The Unsolved Mystery of Netflix's Video Games - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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The Unsolved Mystery of Netflix's Video Games

Whether it’s Google’s interest in robotics or Amazon and Virgin heading into space, lots of major companies seem to want a slice of each and every pie. Increasingly, video gamers have become a must-have audience for the likes of Jeff Bezos, whose monolithic book store has been struggling its way through the launch of colonial-era MMO New World. It’s perhaps a shame, for Sir Richard Branson, at least, that games publisher Virgin Interactive folded in 2003.

Netflix is the latest entity to jump onto this particular bandwagon, albeit in a way that seems to make almost no sense at all. The streaming service has been bundling its Android and iOS apps with downloadable games since 2017 when it launched Stranger Things 1984, an adventure title that looks like it was made by a graduate of one of Enterbrain’s RPG Maker engines. Since then, Netflix has gone hog-wild for interactive experiences, adding six more games.

So far, in addition to a pair of Stranger Things games, Netflix has introduced Bowling Ballers, Teeter (Up), Card Blast, and Shooting Hoops, all of which are ‘free’ in the sense that they can be downloaded without charge. The group of games is designed to serve as a honey-trap for would-be Netflix members, as they require an active subscription to the service to play. Gizmodo notes that Netflix bought and resurrected the canceled game Asphalt Xtreme in November 2021, too.

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Let’s be honest. These are mostly throwaway titles based on simple mechanics like throwing a ball (Shooting Hoops), steering a ball left and right (Bowling Ballers), and guiding a ball across a wall of seesaws (Teeter). Of course, that’s mostly the point - these are mobile experiences with no microtransactions that Netflix seems to be providing out of the kindness of its collective hearts. It has also purchased developer Night School Studio to further that seemingly altruistic end.

Normally, the provision of free titles can be a fairly easy way to acquire new customers, especially if the product is bought-in rather than developed in-house. This is seen quite extensively in the casino industry, for example. Where demo versions of paid games and free turns on slots are featured in most welcome bonuses. However, with the right combination of bonuses and promo codes, it’s possible to win real money with free slots, too. In general, access to a service without requiring cash at the outset is a useful way to show players around the wider product.

It’s a complete mystery why Netflix is offering games that are presumably meant to sell subscriptions on their own merits, though. While it could be argued that games could help differentiate Netflix from competitors like Amazon’s Prime Video, which is active in the video game industry already. Could it really all just be a means to entertain guests between dinner courses or is there something more interesting going on at Netflix HQ?

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