware company like Roku would make me think they are very serious."

It Makes Sense

There is also a lot of speculation about just what games Netflix might be planning to include as part of its streaming service. Big-name AAA titles seem like a must-have. However, Netflix has also seen quite a bit of success with producing its own content and producing content from established franchises.

Netflix’s own shows like Stranger Things have been very successful, but licensed game properties like Castlevania and The Witcher have also performed well.

"Logically there will come a point where user growth will begin to slow, so it’s very sensible for the Netflix team to be starting to experiment with new content types that can continue to bolster growth," said Anjali Midha, CEO and co-founder of Diesel Labs, in an email interview,

Two young adults gaming at home.

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"And that very same audience is the reason that Netflix may have an advantage over others when entering the cloud gaming space—it’s only part of the entire value proposition."

While there’s no definitive answer just yet, several recent job listings on the official Netflix website suggest that the company is planning to create its own games in some capacity. It’s not clear whether these will be the only streaming video games/interactive media available or if there’s a plan to add games from other companies in the future, though.

"Netflix first architected their content library through licensing, so it would not be surprising at all if they followed a similar playbook on the gaming side of things," said Midha, "It’s very likely that they will introduce their own IP, or turn current IP into new franchises."

Kujapelto has similar thoughts, stating "...If this is the direction Netflix is taking, it could be unique enough to attract curious users to try it out. But video gamers might be let down, and given the hype might allow expectations to be too high. Netflix might initially stick to its own games, but it could add more to their video game streaming if it's successful."

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